Is outsourcing mothering the best way to create a healthy society?

When I went to college and studied elementary education to become a teacher I always thought I would work and have a career, along with having a family, but becoming a mother changed that priority that for me.  My oldest was born in March and I thought that when that summer came I would apply for a new teaching job and return to work that fall.  It never happened.  Summer came and I couldn’t fathom handing my baby over to a stranger while I went off to teach other people’s kids in a school. That made no sense to me.  I was highly educated in child development. I was the best and obvious choice in childcare for my child.

For the following eight years our family struggled to make it work financially for me to stay at home with our young children.  I always had to a little part-time work to help here and there.   Both my husband’s family and my family quietly disapproved of my choice to stay at home with my children.  Even my husband would have preferred me to work, so that he would not have to carry the financial burden alone.  I felt pretty unsupported in my choice to be a full time mother on all fronts.

Not much longer after our first was born, we welcomed our second child.  With two children close in age, we felt more certain that staying at home with our children was better than struggling to put two in daycare with little left over after my teacher salary.  We scaled back our home and lifestyle, moved to a cheaper neighborhood, drove modest cars, wore modest clothes, didn’t take vacations, worked second jobs, and shopped in secondhand stores.  We did what we had to do to put our kids first. Despite having less of the material wealth, it was a very happy time in my life.   I babysat children for a little extra money and tried other side business income ideas.  Once I worked a night job while when my husband came home in the evening.

Then along came our third child and the time came when our two oldest children were ready for Preschool and Kindergarten.  As a teacher I knew people who were homeschooling and I thought that might be something we could do.  But as a teacher I also knew the social benefits of community and school and my middle child was asking to go to school.  The strength that he wanted to receive by being in contact with other caring families on a consistent basis and being around children his own age was something I could not deny him. It was time for me to return to teaching.   This is perhaps why I ended up being involved in starting private schools and was never able to fully embrace homeschooling, though I still admire those who can do it successfully.

I found a wonderful woman to watch my daughter in my own home and paid her as well as I could for the work she did.  She took care of her own son and my daughter together in my home until my daughter was ready for preschool.

I took a different path than most. Through wanting better choices in schools and childcare for my own children I have spent the majority of my life so far, my career, and almost all of my private and free family time devoted to the founding of new schools.  It is exhausting work.  Let me assure you it is much easier to homeschool a child than it is to found a school.  It is also much easier to go back to a paid career in teaching than it is to start a school, and certainly much better for one’s personal finances.

For three of my prime working years I worked so hard at board meetings, making websites, hosting events, designing marketing materials,  but got paid nothing for it.   It was a drain on my parenting time, my marriage, and our family and finances, and not to mention pretty hard on some of my friendships over the years.  To my family I wish to apologize for all of that.

But every day, when I arrive at work each day I see about a hundred children playing, laughing, and enjoying the fruits of all that labor.  I see young families I don’t even know coming and going who are enjoying Great Oak School everyday.  Seeing that reminds me that sometimes the sacrifices we make are painful, but sacrifices are worth it for something bigger than yourself.

The very same is true when making hard choices about daycare. It is a sacrifice in the early years for all parents, but it is worth it.  Children are better off if we sacrifice for high quality care, whatever that means in your case.

There are lots of reasons to stay at home with a young child, but the biggest reason is because the best quality care for a child under the age of 5 is 1:1 with a loving adult, preferably a family member, most preferably the mother if the mother is healthy and able.

The next step down from that would be a very small group in an in-home setting, with a ratio of 1:3 or better.  A childcare provider should be well paid for their work and respected, given good training and support.  This can be expensive, but if you can afford it for a few years it will be worth it.  The next step down from that would be a small or very small ratio in a day care setting on a part time basis.  The next step down from that is raising the ratio very high and going all the way to full time 5 or more days a week.  The higher the ratio, the more difficult it is to meet their needs for love, attention, bathroom help, eating, and other.  Surely there are a thousand combinations and creative paths that families are trying to make it all work.

Why is it so hard arranging quality care for young children? I guess it’s just quite simply the economics of it.  It is expensive to raise a child.  A child is also biologically programmed to develop a certain way, and historically that has been with its mother. I remember the hard decisions that I had to make when our children were very little.  I remember many nights crying to my husband, arguing and worrying and feeling guilty about the financial burdens we faced, but not being willing to hand my children over to strangers or settle for a second rate education.

People have this unspoken idea that stay at home moms have a lazy lifestyle or that their work is not important to society, but what are the effects on humanity when we outsource motherhood? Let’s consider that as we watch my generation, which grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and the generations that follow come to political power.   I think we already know the answer.

I did a little reading on the web today and found these two articles.  I am still struggling with this question of how do I meet my overwhelming financial obligations and be a mother at the same time?  Starting schools was the stupidest thing I ever did for my finances, but I still don’t regret it. We need better schools. But I love this author’s question:

 “I believe we also need to ask a truly radical question: whether ‘outsourcing’ mothering is the best way to create a healthy society.”

That sticks with me today.

Perhaps as a society it is time to really consider how to restructure government, business, the flow of the workday for the average worker, the family friendliness of a workplace, and the social world to support the importance of mothering, especially on the earliest years of a child’s development.  I think in America, we have a lot more we can do.  If we aren’t going to do something about supporting motherhood and early childhood development then we better get busy beefing up our law enforcement, prisons and mental healthcare programs, because the overall health and development of humanity is going to suffer greatly.


Read more:

Scientific Proof Stay At Home Mothers benefit children
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Should I send my child to daycare?

Reasons to be a Stay at Home Mom

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