Several times in the past month, while talking about my kids with relative strangers (patients at work, neighbors, etc), people have said something similiar to the following about parents who work full time:
“Why even bother to have kids if you aren’t going to raise them?”
It’s a sentiment I hear only coming from the older generations, my parents’ generation and older, who I assume were predominantly full time stay at home moms with full time working husbands. That was the cultural norm for a brief period of time. And although I am not a full time working parent myself (I do, however, work part time at 20 hrs/wk), I find that statement extremely ignorant, hurtful and annoying.
Ignorant because, in our generation, it’s very difficult for families to subsist on one income. There are career tracks that pay quite well and could afford a family to have only one working parent, but a lot of people work in jobs that would not pay the bills by themselves. Do the people making this comment really think that couples who are not financially capable of living off one of their incomes must forgo having children?
Ignorant again because it is not true that if children are in daycare five days/wk, then their parental influence becomes inconsequential. The NIH itself says that “a child’s family life has more influence on a child’s development through age four and a half than does a child’s experience in child care.” I looked up that quote because I remember reading another article in the past that made that same point, and wanted to confirm. Even if kids are in daycare full time, their parents are still the biggest influence in their life, at least at these young ages (once they’re in school and making friend groups, there are a lot more influences overall). So parents are still raising the kids and having a direct impact on them, no matter if they work or are at home full time.
Hurtful (obviously) because again, some families cannot afford to have a stay a home parent, and are forced to both work. People who must both work to support kids are just as likely to want children as the next couple. Come on.
Hurtful again, because even if a couple could afford one parent to stay home full or part time, perhaps both parents are invested in very rewarding and fulfilling careers that they spent a lot of time and resources to get into (advanced degrees etc) and don’t want to throw all that out the window. There are people who both want kids, and want to work. I myself am in this category. I am a physical therapist, I have a doctorate degree that took extra schooling to achieve, and I really love my job. I view it as a ministry, using my hands to bring healing into people’s lives, and I truly enjoy meeting new patients and fulfilling my extroverted chatty-bug all the time. I didn’t want to stop working all together when I had kids, and having kids was also very important to me. I am allowed to love my job and to love my kids at the same time.
The statement is annoying to me as well, because it assumes that staying at home when kids are really young is all parenting is about. What if someone isn’t that into babies but really wants children for the future teenagers they will become? I know parents who love the older stages of parenting more than the baby/toddler years. So maybe they need daycare to get them through the, VERY DEMANDING, early childhood years with a little extra help, and then will be super hands on and involved when the kids are a bit older. Come on.
Can we stop making stupid comments like this that judge other people’s lives when we know nothing about their situation? Come on, people. Let’s do better.