Our country’s priorities are messed up. All the talk of “family values” (code words for James Dobson-esque right wing radical Christianity being the Right and True Way) is deeply, deeply anti-family when we look at reality.
The answer to ending bullying (or most serious problems our children face) is a real living wage for all workers and making corporate greed illegal. I’m not anti-profit, mind you. I am, however, quite sure that corporate greed is the root of most of the problems we face in America today.
I’d like to see the Tea Party people spend some time looking at the incomes and bonuses CEOs paid themselves and imagine for a moment that those dollars were instead used to bring minimum wage jobs up to a real living wage.
If families didn’t have to work two or three jobs just to barely make it, they would have more time and energy for more involved parenting. If families could survive on one income, and that income could be made working 40 hours a week, I believe our nation would see radical changes for the better.
As it stands now, if I were to get a “regular job” most of my income would be spent on childcare (daycare for the little one and aftercare for the older one). So, maybe I could bring in a little more money if I worked a 9-5 job. Maybe. That said, as it stands now, my co-parent and I are firmly convinced that the best thing for our children is to make the “irresponsible” choice of my mostly staying home with the little one and our being around in the afternoons and non-school days for our older one. We can not afford to do this.
I’ll say that again. We can not afford to make this choice but we’re doing it anyway because the alternatives not only don’t bring in much more money but also totally sell out our personal values (providing our children the lives we want for them).
I fully recognize what we are doing isn’t what most people will find a reasonable option. It’s totally unreasonable, actually. And when I find myself wiped the fuck out after, say, a two or three day stint of sick children or STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is traveling so it’s 100% me for a few days, or AGHH school vacation comes around, I get tired. Very tired. And the television gets a lot more tempting. The deeper conversations aren’t likely to happen because I’m running around trying to get the minimum done just to keep us all from going totally insane. Too tired to talk, too tired to be fully present with my daughters, and too tired to just “be.”
So I consider what it would be like if every day were like that. (Sometimes I have longer stints of it if my freelance work (hire me!) is particularly busy, but that comes in waves.) If I were a truly single mother, or if I worked a full-time job outside the home and came back at the end of the day and tried to “be there” for my children, god, I get exhausted just imagining it.
Let me be clear here, no matter what a person’s values are, no matter what their intentions, I’m saying that even the best of the best parents are probably going to be too fucking tired to just hang around hand knitting or baking together drifting around unhurried in those times when the rich conversations naturally evolve. But I’m not saying those things don’t happen for those stressed out families. I’m saying that I’m too tired for that kind of idyllic parenting when I’m pushed even a little too hard, so trying to manage that on a regular basis if I were working a job outside the home (and STBX was working a less flexible job) or we were both working a couple jobs, would be nearly impossible for me. As I’m writing this I’m sort of laughing because even though I don’t work a “regular” job I have no “downtime” because of the scramble to try and make ends meet.
Lots of parents do extraordinary things with their children no matter what their financial or work situation. It’s just that I don’t see how it will ever be possible for our society to grow stronger and more secure when we’re all driving so fast we can barely see what’s passing by outside the windows.
There should be tax deductions for parents who want to stay home with their children—not just for people who need “assistance” (which, after I looked into it, is only available in very meager levels and only when people are nearly destitute) but for people who are treading water or better, financially, but who want to make an investment in their children. There should be support systems available for mothers or fathers who want to spend time with their children in their first five years of life, not just the first month or so. Job security. Paid time off. We should be investing in a culture that encourages families to slow down together and connect.
I think it’s a sad state of affairs that we ask our public school system and other social systems (afterschool programs, etc.) to do so much of the family work and then we blame the families for not instilling the proper values in their children.
The way we’re set up right now we need to invest the hell out of public schools and after care programs, into school meals, into bussing, and into lots and lots of adults to provide the structure that children so desperately need.
What I think should happen, though, is a grand shift. We ought to invest in supporting families who want a mother, father, aunt or uncle, grandparent, or close family friend to be home with the children. A family member or surrogate family member if the parents are drawn to their non-family work (I realize there are a lot of people who love their jobs, or want to be at work not at home with their children all day long, full-time on-site parenting is not a job for everyone).
It’s not a lazy or selfish choice to want to stay home with my babies. It’s a shame that I feel embarrassed to talk about wanting to do this, that I fear all the other parents out there who aren’t doing it will think I’m saying they are making a bad choice. No. I am saying our society is set up so we don’t have a choice. If we want to pay the bills, we have to work several jobs. I’m in a minority where I can’t afford to “stay at home” with my girls but I’m doing it anyway. This may be a minority of the stupid (“irresponsible”), but when I look at what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m doing the right thing for us.
Our societal structure makes it impossible for a parent or other family member to comfortably stay home with our young children. My psychological makeup makes it impossible for me to look at that logical picture and make a decision based on those facts. I am a lioness style mother. When it comes to them, nothing else matters. Knowing what’s best for my children quickly makes any logical or “reasonable” choice completely moot. Society tells me I have no choice, I have to use daycare and programs to rear my children. For me, though, the word “choice” hardly fits. No. I’m going to be here for my children when they wake up, when they go to sleep, when they need lunch, when they need to go to and from school, and when they want to stop and talk to a worm.
This is them tonight: