challenges of motherhood, Work life balance

Choices, Critics and Meddling Politicians: Parenting Today

The uproar caused by George Osborne in the UK has reached the Dutch press this week too. The Conservative chancellor has managed to rile stay-at-home mothers with his frivolous remarks about mothers choosing to stay at home to look after small children making a lifestyle choice.

In an effort to boost dual income households childcare vouchers up to 1,200 per year per child are up for grabs when both parents are working.  To quote The Telegraph,

“Mr Osborne said: “This Government is on the side of people who want to work hard and get on in life.”

Which obviously does not include stay-at-home mothers.

There has been a similar uproar in the Netherlands over the past few months too following Jet Bussemaker’s comments that well educated stay-at-home mothers should feel guilty about their debt to society and that all women should be financially independent of their partners.

Day care or stay at home? Your choice will always
start off the critics
Photo Credit: Afonso Lima

Of course it’s a government’s job to keep the economy going and stimulate the job market but thoughtless comments from well-meaning out of touch politicians rile me. But that aside, what really riles me is that no matter what you do as a mother it’s not right. If you work full time you face criticism that day care is essentially raising your child. If you stay at home you’re wasting your education and not contributing to the country’s economy.

How about we, as a society, including politicians, butt out and let each family make a decision that works for them. That means not penalising families financially because one of the parents chooses to stay at home and look after their children. It means not making parents feel guilty about the choice they make, whatever that may be. A little more acceptance and tolerance that what works for one family doesn’t work for another. Some families have no choices open to them, staying at home is not an option because of financial restraints.

I’m a stay at home mother and that was my choice. Financially, we have that luxury. I don’t regard it as a lifestyle choice. I wanted to raise my children, watch them grow, be here for their first words, first steps. I work from home, writing when I can, but it fits in with my family and not the other way around. And I’m happy with that. I’m happy with the choice I made and I don’t feel any pressure to leave my children in day care and get back into the workplace on a full time basis.

Pre-children I worked full time, had a higher monthly salary than my partner and was focussed on a career. That all changed when I became pregnant. My mind was set the day my first son was born. The original plan was for me to return to work on a part-time basis, my mother-in-law to look after him for one day a week and the other days for him to go to day care. Once he was born I hated the idea of leaving him. I hated the idea of missing so much of his development whilst I sat in an office making very little difference to the business world or the Dutch economy in reality. My priorities changed. Life changed.

And I am grateful every day that I had that choice to stop working and stay at home. I would make the same decision again and again. Others wouldn’t. Their choice. And that’s the beauty of the society and the age we live in – we have choices. Let us exercise those choices without others attempting to make us parents feel like whatever we do it is wrong. Let the focus be on family and not politics or economics. Make it easy for mothers and fathers to make the choice that works for them and their children. By all means make it easy for mothers to work full time, but don’t label stay at home mothers lazy or criticise part time workers with the same breath. Let’s accept the choice of parents to stay at home with their child and not criticise full-time working mothers for putting their children in day care so they can make a living or have a career.

Us mothers have our own internal critic to battle with everyday – we don’t need others to add to it……

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5 thoughts on “Choices, Critics and Meddling Politicians: Parenting Today”

  1. Amanda, I love this and I agree with you whole-heartedly! I am highly educated, speak 5 languages, and I am a SAHM. My mom is a highly regarded professor in her field, loves her job, and works full time, an dplans to do that for as long as possible, but she supports my decision to stay at home. I do occasional work, but most of the time I am at home and I can't tel lyou how extremely grateful I am for this opportunity. Furthermore, we have daycare several times a week so I can get my me-time. I am getting the best of both worlds and love it. Oh and I agree with you on the guilt part. Fathers don't always have that problem- if he's working, he's suporting the family, if he wants to stay at home, he's a devoted dad… I am so sick of this.and this applies to other parenting choices such as feeding, sleeping, etc.

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  2. Also, not everyone lives in a country with free or highly subsidised education. Some of us work very hard at home educating our children because private school isn't an option. I resent the implication that I am lazy or unambiguous as a result!

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  3. Not so shocking, considering often those who are judging are not in the same position!
    I have met many very educated mothers who stay at home, and it works well for them and their children. They work hard, and their children are very happy. Contrarily, I have met numerous moms who work and parent happily and very effectively. To each HER own!

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