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POINT: Admire, respect stay-at-home parent

By asoglin
Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 12:52 pm in Parenting Issues.

20060911 Babysitting ILLUS“The other mothers look down their nose at me when I tell them I’m a stay-at-home mom.” When my sister-in-law told me this three years ago, I was speechless. How could someone disrespect a parent willing to make raising and nuturing her children the No. 1 priority?

Granted, I’m one of the lucky ones. When I got married and became a stepmom, I was able to change jobs so my husband and I had limited overlapping work schedules. That meant one of us would be at home with Dana after school, during the summer and on weekends. Not every parental unit is this fortunate. Cost of living in California usually mandates that both parents work; naturally, single parents have it even harder.

But for my husband and I, having a parent home with Dana is extremely important to us.

We were both raised by moms who stayed home. My own mother gave up a career in nursing in order to be there for her three children. Was it easy? Heck no. We rarely ate dinner out. Family vacations usually meant car trips. As teenagers, we didn’t have our own cars, televisions in our rooms or separate phone lines.

What we had was more important. We had a parent chaperoning school field trips, helping us with homework, listening to our adolescent, end-of-the-world problems. In college, I worked part-time at daycare centers. While none of these children suffered harm, and although some gained valuable socialization skills, they lacked one-on-one attention. With a student-teacher ratio of 10 to 1, even Mary Poppins couldn’t give these children the care that a stay-at-home parent could.

That’s not to say working parents are neglecting their children. It’s all about prioritizing and making the most of the time you have — even if that means sacrificing work, education or personal goals. Tom McMahon makes it pretty clear in his “Kid Tips” column today that bonding starts with spending time with children. That may mean giving up promotion opportunities at work or taking a less desirable job that offers flexibility. It also may mean giving up your favorite nightly television programs so you can read to your children, or exchanging an extra hour of sleep so you can be there for bath time. Or, for those willing to make hard sacrifices, it may mean taking a part-time job and giving up some of life’s pleasures (trips, nice clothes, a new car) so you can be at home more with your children.

In a perfect world, one parent would have the luxury of staying home to raise the children. Or, at the very least, parents could work their schedules to maximize at-home co-parenting. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. And perhaps that explains the reaction my sister-in-law experienced. While those mothers may not admit it out loud, perhaps they looked down their nose out of envy. Perhaps they too wanted to be at home raising their children, instead of working their high-power, high-pressure jobs.

(For the counterpoint, see my colleague Kari Hulac’s post: “Working mom defends bond with kids“)
Ann Tatko-Peterson

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