Before my eldest child was born, I worked full-time in the personnel department of a Dallas insurance company. From the moment the pregnancy was confirmed, I knew I would quit working to stay home with our daughter.
Many of my work associates were envious, expressing their own wishes to do the same. Each was convinced her circumstances (usually financial) wouldn’t permit such a course redirection. [It’s worth mentioning: not one male co-worker expressed his desire to be at home with his kids.] On the other hand, at least one heartbroken mom acknowledged her toddler had grown so fond of the sitter, he preferred to remain with the sitter rather than go home with Mama at day’s end!
Although this was 1974 (during the so-called second wave of feminist striving), I never experienced a moment’s ambivalence in deciding to stay at home. In fact, I recall my final months and weeks on the job, I felt relief knowing the end was near. Working the 9 to 5 gig — keeping us fed, sheltered and clothed while my husband completed grad school — had been a means to that end.
Beyond that “end” was my beginning: doing what I was created to do, and in this instance, it was being a MOM.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t intentionally stir up another battle in what has come to be known as the Mommy Wars, the ongoing and often contentious debate between “working” moms and moms who’ve chosen to stay at home. For the record, all moms work … some earn paychecks.
There is something in a Mother’s DNA that uniquely compels a change in life focus long before her infant has traversed the birth canal. She is singularly equipped to provide immediate sustenance. She attunes her proverbial antennae to hear each whimper, cough, cry and to decipher their meanings. She engages primal instinct and sixth-sense intuition to protect, nurture and defend her child/ren — with bear-like ferocity — against any and all threats.
Does it make any sense, then, that mama-bear would favor even the most scintillating workplace over her young and vulnerable cub(s)?
There’s a terrible disconnect, it seems to me. When a mom (in pursuit of career or paycheck) knowingly delivers her child (whether at six weeks of age or three years) to an unrelated caregiver, she has opted to be less human.
She has disengaged an essential part of herself that was designed for intimate connection to and with her child/ren. She has delegated to a caregiver the everyday miracles and minutiae that fill a child’s life. Who knows? Maybe the caregiver will notice a miracle or two and momentarily enjoy the minutiae — but for how long? The job of caregiver is after all a job, a means (labor) to an end (paycheck).
Children are such precious gifts! (Speaking as the mom of four adult children, they have given more to me than I could ever have imagined and certainly more than I ever hoped to impart to them.)
Yes, children are costly and often inconvenient and frequently annoying beyond comprehension. They are also the most rewarding and fulfilling work a woman will ever do. Maybe that too is by design?
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