Newest Review: ... staying at home... that makes me laugh, how many 'non-working' mums stay at home all day? I consider myself to be very fortunate that fir... more
Strong bias to staying at home
Working Mums vs. Stay at Home Mums
Member Name: Dryad
Working Mums vs. Stay at Home Mums
Advantages: Happy well rounded children
Disadvantages: No money
I have been a working mum since my youngest daughter reached two and a half years old. This was a decision based more on finances than my particular set of cultural norms, or desire for a career.
I grew up at a time and in a village where taking the option to work after reproducing was considered scandalous, whilst on the other hand being expected of you. You were damned if you did and damned if you didn't. As a young girl I was always keen to do well academically and expected to work 'until' I married and had children... I blame my parents for that attidude. I was brought up in the sixties by parents whose parenting style and aspirations for their children were from the fifties.
I worked in various secretarial positions, and as a lab assistant (where my true interests lay) until I met and married my husband. He was, I was surprised to realise, keen for me to carry on working. I quickly understood that the world where a family could survive on one average income was long gone. Without a second wage we could not afford a home, without a home we did not want to have children, so I carried on working. When we had our first baby, the job I was doing was temporary so I was not entitled to maternity leave or pay. Neither could I claim job seekers allowance as I wasn't planning on working for some time.
I adored being a mother, and could not imagine having gone back to work when my baby was young. I did not have family members who were willing to care for her, and nursery places or child minders were not so common or well monitored in the late 1980s. Even if I had been able to find a nursery or childminder with a place for a young baby we could not have afforded to pay for it. as I would have gone back to work part time, and I did not see the point of paying all my wages to someone to look after my child when I could have been doing it myself.
Over the period of my life time it has become increasingly clear and unambiguous that the economic and social system we live in has been designed to promote aspirations which can only be achieved (within a tradional nuclear family context) by two people working full time. Even then the fact that the equivalent hourly rate of pay has not increased in real terms in the Anglo- US economies since 1975 means that increasing levels of personal debt are also required to underpin even relatively modest lifestyles.
The fall out of that system can be interpreted in various ways based on statistics. A recent UNICEF report (mentioned here http://www.ipce.info/newsletters/e_22/2_10_unicef_ report.htm) concluded that children in Britain were the least happy in the industrial world. I believe that is partly because the economic pressure on families is unrelenting and leads to increasing levels of family breakups, or single parents being forced to work long hours to maintain a minimum standard of living. I believe this type of environment is not good for children. Overwhelming evidence indicates that an environment of instability, (such as not knowing when your parent is going to be with you or who is your primary carer) does have severe long term mental health impact on children - especially as they increasingly go through pressures and changes, such as getting used to new carers when not with parents, being rushed from activity to activity with no real one to one time with a parent, when they are at an impressionable and vulnerable time in their own development.
In essence I think we have lost sight of how children differ from adults. Their brains are continually evolving, and they are highly impressionable. Personally I believe they need the one to one attention of a parent or parents. They need to be able to know there is someone there who cares for them unconditionally and will help when they are in trouble, or share their funny moments, and enhance their learning process. This appears to have no detrimental affect, claims of poor socialisation amongst children brought up this way do not take into account the function of play groups, friendships with other parents with same age children, extended family, and simple outings with a parent or primary carer to parks, play zones, or even just shopping.
The advantages are too many to list, a parent who is engaged with their child can gauge how best to interest them in the world around them. My first child loved the walk to school, and I would take this opportunity to point out how the seasons change, and the way that affects the life cycle of animals including us etc. My youngest hated walking, and I used this to point out the advantages of transport, and how long things took before we had cars etc., small examples of many. Many psychiatric illnesses such as schitzophrenia can be latent and triggered by traumatic events particularly during the hormonal maelstrom years of puberty such as extreme exam performance anxiety, parental break up, illness."Scientific reseach has shown that children are much more sensitive to stress than adults - and that stress is likely a key factor in mental illness" http://www.schizophrenia.com/prevention/stress1.ht ml . This may seem a bit extreme and I am by no means saying we are putting our children at risk of mental illness if we work, I think if we do our best to be there for our children then we can help them grow into fully rounded, secure adults.
In brief families are in an invidious position where if one parent is working and the other is there to look after the children, or if a single parent puts the care of their child first and isn't able to work (or finds the cost of child care the same as their wage) they are generally severly economically disadvantaged. This type of economic disadvantage then often tends to generate a wide range of social problems for society as a whole.
Alternatively a scenario where both parents pursue career goals and where both work - then a higher standard of living is achievable for the family - but the children are left without a main 'love' and bonding focus. This model also provides easy exploitation by an economic system devised to perpetuate an ever growing consumerist view, where children grow up with everything they want, but nothing they need. I believe this can leave us with a generation of adults who are unable to form loving giving unselfish long term relationships.
I was not able to be a stay at home mum for my second child, the financial pressures were too great. I enjoyed my job, whilest studying for a degree with the Open University. However when my inlaws became dependent, and my youngest child developed mental health problems I gave up my job to care for them. This plunged us into deep financial trouble, however I haved never regretted the decision, as my daughter is coming out of the worst of her problems and is happier than she's been for a long time. I re-trained and now work from home, which is a bit of a work/life balance juggling act, but home always comes first, and we like it that way.
Summary: Written from the point of view of a 'traditional' family unit. stron bias towards stay at home.