Hurray for Stay-at-Home Moms

Hmm, a post at my friend’s blog shoved a little soapbox under my feet. She’s a stay-at-home mom and was ranting a bit about only having been away from her kids for four days in the past four years.

She thinks it’s a pathetic state of affairs, but I just want to get up and applaud.

I think its absolutely fantastic that there are still children actually being raised by their own parents. Does that sounds strange? Well, I met a woman on a plane once who was in the middle of adopting her second kid. She and her husband both worked full-time and and paid for a full-time nanny, and she didn’t intend to take off more than a few weeks when the second child entered their family. Which meant that she saw her own kids for only a few hours every day. The point of adopting kids to have somebody else raise them is?

Because if a nanny loves a kid, that kid should feel loved and grow up emotionally secure, right? But what’s the truth – the truth is NO AMOUNT OF MONEY CAN BUY YOU A MOTHER’S OR FATHER’S LOVE. No amount. That’s right.

[While I think there are plenty of great stay-at-home dads, I honestly believe that especially due to pregnancy, labor, birth, nursing and all the hormones involved, that it is simpler, easier and more instinctual for the mom to be the one who raises babies, so for the sake of my argument I am going to refer to the”mother,” rather than the “mother/father” for the rest of this post.]

I’ve thought about this. A lot. Mostly because I was a school teacher for ten years and have been a mother for fourteen, and I feel that I am witnessing a tragic number of kids being raised in daycare. I saw kids in school who did not have the emotional capacity of forming deep bonds with people around them. Granted, I saw kids who were not only being raised in daycare, but also suffering from emotional neglect in their own homes, so their behavior was pretty severe. And I am aware that being raised in daycare and being raised by a stay-at-home mom are pretty much at the opposite ends of the spectrum and I know that there is a tremendous amount of middle ground. I also know that it’s possible for a well-loved child in daycare to be heaps happier than an unloved child at home. Also, I am not anti-babysitting and I myself paid people to watch Bella while I was a full-time teacher single mom – so believe me, I am not trying to throw stones here – I know that we all do what we gotta do. I say all this as a mid-post preface because I know I am sticking my business into a controversial painful argument in parenting.

I believe that a child, a baby, an infant, grows a self-worth. Starting in the womb, the infant begins ego-less and needs to be taken care of in every imaginable way. Birth is the first separation from the parent and the first moment of beginning to establish a separate ego. And a child in the presence of *his parents learns that he is valuable just because he IS. Mere existence is enough to open the gates of unconditional parental love. No reasonable mother needs to be paid anything to love her own child.

On the other hand, what does a child learn who is raised in daycare? That he is not valuable enough in his own right to be loved, but that somebody needs to be paid to take care of him. This is deep, deep conditioning. Granted there can be wonderful people at the daycare, but compare the paid daycare employee level of concern with your own. A paid caretaker can never match the level of concern of the baby’s own mother. Even if that person is warm and caring, even if I were the daycare employee; I could take care of a child and care for a child, but would I love that child? And if that child were to leave the daycare and never come back – what would be the nature of our relationship? It would come to nothing, because a paid relationship can end abruptly and often does. The child learns to create different, more superficial kinds of relationships – ones that are not founded on unconditional love – ones that can end no matter how much the child might have come to love that other person.

In the end it comes down to this: children learn by being and experiencing. Self-love and a sense of self-worth as adult is formed through childhood experiences of loving relationships, or lack thereof. The deepest, most unconditional love comes from the family, and so I believe that children who are raised by their mother (or other members of the family) are the luckiest ones, the ones who have the greatest opportunity to develop a stable and deep sense of self-worth. And so I really and truly applaud mothers who stay at home with their babies. I stand up and give these mothers an ovation. These mothers are making an incredible investment in a secure and happy future for their children.

*For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to all babies in the masculine gender to differentiate from the mother.

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