Recently I was scrolling through the responses on a Facebook page to a mother who asked for tips and a bit of reassurance around her decision to put her toddler into childcare.
Her daughter was not happy, cried each morning at drop-off and generally had problems with adjusting.
She felt torn by mother guilt, as though she was making the wrong decision, but also wondered whether this was all a normal part of adjusting to childcare and she should stay firm.
Are You A Judgey McJudgey?
Most of the responses were positive, in fact overwhelmingly so. But there was that critical minority that took it upon themselves to get all Judgey McJudgerson on this mother. “Stay at home if you can”, advised one woman before adding, “I would always put the emotional well-being of my child first” (inference: you clearly don’t). Another woman suggested that the original poster reconsider their life choices and what it really important in life because “they are only little once” (inference: don’t be short-sighted, stay at home!).
In my own experiences I’ve come across some judging too of my own use of childcare – all from other women.
I’ve had someone gasp “so soon!?” when I said my son was going into childcare at twelve months so I could return to work.
Another asked how many hours he was going to childcare and then exclaimed that “that’s an awful lot of time away from mum for such a little tot”. And my personal favourite – an inspirational quote someone shared with me: “we live two lives; one for us and one for our children”.
I’ve learnt to dodge commentary by front-loading my explanation that my son goes to childcare with financial justifications. Unfortunately, I don’t have a money tree in the backyard so off he goes to care! It’s not possible to take more than two years maternity leave without losing my job so off he goes to care! That pesky rent won’t pay itself so off he goes to care!
Why Do I Do It?
While these are all true points, my son really goes to care for two central underlying reasons.
Firstly, I need something that reminds me I am a person outside of the sometimes all-consuming role of mother and that engages the skills I took seven years at university to learn.
Secondly, I also want to show my son that we are blessed to live in a society where people can do whatever they want if they set their minds to it. For me, that means worker and mother. For others, that means stay at home mum. And that’s perfectly hunky dory ok. I never say any of these things though. I feel shamed into thinking my personal needs are somehow selfish or beside the point.
But why should I or any other working woman feel ashamed for their choices?
It’s 2018 for goodness sake! Wasn’t that the whole point of the feminist movement, that women had the right to choose? I don’t mind if someone stays at home so why should someone mind that I don’t?
These are choices and we should all – men and women alike – be celebrating each and every one because women have exercised their right to make them.
I find it odd that the harshest critics of women are often other women. Why is that so hard for some of us to pat each other on the back?
The life I have chosen comes with benefits and sacrifices but so does every choice in parenting. It is a give and take relationship, like all relationships. And it is in that exchange that the relationship can become richer and more vibrant, complex and fulfilling for all parties involved. I want my son to understand that. I want him to have that in his life.
I’m sorry if there are people out there who think this is not the very best I can do for my child because, on the whole, I think it works pretty awesomely for us.