The continuing debate about whether it is better for a woman to be a stay-at-home mother or to work outside the home and utilize various forms of childcare is one that will more than likely never end. Feelings are strong on both sides, strong enough to cause women to raise their voices in heated disagreement about what is "the right thing to do" to raise healthy, happy children.
Except for the topic of abortion, nowhere is a controversy so passionately discussed in today's society. Statistics are quoted from both sides as to the damages or benefits exacted on children. It is the topic of many daytime shows and has been frequently profiled on the evening news. The topic has prominently featured on a Dr. Phil Show.
For stay-at-home moms like Gianna and Jenn, the idea of not being at home full-time for their children is unthinkable.
"I firmly believe that the first seven years are crucial to a child's nurturing. Motherhood is my job and my daughter reaps the benefit of my being here in more ways than I can count," said Gianna.
Jenn agrees and feels that being a full-time, hands-on mom is a necessary part of motherhood that many women just don't want to handle. "You owe it to your child to be there during the sensitive formative years. Mothering is a full-time, on-call position."
Heidi Brennan, a stay-at-home mom and public policy advisor/member of the Board of Directors for the Family and Home Network says, " Research has demonstrated that the early relationship between infants and preschoolers is the foundation of all subsequent personality development. It is damaging for parents to be away for more than a few hours a day. " Staying home, she believes, is a mother's duty.
Her statement was countered by Dr. Phil, who said that there was really no evidence to support it. He went on to say that children in quality day care environments show increases in cognitive and social skills as well as intellect and social comfort. Dr. Phil then added that he encourages all women to make the choice that will "bring her closest to fulfilling her hopes and dreams."
But for many working mothers the controversy over staying at home or having a career has less to do with fulfillment of hopes and dreams and a lot more to do with financial necessity.
"I work because I absolutely have to," says Mari, a 38-year-old mother of two children. Her oldest child, Kalleigh is in third grade and her youngest, two year old Daniel, goes to a local day care center. "I do like to work but I wanted to wait until my baby was in full day kindergarten. But my husband lost his job and I am working to support our family; I didn't have the luxury of time."
Denise, a divorced mother of three girls understands. "This is survival. I'm not working for frills like vacations or a new car; my frills are paying the mortgage and buying groceries."
Then there are women who do work for personal or professional fulfillment. Some work because it is a factor in making their lives happy. Their feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence are increased by the intellectual stimulation of working outside the home.
Caren, a working mom with a four year old son, went back to work full-time just after his first birthday.
"I never had any intention of not working. I enjoy the office camaraderie and I need the interaction of others in my field. I think my son has benefited from having a mother who feels fulfilled and happy both at home and at work. Truthfully he's a happy, intelligent little boy."
Andrea, who has been both a stay-at-home mom with her first child and a working mom after the birth of her second, sees both sides of the debate and wonders if the controversy is more a case of being envious of what the other mom is doing. The mother working outside the home wishes she had more time to spend with her child; the stay-at-home mother desires to be recognized as a creative person in her own right.
"Because I've been both a stay-at-home mom and now have a career I can honestly say that, while I enjoyed being at home, there was that part of me that needed to be acknowledged and nourished. I get that from my work."
We will always have differing opinions on the issue of mothering and what is best for our children. The truth is that no one woman is a better mother because she makes a different choice than another. Supporting rather than condemning each other is a key factor in understanding each other's decisions. Whether you choose to stay home or go to work is an individual choice.
Make your decision and be comfortable in your choice.
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