Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Conservatives and Daycare

Caleb Stegall demands to know over on the Crunchy Con blog:
So I'll put the question to Jim and any other "conservative" very directly: Are you willing to state that "with a few exceptions, anyone who would place an infant in daycare is a negligent parent and a negligent citizen"? Let's put some cards on the table.
I figure I can answer this one without accusation of bias, since I'm the only one in my workgroup at the office whose spouse stays home with the kids -- and gets by on half the household income of everyone else as a result.

The first duty of anyone, conservative or otherwise, it seems to me, is not to be a tiresome old ass. Not but what many asses (even old and tiresome ones) are right. But even if you are right, if you make enough of an ass out of yourself, no one will listen to you. Truth is never served well by being put in the most abrasive terms possible, unless the offense which is being protested is so grave, that it calls for denunciation in the strongest terms. Save your ammo for the beast so nasty that you need to shoot it twice.

Now, I do think that one should do all that one reasonably can do to avoid putting a child, especially an infant (or indeed, any kid under school age) into daycare. If you think about the economics of it, you pretty much can't afford to pay someone to pay as much and as quality attention to you child as you could yourself. And even if you could, you'd be ceding your place as parent to that person. A parent is not just a DNA donor. A parent is supposed to have an integral part in forming his or her child from the earliest days of infancy through the point when the child is old enough to start his or her own family.

I think there's a lot that can be said, both as a matter of personal experience and probably also as the result of behavioral testing and observation that would support the ideal of having one parent be with young children full time. Or, short of that, having a real relative (grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew or close family friend) provide supplemental care. Children are supposed to bond closely to their guardians, especially in that early stage of life, so having your child spend most of her time with a stranger is doing her no favors. Either she's bonding to the wrong person, or she's not bonding at all.

What-is-more, from talking to the women I know at work, several of whom have very young (meaning under two) children in daycare, it seems pretty clear that many if not most women have a natural desire to stay home with their children. It's not that many mothers actively want to leave their children in daycare, but rather that they haven't successfully thought through the realistic strategies that could help them break the two income family mold.

However (and if I'm just being a soft voiced pinko about this, someone can tell me) I don't think you're going to get anyone moving in that direction by fulminating at them that they're negligent parents and negligent citizens. Just as one does not normally convince someone to convert by telling him that without the graces of Christ he'll go to hell. (That may be an accurate statement, but it's a bad opener.)

Which I guess is what bugs me about the heavily polemical nature of some of the Crunchy Con rhetoric. I think there are some very valid points that Rod is making about how people (conservative or otherwise) need to think systematically about what they believe to be the important things in life and then actively order their day-to-day lives according to those ideals, however if you spend too much of your energy shouting that everyone else outside your clique is a materialist, you're not going to get them to reexamine their lifestyle choices.


Fred said...

Again, a voice of reason amid the braying of asses. Thank you.

rhonda lugari said...

Rick and I read an article in the NFP magazine we get.
I can't remember who wrote it but it showed how it usually costs money if the mother works.
The writer broke it down in a way that showed what the expenses were when both parents worked, especially if they are both professionals (think of the cost of appropriate clothing as a good example).
His estimates were very realistic.

So, I'm actually saving money for my family by staying home with my children, as is Mrs.Darwin. We're such good women, and I think our husbands should bring us gifts today for being so wonderful and helpful.

mrsdarwin said...

The best gift anyone could give me today would be a LITTLE TINY BABY. Anyone?

rhonda lugari said...

I think Darwin already gave you that gift. It just hasn't arrived yet.
Which is the problem, and I have no advice to give you that you probably don't already know about.
So, I'll add a little intention for you when I say my rosary this afternoon. :)

Julie D. said...

Sorry about the baby hanging on for dear life to current comforts (as a fasting Catholic I totally understand that mindset!).

