Outside, a couple of young kids are playing on the sidewalk, endlessly energetic, noisy, happy. They are bright and curious, well taken care of and healthy. They have a mother who works full time as a medical specialist and a father who stays home and enjoys their three kids. I am encountering this variation of parenting more and more as women get a very high education, are able to work for excellent money and still want to have a very personalized family life. At this point in my observations, it doesn’t seem to matter what gender the parent who stays home is.
Evidently, most families nowadays have to have both parents working at jobs outside the home in order to provide the means to live up to their expectations. In China the care of the child is often taken over by a grandmother. And this is true here as well, to my neighbor’s delight.
The luxury of having a parent give children full time care is less and less available. Good day care or a nanny are not alternatives many people can afford. Even so-so day care is hard to find. And numerous latch-key children have no adult to come home to in many areas.
I was a full-time mother until my youngest was in all-day school. I corrected papers for English teachers and did some child care for extra cash. I went to work full time as an English teacher in a middle school for about six months, but it didn’t work out for many reasons, mostly because I couldn’t handle the jungle of seventh graders. When I came home at night, nothing my teen-age kids could do was amusing or cute anymore. How happily I accepted part time teaching for BYU instead.
My four young children more or less enjoyed a situation where my main job was them and my husband. I didn’t feel oppressed. My mind was active. I explored many projects such as arising at 4:30 a.m. to write, planting and tending gardens, learning how to spin wool into yarn and reading voraciously. I sewed clothes for my children until clothing became so inexpensive that it cost more to make them from patterns. I had time to be a PTA president. In other words, I didn’t watch soap operas or spend hours on the phone chatting. I earned my living just as hard as Gary did for us.
The best part of our parenting was rearing them wholeheartedly in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our family had daily scripture reading and family prayer and a family home evening every Monday. We took them to church and had fun camping with them. We encouraged them to become readers. We insisted they at least learn to read music by taking lessons.
Gary’s and my children have turned out to be good, solid, hard-working people who serve others and try to be honest. But then, so do most people’s children. However, you have to work with what you get. I heard a joke about a Sunday school teacher who bragged about his remarkable kids every Sunday. They were the best at everything. One day one of the congregation came up after class and asked, “What’s the matter? Didn’t the Lord trust you with any of the hard ones?” We were entrusted with one who had a psychiatric disability that really tried us, yet all four were wonderful, flawed, smart and unique.
Did my children turn out any better or smarter than those whose mothers worked full time and gave them into someone else’s care? Who could tell the difference? What would clue a judge to whether I was a “good mother” or not? Nobody ever nominated me for “Mother of the Year.” I had a wonderful aunt who was and I think she didn’t win only because she dyed her hair to hide the gray.
Each of our children has talents they use for others. They are definitely a boon to the world and a joy to their parents. Their worldly fame isn’t wide, but I admire them. PMA
P.S. One died fifteen years ago, but she’s still wonderful in heaven.