guest post: working parents are not a bad thing

A few weeks ago I ran a couple of posts, rich mom, poor mom and the myth of the parent that NEEDS to work that inspired a fair amount of comments. Most of the comments were in agreement, but a few people did take exception with my reasoning and I decided that it would be a good idea to let some of the arguments in favor of working parents be heard. I asked plonkee of plonkee money to write a response based on a comment she left, and fortunately she agreed. She has a terrific blog of her own (here is the feed) and it’s well worth checking out for an English perspective on personal finance. Let us know what you think!

A little while ago brip blap posted a couple of times, with a very positive view of one parent in a two parent family not working outside the home.

Based on my own childhood experiences, I’m not sure that I can agree with the blanket assertion that one parent (either one) staying at home is always a good thing.

When I was young, my mum stayed at home and didn’t work; in our neighbourhood, this was pretty normal. My closest siblings and I had a very happy childhood and we’ve all grown up to be well-adjusted and successful adults.

However, I have some other siblings who are quite a bit younger. By the time they were born, my mother had gone back to work and they were left in the care of a childminder (family daycare) as very small children. They have had a happy childhood and have grown up to be well-adjusted and successful adults.

What is the difference between our childhoods? From our point of view, almost nothing. From the point of view of my mother, her experiences are worlds apart. She didn’t enjoy staying at home and looking after us, craving non-child related adult company, and a professional life. This didn’t affect us but she was much, much happier when she went back to work.

Now, it is true that my dad could have stayed at home instead. Aside from probably not enjoying subverting stereotypes, I’m pretty certain that, although he loves us dearly, he would have enjoyed it even less than my mum.

I’m pretty sure that my parents aren’t the only people with kids who don’t or wouldn’t enjoy staying at home full-time. And there are lots of adults now went to daycare as kids without adverse affects.

Being a stay at home parent works well if that is what you want and makes you happy. If it doesn’t, then it’s not a good choice. After all, parents’ happiness matters too.


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13 comments

  • Both my parents worked, and I thought I turned out alright. I really respected the hard work my parents put in to put food on the table. They really had no option of not working. I was in daycare til about 7 and then afterwards my brother who was 4 years older and managed on our own. As a result I think it really instilled sense of independence is us kids.

    That said, my mom often comments how sad she is that she missed out on alot of our childhoods and feels bad she wasn’t there at times. My Dad if anything because of job was able to a little more involved – i.e. going to parent teacher conferences…

  • Thanks for this well-written commentary. Both my husband and I had two working parents and everyone turned out fine. We are quite close to our parents so no adverse effects. I think women tend to feel guilty but if it’s any consolation, many kids of working women (like me) love their moms just as much as those with stay-at-home parents!

  • I have to agree with you. I think the whole “it’s better for the kids to stay home” thing is a bit overdone.

    I don’t think it hurts to have two role models to look up to that both work for a living.

    That said it depends on the situation – as Steve has mentioned if the mother is working 12 hour days then that’s probably not that great for the homelife but how many people work 12 hour days?

    Mike

  • Thanks for running my post.

    I think that one of the things that’s interesting about parents today is that a lot of them must have had two parents working, yet you don’t see many people complaining about such a childhood.

  • Well you know I agree. Mainly based on my own happy childhood with two working parents and on the basis Mike comments on – it ain’t all or nothing, “working parent” doesn’t have to mean “travelling constantly and commuting 2 hours each way”, as is sometimes suggested.

    The other thing is that both Plonkee (I assume) and I grew up in UK/Ireland, where there was and is far more vacation time, job sharing, flexi time, long Xmas holidays etc. It would be nice if more N.American work places would embrace such things, rather than just give them lip service or consider working at home as the only option. I do occasionally see colleagues desparately checking the vacation chart or sprinting out the door with files under their arms to cover for Little Johnny’s snow day or sports day etc, and I feel very bad for them.

  • I have mixed feelings, because I really do think it’s better for a parent to stay home … but at the same time as our second child is on the way we’re about 90% decided on part-time day care for our son, since it’s going to be tough on my wife to be pregnant and be active enough to chase after a two-year-old, let alone once the baby comes.

    Guinness416 is completely correct – having better flextime would make a big difference.

    Mike (Four Pillars) – unfortunately in the New York area 12 hour workdays are common. I, for example, leave home around 7:30 and return around 6:30 or 7 when I have an 8 hour day – because of the commute. The long commutes in major cities are the time killers.

    Dong, I think that’s a big concern for most people – it’s not so much that it’s a BAD thing, but the parents miss out on more than the kids do.

    jj, I agree – it was well-written! Good job by plonkee, definitely – thanks again!

  • I just wanted to applaud Plonkee for a great post! I even posted a reaction to it on CFO – thanks for the food for thought! 😀

  • I think there is far too much “protect the children” sentiment going on today and one way it manifests itself is in the guilt people feel over whether they are giving their children a good enough childhood. Like TV violence, scholastically demanding parents, or competitive sports where a score is actually kept, I don’t think it will ruin a child’s childhood or self-esteem or whatever if both parents work. It’s really not that big of a deal. Children are not delicate little snowflakes that will melt if not given the perfect environment.

  • Both of my parents worked during my childhood. My mom was a teacher, so she had all of the same breaks as we did. While I didn’t really care that my mom worked, as an adult I see that my mother has the personality that needs to be busy. She would have died of boredom if she had to stay at home. Also, another problem (which my aunt, my mother’s sister has had) is the loss of self-worth. She really has self-esteem issues, and no real life outside of her children.

    I don’t know if I have kids, but I think that I would prefer to work (at least part time)….but who knows?!

  • Very interesting discussion (all of the posts), even for a non-parent like myself. I have no idea what I would / will do (I can speculate but what good is that really?). I’d like to continue working but I really have no idea what it’s like to be a new mom and all the emotions involved in such a decision.

    My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad worked steady afternoons, six days a week. Oddly enough, most of my childhood memories involve both of my parents. My most prominent memories are of the family heading to the beach pretty much every day in the summer. My mom would pack a cooler of food and we’d hang out at the beach all day. At 2:30 my dad would leave for work and around 6:00 my mom, my sister and I would take the bus home. It was good fun and I doubt my dad would feel like he missed out on much by having to work. And I’ve never felt like I was missing out on “dad time”.

    What I’m getting at is that, it’s what you do with the time you have with your children that’s important and that they will remember. If you plop them down in front of the tv while you “decompress” after work, or pop in a dvd because you’re a stay-at-homer and have to clean the house, make dinner, do laundry, etc. then your decision to stay home or work isn’t really relevant.

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  • Both my parents worked throughout my life. My mom would teach and in the afternoon, she had a part time job, once or twice a week. My elder brother and sister used to baby sit her. I think my parents were perfect. I still look up to then for everything, from how to be a good human being to how to be a good parent and how to be an efficient professional. My elder sister, on the other hand blames my parents for everything thats lacking in her and our personalities. I plan to be a full time working mom. Because I think I’ll be working for my kids, to fullfil their needs and luxuries. My parents did that for me and I want to do the same for my kids.

  • working parents

    I think my parents were perfect. I still look up to then for everything, I really respected the hard work my parents They really had no option of not working.And I’ve never felt like I was missing out on “dad time”.