Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stay-at-home moms and the mounting criticism

Spurred on by a conversation I had with the administrator of my daughter's daycare center, I stayed thinking about women's roles throughout history. Particularly, recent history. Around the mid 1900s women felt more and more oppressed, repressed, and depressed. Women no longer desired to be the 'traditional home-maker' and wanted to have equal rights and opportunities that men had. They burned their bras and started entering the work force by the multitudes. Some women saw being a stay-at-home wife and/or mother as a burden. They saw breastfeeding and nurturing children day in and day out as demeaning and unsatisfying as compared to having the luxurious careers their male counterparts had.

Some women who chose to stay in their 'old' roles as stay-at-home moms, breastfeeding moms, or even moms who breastfed and took their babies to work were looked on as if they were odd and going against the norm. Today, those moms who did see the value of staying home and fulfilling their role as the primary nurturer of a baby are grandmothers some even great-grandmothers. These women have grown in numbers. More and more women either before or after having their baby, have realized how important their roles as mothers are, regardless of what hardcore opposing feminists have to say about it.

Have women, in searching and fighting for autonomy and emancipation, given up their most unique and fulfilling role as mothers? Have we become so 'career-minded' as women, that we no longer know how to nurture and teach our own children that strangers and institutions are more capable of doing it for us?

Going back on the conversation I had with the administrator. It started off with me asking whether it was true that it is a requirement for toddlers to attend pre-school before they may enter kindergarden. The lady told me it was, but that not all kindergardens require it. Some want at least 6 months to 1 year of pre-school. I then told her that although my 22-month-old daughter is attending daycare, my next (and yet to be conceived baby) will not attend. I will keep the baby home with me or if I am still working part-time, I will bring her to work with me. Her countenance fell, her demeanor changed right away. "Why?!" Then she started listing reasons why I should bring the next to daycare. I told her that, in my opinion, the best people to raise children, is their own mother, and that if a mother is in the circumstance that she does not have to work to be able to eat or provide for her family, then it would be optimal to choose to stay home with the child. She agreed, and then said, "on the other hand, a child who stays home with its mom, becomes overly attached. The child cannot be without the mother, it cannot socialize. At home the child doesn't learn to wait their turn to eat like they learn here at daycare. At home the child doesn't learn to sit and eat quietly without walking around..." I thought to myself...'that's the fault of the mother, not of the arrangement'. I told her that the whole "separation anxiety" thing depends on the child's personality and that not all children are like that. And some in daycare, cry their lungs out every day when their moms leave, regardless. She agreed but then said that you cannot anticipate what kind of personality your next one will have. Well that's alright with me, I'll deal with it accordingly. I expressed my views that when a mother stays home to raise her children, she is also responsible for stimulating them intellectually, and providing them with opportunities to socialize with other children by means of ,for example, play dates. She disagreed and said that even if a child went to a party for one hour every single day, it would not compare to or be as good as if they were in daycare. "Lady!" I felt like telling her. "What if I had a whole mess load of children, like 7-9 kids, and kept all of them home... would that still not be as good as daycare is where socializing is concerned?!?!?!"

I'm not a stay-at-home mom. But I felt so insulted. I felt insulted for all the sahms out there. I got pregnant at 18. I had a job and a partner with no interest in having a baby. When this baby did come along, I took my 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and relished in them and spent every moment with my daughter. I loved my daughter to bits and pieces. I was saddened and grieved at having to leave my daughter (even if it was home with my mom) to go to work. I had to work, not for selfish reasons, but because the financial 'burden' of a child, was mine and not my parents' own. At three months of age my daughter began daycare. One of Aruba's "elite" daycare centers, and surely one of the most expensive too. I would not leave my daughter anywhere else. Eventually, I married a lovely man, who adores my daughter and myself. He agreed that when the next one comes, I'll stay home. He knows it's my innate desire and that a baby deserves nothing less than its own mother, if the circumstances allow it. Thank goodness.

Back to the topic of the feminist movement though. Have women, in searching and fighting for autonomy and emancipation, given up their most unique and fulfilling role as mothers? Have we become so 'career-minded' as women, that we no longer know how to nurture and teach our own children that strangers and institutions are more capable of doing it for us? That's certainly the impression I got from the lady I spoke to.

So what do stay-at-home moms do with their kids all day?!
If the first thing you thought was, put the kids in front of a tv to watch Dora the Exploradora while mom's in another room watching the Bold and the Beautiful, you better get a reality check. Here's what real, responsible and loving stay-at-home moms do.


