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One of my listeners recently sent me a letter to the editor from a parenting magazine. The so-called professional responses to the question sent in by the reader make me wonder why in the world these magazines call themselves “parenting” magazines, since they uniformly support dual careers and all kinds of childcare options except parenting, i.e., raising your own kids!
The letter was written by a mother who expressed some concern that her 2-year-old child called the daycare worker “Mama.” Give points to the mother for being concerned – she hasn’t been totally brainwashed. But what are we to say about the assurances of child-development specialists asked to answer this concerned mother?
They all said there was no cause for alarm, thereby invalidating this woman’s on-target maternal instincts. (And psychology and its related fields are called helping professions?) The experts said it is perfectly natural for children to call their caretakers “Mama.” One even went so far as to congratulate her for having such a “great” daycare worker with whom her son had obviously bonded. No one bothered to tell this poor woman that children will form an attachment and bond with whoever cares for them regularly. And, that’s not exactly “proof” that the caretaker is “great” either.
The author of this letter is learning the hard way that she has been sold a bill of goods by a society only too eager to sacrifice the well-being of the family on the altars of consumerism and political correctness. Doesn’t every couple have to live in the “right” neighborhood, have two SUVs and vacation in Hawaii? And isn’t it this woman’s “right” to escape the oppressive burden of home and children – to get out there in the workforce, and climb that corporate ladder to success?
If it weren’t so terribly sad, it would be ludicrous. But this mindset has so permeated the lives of our young people that the internal signals coming from millions of years of procreation, nurturing and bonding are growing weak indeed. What mothers have known since before we walked on two legs is now derided, discounted and all but destroyed.
Young mothers confused and experiencing the pain of going against their most basic instincts, turn to experts and magazines for help, and get hurt instead. And, sad to say, those messages often get reinforced by their own mothers, who probably left them with nannies they called “Mom,” too. I have received many calls to my radio show from new young mothers who are afraid to tell their own mothers they don’t want to go back to work!
The conventional wisdom used to advise young couples that having children entailed sacrifice. That probably went out of fashion when the concept of sacrifice itself was discredited and all but disappeared. To refresh our memories, sacrificing for one’s children meant putting their needs first, because they were: a) helpless and b) priceless – a pretty precarious condition. Because children represented the species’, the society’s and the nation’s future, there was a consensus about the importance of their welfare. Those sacrifices entailed being a lot poorer for a while, foregoing one’s own desires when they conflicted with the wants and needs of the child, being there for the child no matter what the cost.
That began to shift when political movements asserting various “rights” began to hold sway in our public discourse. When a woman’s “right” to a career outside the home became paramount, men’s responsibilities diminished (and with it their attachment to providing for their families). And the consequences to the children had to be downplayed and rationalized away.
Some experts even went so far as to assure absent parents that their absence was actually beneficial to their children, since mothers could be so “over-bearing” and “over-protective” on the one hand, and “bored,” “unhappy” and “unfulfilled” on the other. What child wouldn’t want, instead, to be in a lovely daycare facility with 40 other children and a couple of happy, fulfilled daycare workers, who make $6 an hour?
Since 21st-century moms and dads seem to be gullible enough to swallow all of that whole, what chance is there that children will once again take up their rightful place at the top of their parents’ priorities? A glimmer of hope appeared in some data from a recent study that strikes directly at the heart of materialistic, achievement-oriented parents.
The July-August issue of Child Development reported a Columbia University study of the verbal and cognitive development of 3-year-old children. It revealed that those 3-year-olds whose mothers worked a minimum of 30 hours a week before the child was nine months old, scored lower than the children with stay-at-home moms. These same children had been studied at 15, 24 and 36 months, but the significant differential didn’t show up until the last round of testing.
Of course, one of the authors of the study rushed to assure mothers not to “panic,” but I hope many working mothers will. Their own well-earned guilt and the impaired physical and emotional health of their infants and toddlers has not been enough to get their attention. But perhaps the thought that these little ego gratifiers may fail to get into the top private kindergarten might just do so!