My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

The Rant - Part Two

2006-05-19

Okay. I’ve been mulling over my last entry and I have a few more points to make before I let it rest for now. I do not want to give the impression that I’m in any way against SAHMs or children who stay at home before kindergarten. I’m not. I think, in general, smart parents raise smart kids regardless of how they go about it and how their lives are structured. I also know many children who are smart and creative who come from less than ideal homes. But, I do think we all – not just parents but everyone – have a responsibility to equip our children with the basic skills and knowledge they need by the age of five, no matter who’s doing it, whether parents/families alone (which they shouldn’t be – everyone needs a network) or with and alongside teachers and other educators.

And, I’m not talking here of babies and children under two. Often, the best place for them is with a parent – mother or father – or another caregiver at home. My husband has always been the stay-at-home dad a couple days a week for both Dusty and Red and it’s been a good thing. Not only did it save us money we didn’t have but it’s allowed them to have a closer relationship with their dad (and he with them) than they might not otherwise have had. Also, it’s given both kids a break from their daycare routine. They got some down time, which is also important. They have the best of both worlds, really.

Diversity. One of the best things about preschool is that children get to meet kids unlike themselves. They get to test out making friends with children they may not have otherwise come in contact with. At Dusty’s Beloved Preschool, she had friends whose parents came from other countries. All her best teachers have been African-American and her current teacher is as well. It’s why I picked her over the young, white, hip woman who teaches the other 4-5 yr old class. I know my kid and I knew Miss Ellen would provide her with the kind of motherly (or perhaps grandmotherly) presence she needed. And you may find it ironic that I use the term “motherly” to describe her teacher. You may say, “Oh, see, YOU are the mother and that’s your role. You’re letting other people raise your children.” But Miss Ellen and I are different people from different backgrounds with different skill sets. Miss Ellen is her teacher. I am her mother. Dusty knows the difference. But, Miss Ellen exudes a calmness that I knew Dusty would respond to. When Miss Ellen isn’t there, Dusty doesn’t have as good a day as when she is there. I hope Dusty always has teachers she connects with like that.

One last thought. I think, more than anything, what’s missing from all these SAHM vs WM discussions is the Mom part. The Woman part. There’s so much rhetoric about what’s best for “the children” and nobody seems to realize that sometimes what’s best for the children is what’s best for mom. Frankly, I think I’d go crazy being home all day every day. I’ve always worked. I’ve always had to. I now have a career I like. It’s important to me. It’s what I do and who I am – to some degree. Never mind that, as the breadwinner, I don’t have the option of quitting to stay home with my children. I think I’d have a very hard time being at home all the time, especially since I’m so physically isolated. I can’t walk to anything – library, post office, store, playgrounds. Everything is a long car ride away. I fear I would get lazy from a lack of structure, from a lack of a forced routine. And I need a routine, I need to be doing things. I think my children might suffer for that. They’d get bored just having me as a playmate (or not) all day long.

I find it interesting that all the Mommy War pundits and conservatives (mostly men) who tell us the right way to raise our children completely overlook US. We’re made to feel guilty for whatever decision we make. Stay at home? I’m giving up my career and “wasting” my education. Go to work? I’m shortchanging my children and being selfish. We are grownups. We are the life the pro-lifers wanted to save, come hell or high water. Why is it, once we move on from the fetus stage, we no longer matter? We’ve been educated and made to believe that we matter. We do. The women who came before us fought very hard to secure the same rights for us as men had as a matter of course since time began. We need to get back to matriarchal thinking. Our contributions and needs – in our families but also in our society – must be weighed as just as important as our decision to have children. Because if we care about children we have to then care about the people who are raising these children. Who will one day be adults that will make the decisions about our lives, good or bad.

I don’t think there’s an ideal way to raise children or live our lives with children. I think we all need to be more supportive of each other’s decisions and be that village because I think it’s impossible to raise children in isolation.

Say what you will.

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9:13 a.m. ::
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