Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I am a working mom

I had to take a road trip for work today. I don’t do it often anymore and I was looking forward to the alone time in the car. I love talk radio and was happy to have the time to really listen. Leslie Roberts had Dr. Fraser Mustard on to talk about his new report Early Years Study 2: Putting Science Into Action. The Toronto Star credited Dr. Mustard with asserting that “Just one-third of parents are doing a great job. The rest are okay or even ‘godawful’.”

The discussion was interesting and Dr. Mustard was basically saying that the quality of the input in the formative years (0-6 years) will determine the quality of the output later in life, especially when it comes to literacy, numerology, behaviour, etc. Dr. Mustard’s criticism was aimed primarily at the government for not providing adequate funding and support for parents, but also at parents for not spending enough time with their children and not providing the quality of input required to develop young minds.

As I drove along, I was interested to hear the opinions of callers. Then, I felt like punching every self-righteous asshole that called in. Caller after caller talked about how parents need to make the choice to have one parent stay home (in every case this morning, it was the mother) to ensure that the child received that quality input. You have to decide whether material “things” are more important than the welfare of your child. Is it really that big a sacrifice? they asked.

My name is LoriD, and I’m a working mom.

I have nothing against SAHM’s. Nothing at all. It’s a choice and it’s the right choice for many, many families. It is not, however, the right choice for my family. I assure you that in making our choice, material “things” does not factor into the equation and I resent like hell the implication that it does. I also resent the implication that as a working mom I don’t make sacrifices for my children because, believe me, I sacrifice. I sacrifice time to myself so I can devote time and attention to my kids every morning, evening and weekend. I sacrifice sleep so I can do things like housecleaning, laundry and meal prep after the monsters are asleep. I sacrifice money, because I pay a premium to have a full-time nanny who is ECE trained.

I don’t work so that we can live large. I work because I love my job. I like that I make a meaningful contribution to something important to a great number of people. I don’t have the type of job that will be there waiting for me if I take 10 years off to stay home. Everything I have done to earn my position - the degrees, the jobs, the extra effort I put into projects – all of that will be lost if I take time off. My talents and skills aren’t suited to a work from home job, so my only options are to not work at all, or to work outside of the house. Perhaps that sounds selfish, but I know too many women my mom’s age whose identity is tied up with being only a wife and mother and they have nothing that is their own. That’s not for me.

The callers to the radio show were all bragging about their kids and how the teacher could tell they were from families with SAHM’s because they were so advanced. Well, allow me to brag a little. My daughter is the youngest in her class. She is also the best reader. She is well advanced in her ability to work independently and she is exceeding the provincial requirements for all subjects, except Art. She’s at the provincial standard for Art, which isn’t surprising since I always kind of sucked at Art.

If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you! The point of my rant is that I don’t draw the conclusion that SAHM’s are incapable of working, that they are home watching soaps or obsessing about the cleanliness of their homes. I ask that you don’t assume that just because I work that I love my kids less, that I don’t care about their health and well-being or that I have left the raising of my children to someone else. I’m sure there are just as many SAHM’s as working moms in Dr. Mustard's “godawful” category. They just don't listen to talk radio.


Swistle said...

I'm beginning to suspect that the whole "moms who do things one way" versus "moms who do things another way" debate is being deliberately fueled by people, specifically MALE people, who hope that this kind of in-fighting distracts us from the fact that men are not being held responsible for the same choices. I resent that when women decide EITHER WAY, they are made to feel that they are making the wrong decision for their careers, families, independence, future of the United States, etc. Men are not. I also resent that the subject causes women to turn against each other. It makes us seem easy to manipulate.

LoriD said...

You are so right. There's a lot of guilt that comes with being a mother, no matter what choices we make. I don't know if (most) men are truly thick, or if they are really brilliant, pretending to be oblivious. Whatever the case, there are not nearly as many societal expectations placed on fathers as on mothers. It's not even close.

Tessie said...

Hi Lori,

I just wandered over from Swistle's blog and happened upon this (great) entry. I'm a working mom as well so I can definitely relate.

I think a point that many miss is that loving care can come from a variety of sources. If it comes from mother and/or father only, great. If not, STILL GREAT.

Anyway, always fun to read about another working mom's experiences.

LoriD said...

Hi Tessie!

Thanks for stopping by! My kids really look forward to their time with the nanny... she's one more person in their lives that is crazy about them.

Laural Dawn said...

I am so loving you blog! Seriously. I want to give you ahug after reading this. I hate the SAHM debate. Hate it.
I work because I have to. And because I like it. And because I'm a much better mother to my son because he is entertained and educated all day while I am mentally stimulated all day. It's a win-win. And I couldn't afford to stay home.
But, I hate the debates about it.
You do what works and if it doesn't work you change it. Period.
My sister stays home (she has a very part-time job) and she would never put her kids in daycare. They make different sacrifices, but also were in a different position going in.
My point is that there are pros and cons to everything - people need to accept and move on.
As long as parents are there for their kids - in either situation - kids will thrive.

Laural Dawn said...

PS I'd love to ask you more about the nanny thing. We're talking about another baby (I'm not blogging about it), but I think if we had 2 we may switch to a nanny.