We make decisions every day: some are small and have little consequences; like what will I be wearing today? Others are more life-changing; like are we going to move to another country? Other people often make different decisions than we do, and that is usually fine. We are rarely criticized for the majority of the choices that we make (well, unless you have a very improper choice of clothing perhaps). However, when it comes to deciding how to raise your children, there are lots of people harshly criticizing other people’s decisions, which the mediacalled the ‘Mommy wars’ (why not at least the ‘Parent wars’, since fathers need to make decisions about how to raise their children too, right?).
So why is it that these decisions about raising our children, like sending them to daycare versus staying at home cause such conflict? I don’t think it has that much to do with whether you have the money to make any decision that you would like, even though the recent discussion started by Ann Romney made some people think that if everyone had as much money as they needed this conflict wouldn’t exist. I don’t think that is true, because even in circles where people have enough money to choose whatever they want (or in societies where government has more programs to allow parents to stay at home longer) these conflicts exist.
I think this is such a sensitive subject because to me the decision whether to send BlueEyes to daycare so that I can work was one of the hardest decisions in my life. Many decisions that we make are relatively reversible: if you’ve chosen the wrong clothes you can change, if you’ve married the wrong person you can get a divorce and if you’ve moved to a country you don’t like you can move back. However, the choice to stay at home or not seems less reversible to me. Not only is your child never going to be a baby again, but the stress of being in daycare may alter your child’s brain for the rest of his life (although this doesn’t need to happen when children have one caregiver who they can bond with). On the other hand, deciding to stay at home for four or more years will most likely severely disrupt your career, which is why to me it made sense to work for nearly nothing since most of my paycheck goes directly to BlueEyes’ daycare. So not only does this choice seem irreversible, it’s also not about money at all. It’s about whether you put your own needs before your child’s needs (and not in a straightforward way, because I think I’m much happier at work than as a stay-at-home-mom, and a happy mom hopefully makes BlueEyes happier). And because it’s the hardest decision in my life, it’s hard to imagine that other people do it different than me.
When we see people in clothes that we would never wear ourselves we can be polite and not say something about it, so why not act the same way when people make different decisions about raising their children?