Since yesterday’s post was about the struggles of raising children overseas, here’s Tara Ann Thieke on the problems at home:

But when I go home to my newspapers and social media feeds I read about how we need more early quality education. Quality? For whom? The rich will continue to get the quality care they’ve rigged the system to achieve. The children of the wealthy will cry, scream, and be miserable at first, but they’ll be forced to adjust. And the pretty toys and fancy schools the parents can pay for guarantee the children will be successful, though whether they will be “happy” or well-adjusted is an entirely different matter.

As for the poor, their mothers will work unfulfilling jobs. They will never, ever “have it all.” They will not be helped to be home with their children; they will not be taught how to build a stable home because that would be judgmental.  They won’t be offered help to make their relationships “stick.” They’ll be used as cheap labor for stadium food kiosks until they can be replaced as a machine. Maybe they’ll still be allowed to clean toilets, I don’t know.

The one argument I’d add to balance out Tara’s perspective is that a lot of moms, especially after a few months, really do want to work outside the house (or even work from home, just not be responsible for their child 24/7!) and it’s a good thing to fulfill that desire as long as Mom has enough time home with her kids. In the sort of utopian distributist economy that people like Tara and me often fantasize about, grandparents or other friends who like caring for kids would often be around to watch the kids. Or parents could use their child allowance to help pay for childcare. And in jobs that allow flexible, part-time work, I think that’s good While parenthood demands radical changes in one’s lifestyle and priorities, there’s no reason why that has to be totalizing for mothers after the first few weeks of physical recovery from childbirth.

However, there is research (though it is limited, and ought not be taken as gospel) suggesting that a mother’s presence in the first three years is pretty important, and our policy priorities ought to reflect that. Moms who want to stay home with their children should not have to choose otherwise because of economic pressures. And the system we have now that Thieke describes — where rich parents feel the need to work so that they can get their children the educational advantages necessary to inflict the same cycle on the next generation while poor parents are stuck in terrible, low-paying jobs and the whole enterprise of nurturing children is just part of the clockwork orange — isn’t good for kids or parents.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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