Read with your children
Rarely does a child (or a baby for that matter) take one look at a book and teach itself to read and to love to read.  It is a habit ,and a desirous one at that, that you must nurture. How? You must set aside time and read for your child, read with your child. Engage the child and ask simple questions even if he cannot yet answer.


With older children, stimulate them intellectually according to their age and personal development
It's very tempting and easy to want to encourage your older child to plop down in front of the tv and watch 'because mommy has dinner to finish'. Women who stay home with older children must challenge them mentally according to their individualistic needs. Do easy puzzles with them, teach them about countries, make a collage with pictures and tell them a story about it. Sing songs together, or teach them life lessons about being kind, being polite, not fighting and about being honest. Do not underestimate the child's mind to soak these things up like a sponge.

Foster your child's sense of play and imagination
Today's toys, even baby toys, are so high-tech, they almost spoil all the fun. The baby that I had to make crying or burping noises for as a child, make it themselves nowadays. Kids have essentially lost their  imaginations and now depend heavily on things that make noises themselves and that light up. I learned it by experience that you don't need to buy your toddler (or child) the most fancy and glittery toys out there for them to be happy. Do you remember perhaps, the episode where Garfield has a hard time sleeping, and Jon goes out of his way to find a bed that can help Garfield to sleep? Well, Jon ends up buying the most ridiculous contraption of a bed which was very also very expensive. When they get home and Jon sets it up for Garfield to sleep in, low and behold... Garfield is fast asleep in the box in which the bed came.....
The point? I sometimes buy my daughter these awesome toys that make even my eyes light up, and Dahlia could not be more content with playing with some ordinary pots and pans... save your money

Teach your son or daughter to cook
Something that is easy and fun to do together is cooking. It can be as simple or as challenging as you want it to be. The child learns a life long skill, which will make her husband or his wife happy if he takes good to it, and helps nurture a child's self-esteem and creativity. Which child doesn't feel good after he made muffins all by himself?? Or the praise a girl gets and feels when her parents delight in even the simplest of meals.


Take a break from the house
Yes, the chores can wait, and you can take a day off of cooking. Take the time to wander outside of the home with your child. If it's a baby, gird yourself and the baby in a sling and enjoy a walk together. Talk about the scenery, educate your child about nature and ask them who they think put all these enjoyable things here on earth. If where you live has museums or the like, take the opportunity to enrich your child's understanding of different cultures and languages.


 Provide your child with ample opportunities to interact and play with other children
Children, regardless of age, sometimes need to have other kids around to play with. This is yet another way how they learn. They can put all the life lessons you taught him at home about sharing and being kind, and put it into practice. Do this often. And no, not with a WII or a playstation

all Images courtesy:  Google Images


  1. Interesting post... while I agree with some of your points (I definitely think mothers are not respected in our society, when it really is the most important job), I also think that it DOES depend on the child's personality... I had no intention of sending my son to preschool at the age of 2, but he has had boundless energy since the day he was born. I only wish I could "plop him in front of Dora", LOL... the only interest he has in the TV is figuring out how to work the remote control and tape things on the DVR. And he's only one.

    I have had to pay for numerous classes and schedule daily playdates for him, b/c he goes stir crazy at home alone with me. I do everything I can to engage him; I would LOVE to sit and read with him, but he won't sit still. He is happiest around other kids and is the most social creature I've ever seen. Therefore, I think it will really benefit him to go to preschool at an early age - just in a part-time capacity, but still... he needs that sort of environment to thrive.

    I appreciate where you are coming from, and respect your choice, but it may just not be the best choice for every mom and every kid.

  2. This post's intention was not to say that kids who go to daycare turn out horrible or what not (my daughter is in daycare, she's pretty nice and well-mannered) or that daycare is the devil. It was meant to defend the moms who do choose to stay home with their kids. It's a shame that a lot of people (at least here in Aruba and Curacao) have the notion that kids who stay home are dumber and have less social skills than a child who attends daycare. Another misconception is that babies and kids who are kept home turn out rotten or overly and excessively attached to their mothers. They think too that daycares can provide everything that a measly mother cannot. This is wrong. Of course, the exception is not the norm, if a mother strives to do her best, her child can be as or more competent than kids who attend daycare. If a mom chooses to keep her baby and subsequently older child home and do her utmost to educate and stimulate the child, she should be encouraged and commended, not criticized and belittled

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