I want to make clear I am not a traditionalist who believes all mothers should be home with their babies. But I believe children thrive when raised by people who love them–mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, siblings, close friends–who are a permanent part of their lives. I believe group care too early in life is not the solution; conforming to group norms is hard on toddlers. My highly creative first daughter found all-day kindergarten hard to take. She would announce: “Mommy, I used all my goodness up.”
Nuturing young kids is a creative, fascinating job– if the nurturer is compensated, acknowledged, appreciated. Day care teachers should be trained and paid as well as elementary and high school teachers. Men should be encouraged to enter the field now that some of the sex-abuse hysteria has died down.
If only some of the energy expended on the vicious mommy wars could be directed toward American capitalism. The idealistic young feminists of the early 1970’s believed that social change was possible to enable both parents to care for their children. As the work week got shorter, that seemed a possible goal. We did not envision a world whether mothers and fathers worked far longer hours than their own fathers had.
It would not require a massive reshaping of the American economy to make it feasible for parents to stay home with their babies and toddlers. If we can outsource radiology jobs to China or India, we can figure out a way for parents to work partly in the office, partly at home. Most people only have two children; most children at three can benefit from part-time nursery school. We are talking about six years in most couple’s lives. Many parents would be open to taking turns staying home with the baby.
The argument that taking time off work would ruin career advancement is absurd, particularly in the Internet Age.
Soldiers fighting World War II were absorbed back into the economy, given help with education and retraining, without being penalized for leaving their jobs for four or five years. If raising young children were properly valued as an essential contribution to the nation’s future, parents need not suffer dire career consequences for working part-time or taking a childrearing break.