Working vs. Staying home : The impact on children
By Jessica Rachel O on January 10, 2014
A little background for new readers: The Sailor and I were married just a year, and both active duty with jobs on shipswhen we found out we were pregnant with the twins. I stayed in the Coast Guard for a few more years, but was moved to an office job. We hadn't planned on having children for quite awhile, so I was perfectly content going back to work...happy even. We chose an at home childcare provider that lived in our neighborhood because centers made, and still make me uncomfortable. They don't give the kind of personal attention a baby/toddler needs, although I realize finding a trustworthy home provider is challenging - we've all heard the horror stories. When the twins were 10 or 11 weeks I went back to work, and they went to the babysitter Monday - Friday from 7 AM - 4 PM. I continued working full time until the twins were about to start kindergarten, and then worked part time until our next transfer. When we started trying for baby #3 we agreed that I'd be a stay at home mom, which is what I've been (with the exception of some college classes) ever since.
I know two things to be absolutely true:
1. There are many ways to successfully raise a family.
2. I don't have all the answers, only a wide-ish range of experience. Sometimes I get it wrong.
I respect and understand that sometimes women have to work - you're a single mom, your family needs the income, I get it. I respect that some women are locked into jobs - hi, military. Been there. I believe it's better for children if mom stays home while they're young, if it's an option. We loved both of the women that watched the twins during our time in Hawaii - both Navy wives, both with a three child limit, but only two under the age of 1, which meant plenty of attention per child. I hated everything about the daycare/preschool the twins went to in Chicago. The girls that worked there were unprofessional and inappropriate. The day we pulled the twins out of that program, because I was able to change my schedule to be home with them until full day Kindergarten, was one of the better days of my life. Here are the pros and cons I've noticed with the twins going to childcare while I worked -
Pros: They're very social now, which is helpful when you move often. They don't like it, but are successful at making new friends and jumping into a new social setting. They're morning people from waking early and getting out the door since birth, which makes my life easier. They were never clingy. They didn't need to be attached to me all the time, which gave me the freedom I still wanted at 21 yrs old.
Cons: They were always getting sick. I was constantly calling out of work because they couldn't go to the babysitter's with a fever, even though they caught it there in the first place. To this day they want constant stimulation. They always want to be going somewhere, doing something, what's next? What are we going/doing/playing today? They have a hard time just being at home, alone, quiet. For a long time they had anxiety about where we were at any given moment. Would we pick them up on time? How far away would we be that day if the school called? Dad worked 90 minutes away and Mom worked 30-45 minutes away, and the nearest family was too far to help in an emergency. They aren't as attached to me as my younger kids. It's not an age thing, it's a bonding thing. We're in love with each other, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't with them for the majority of their day from 3 months on. They were in school all day by the time I started staying home. This is regrettable for me, even if they don't know the difference. I can feel the difference.
Not only has staying home been good for the little ones now, but I noticed that the twins prefer it too. They like that I can pick them up immediately if they're sick, or drop off a forgotten school item. Mornings aren't rushed, and I'm the face they see when they walk in the door after a good, bad, eventful, scary, perfect, confusing day. There's comfort in knowing that I'm still here, and still available to them when they need me. That's one of our core values as parents, isn't it? I'm their security blanket, even from a distance, even for 10 year olds. Regarding Anna's experience with a SAHM -
Pros: She communicated earlier, although twins tend to have their own language and may speak later, I talk to Anna all day long and it makes a difference in her communication. She's never sick. She can play independently, quietly, and appreciates down time. She's more confident than they were at this age. Like I said above, the security of being with Mom is more significant than we may realize. She's not exposed to anything I don't approve of, whether it be music, movies, or any other behavior, including that of other children. We can do things at our own pace. If she's ready to start eating a certain food, play with a certain toy, switch to a different schedule, I can cater to these changes without worrying about the rules or inconvenience a childcare provider would experience. We have the freedom to go places like the children's museum, out to lunch, to the park, to the beach on any given day or time. She's safe.
Cons: It's made it very difficult to send her to pre-school. She doesn't have to go at three, but I would like to send her at four. Because she doesn't have a twin going with her, and because I'm used to having her under my care, I'm anxious about it. That's the only con...she's social, outgoing, smart, athletic, and well behaved.
All children are different and react to their environment in a unique way, but I believe that the child's environment as a baby/toddler/young child does impact their social skills and emotional health long term. For my own mental health, working at something part time is my 'perfect'. I need something for me, and I miss socializing with other adults. As long as my kids are young I'll stay home, because I think the benefit to them and our family dynamic is worth it. When Margo starts school I'll work part time, but still in a way that allows me to be available to them. I've got the rest of my life to work; I've only got a few short years with these impressionable, pliable little people before they don't need me that way any more.