A Major Decision

May 24, 2001 |Anne Morse

You, or your future wife, are not doomed to a nine-to-five job like some would have you believe.

Mean little bullies: That's what a researcher says daycare will turn kids into.

Jay Belsky was part of a 10-year, National Institutes of Heath study of 1,300 children who spent time in all kinds of daycare. Belsky found that kids who spent more than 30 weeks in non-mommy care were more likely to exhibit aggressive, defiant and disobedient behavior than kids reared by their mothers. Belsky used words like "cruel" and "mean" to describe these kids.

That's nothing compared to the words feminists applied to Belsky. In response to his findings, the worldwide federation of angry feminists rolled their eyes — and then rolled out their bazookas. The resulting hullabaloo is a sobering warning that if women want to rear their own children, they'll have to plan carefully — beginning when they're in college.

When the daycare study shot into the headlines in April, feminists reacted in a manner men labeled "typically feminine" in the days before so many women took up kickboxing. Frankly, it's hard to blame the guys. A sampling of feminist logic:

  • Lots of mothers work outside the home — which proves that full-time daycare must be just fine.
  • Mothers enjoy working outside their homes — so the study is obviously flawed.
  • The study makes mothers feel guilty, so the researchers must have it in for them. Plus, Jay Belsky, is a big gorilla.
  • One desperate feminist went so far as to claim that kids themselves PREFER daycare! (Yeah, right. My kids hated it that I quit my job when they were born so I could spend my time rocking them, reading to them, helping them make anatomically-bizarre gingerbread persons, and taking them to the library, the park, and the beach. They were always nagging me to put them in daycare and fulfill myself.)

Whether you believe the study or not, it's a reminder that too many mothers work outside the home who don't want to. Many never planned to pay someone else to raise their kids; it just seemed to happen. But for most of us, it doesn't just happen. We plan for it, whether werealize it or not.

The truth is, daycare is not inevitable. Single mommery is not an immutable characteristic, like sex or race. If you want to take care of your own kids instead of paying a for-profit business to do it, you have to plan ahead. Way ahead. Starting right now.

Plenty of women — myself included — met that special guy in their college years. After you get engaged, don't limit your discussions to whether to hire Great Uncle Gasket and his ukulele band to perform at your reception. Take some time to talk about how you plan to raise your kids. Be realistic: If you're planning to mother your children full-time, you may not have the high-status lifestyle — at least, not for a few years. That's a trade-off you'll both have to be willing to accept. (Actually, your standard of living may be higher than you think. Surveys show that married men with children tend to make more money than anyone else — probably because they know their families are depending on them.)

Don't underestimate the pleasures of caring for your kids full-time. Watching your big sister vacuuming Cocoa Puffs out of her toddler's nose may tempt you to email Mary Poppins years before your kids are born. But when you're actually dealing with your own children, it's a different (and better) story.

I spent six years supporting my husband while he attended college and professional school; we then had two children back to back (so to speak), and I spent seven years in that great, paycheck-free zone known as "staying at home with the kids." They were, undeniably, the most fun years of my life.

When our youngest began attending a three-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week pre-K program, I went back to work full-time as a writer, working from a home office. I wrote while the kids were in school, after they'd gone to bed, and on weekends while they were playing ball with their dad. I wrote while they were using the garden hose to give themselves mud baths in the back yard (Try doing THAT at a daycare center!) I wrote while they snatched paper out of my fax machine to color on (they thought that's where everyone stored fresh paper). Occasionally, in playing with the telephone, they accidentally speed-dialed my boss, but that's another story.

Second, consider a career you can work at from home, or work at part-time for a few years. The good news is that, thanks to Information Age technology and corporate flexibility, literally thousands of jobs can now be performed from home, or part-time. While I believe the "stay home with your kids and your mind will rot" philosophy is mostly bunk, computers and email mean we can nurture our children while sustaining our professional interests.

Third, If you don't want to be a single mom, don't have sex out of wedlock. You'd be surprised at how often "protected" sex leads to pregnancy, which, despite a high abortion rate, still occasionally leads to childbirth. A majority of single moms no longer consider placing their babies with adoptive families. (In most situations, that would be the truly loving choice, but who'd know that today, what with all the Hollywood moms and feminist spokesmen cheerily insisting that OF COURSE women can raise kids alone, no problem. They're lying.) Single moms nearly always have to work — which means your infant may face full-time daycare, from infancy onward.

Fourth, take great care in choosing your life mate. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and divorced moms usually have to work. Absorb some good advice for choosing a mate from books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris and Marriage Savers by Michael J. McManus. Even if you think now that you'd never give up your career to stay home with kids, understand that your feelings might change when you actually have that sweet baby in your arms and your hormones are running wild. If you really want to nurture your own kids full-time, don't start out by planning to rely even on a part-time mommy income; figure out how to live on just one: your spouse's. You may find you love mommyhood so much you want two or three or six or more kids, which means you may spend decades laboring on their behalf rather than on behalf of some corporation.

In all the screaming over the Belsky study, one thing is clear: Self-appointed "women's leaders" are ignoring the needs of mothers and their children. No matter how many studies expose the shortcomings of daycare, their answer is always the same: We need MORE and BETTER daycare! Why can't they listen to America's moms, who say, in overwhelming numbers, that they'd far rather be caring for their kids than paying someone else to do it? It doesn't seem to occur to these leaders to call, not for the daycare mothers don't want, but for more and better ways to help women take care of their own children.

Sadly, for some mothers, outside employment is a necessity. I count some of them among my closest friends. Their husbands abused or abandoned them, or they drank or gambled away the family paycheck. These women truly have no choice. They deserve all the support their friends and family — and churches — can give them. Churches, especially, ought to take a hard look at what they can do to help these families financially. To do so is to reinforce their message that moms ought to stay home with their kids.

In the end, the best way to ensure that your kids have a full-time mom while they're young is to plan for it now, years before they're born. Think about their needs while you're still single, still in college and still deciding what to major in. The time to start caring for your future children ... is today.

Copyright © 2001 Anne Morse. All rights reserved.

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