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Children benefit from socialisation, and change can make them resilient. But spending quality time with mum is also high on the list for creating well-adjusted kids
They started in the 1950s. And they're still going now.
During WWII, women discovered a world of work outside the family home. They had taken on traditional male dominated roles and many were reluctant to relinquish this new-found liberation.
The past 60 years has seen a speedy increase in the number of working women, and the argument is hotting up. Should mothers stay at home to care for their children or should they let someone else care for their children while they go to work? Wow, that's a big question indeed. The most recent ideology thrust upon us in the form of expensive paid parental leave suggests they should stay at home. Having access to subsidies for increasingly expensive childcare acknowledges that many women choose to work. But I feel I may provide a somewhat lukewarm response. I will not inflame this debate any further by saying either way is better.
Our society tends to vilify whatever choice we make. Working mothers scoff at Mother Earth mothers staying at home, making kale chips and demonstrating interpretive dance as part of their child's home-schooling program. This reaction could be born out of jealousy that they can't afford to make the same choice to stay home or that they have worked hard to establish a career and refuse to let that slip away. Some are just not made in the Mother Earth mould and would rather poke their eyes out with burnt sticks than stay home baking sprouted whole grain bread to the soundtrack of a crying infant.
Stay-at-home mothers lament the fact that working mothers leave their poor child in the care of a third party. How could they choose to leave that little bundle of joy, that grew inside them for nine months, at a childcare centre when they're just six weeks old?
Most early childhood teachers would remember conducting a survey during their formal training. "Would you leave your child in care at six weeks – five years of age?" The majority responded "no". Isn't that a kick? The very people being trained to care and educate the children of working mothers having such a negative view of putting children into someone else's care. Ironically, reality hit for each of these women once they became mothers. Some worked, some didn't and the reasons why were diverse and varied.
Many working mothers have a huge mortgage, a huge career drive or just need to enjoy a balance between parenting and keeping a sense of self. Stay-at-home mums may make their choices based on religion, philosophic beliefs, socio-economic constraints or marginalisation due to mental health, unemployment or limited education. No one situation is the same.
Research says that children benefit from socialisation, and change can make them resilient. But spending quality time with mum is also high on the list for creating well-adjusted kids. So how much time is the right amount? Nothing can replace a loving home environment and no mother should feel guilty for making either choice.
Perhaps I am fuelling this fire after all? Who am I to judge? And who are you to judge? Go forth and enjoy your kids and stop worrying about the bonfire being stoked by those who are least qualified to do so.