On the daycare thing, let me just say that I could not stay home with the girls. Perhaps economically it would have worked out. I didn't care. It was a matter of saving my sanity and their lives. I love my girls dearly but working part time (from 9 to 1 while they were tiny; during school hours once they were school age). Best thing I ever did, and they are wonderful kids ... because we put family first and were together the rest of the time.

I really hate when people start putting absolutes on those sorts of lifestyle choices the way that Crunch Cons seems to from what I have read about it. Although I haven't read it myself so can't say specifically.

Rick Lugari said...

Julie's going to he-e-ll! Julie's going to He-e-ll! Nah na nah na na nah... Julie's going to He-e-ll!

Fred said...

I guess if Julie's going to hell, so am I, being the part-time worker, part-time child watcher in my family at this time. I'm not very good at planning a day filled with challenges either . . .


Pro Ecclesia said...

We've been in both situations: kids in daycare, and now, mom staying home.

Believe me, our kids are sufferin' a whole lot more staying home with mom than they ever did when we had them staying with "strangers".

Seriously, though, I have a hard time saying either is the "right" choice. Under our former circumstances, daycare was definitely the "right" choice for us. But we moved halfway across the country so that mommycare could be the "right" choice.

Unknown said...

My mother stayed home- and we both lived to regret it. If I ever marry and have kids, no way am I staying home. If the kids don't like it, tough. There's got to be some advantages to being a grown-up. Besides, the earlier you learn that nobody else gives a rip what you want, the better. Let the little buggers deal with it- it'll prepare them for adulthood.

Darwin said...

I think it's the lack of attention to specifics that makes the kind of blanket condemnations some of the 'crunchies' want to throw around such a bad idea.

Clearly, there are certain topics in raising a family that bear a good deal of thought, but that doesn't mean that there's only one sufficient answer. Before we had monkeys, MrsDarwin was stagemanaging professionally, which mean a workday that ran from 4pm to 11:30pm -- so there were some very good reasons to have to change that lifestyle once kids came into the equation. I think JulieD's solution of having one parent work from 9-1 also sounds good. And I've known several families that have done very well having the husband stay home or work from home while the mother works outside the home. (And that's leaving aside all the extended family arrangements which may also be a good idea.)

Laying down blanket accusations of negligence misses the point. I don't think it's so much that everyone needs to have the wife stay home and homeschool their kids as that everyone should give careful thought to why they are doing what they are doing in regards to who cares for their children -- and consider whether that's the best thing for the family and the kids.

Heck, the Darwin family falls badly afoul of another crunchie commandment from the same commentator: "I would suggest that moving far away from one’s kin is virtually never a true economic necessity and almost always rooted in selfish desire."

Now, I think it is important to think about the impact it will have on your family life to go live in a city where you have no relatives. There are a lot of little things (things we didn't necessarily think of at first) that become harder with no relatives around. Nonetheless, staying in the Los Angeles area would have meant the Darwin's would have been stuck with long commutes and one bedroom apartments for the forseeable future, so all things considered I'm very, very glad that we moved to Texas where we could buy our own house.

Julie D. said...

"I would suggest that moving far away from one’s kin is virtually never a true economic necessity and almost always rooted in selfish desire."

Easy for Dreher to say since they left NY for Dallas after 9/11. Although I am only assuming that they have kin nearby since I only have met Rod's wife once and we just didn't get around to trading those facts that I can recall.

Dorian Speed said...

I rationalize leaving my kids with a sitter because, by teaching at the new Catholic high school, I'm laying the foundation for it to have a strong religion program a decade from now when my children are of high school age. (sob!)

Plus, we can't live on just my husband's income at the moment, since his job situation remains tenuous at best.

On the other hand, then I think, "how snotty of me to assume that my job is a higher calling than the jobs other mothers take outside of the home and is therefore adequate reason to be away from my children."

I think Darwin's comment about each family giving careful thought to why they are doing what they are doing is very astute. Ultimately, we each have to do the best that we can.

Anonymous said...

In fairness to Rod, I should say that the comment about moving away from family was by Caleb, one of the resident bomb throwers of the Crunchy Con blog.