I’m very fortunate to work from home as a freelance writer and author. This means I’m a stay-at-home mother and I get to raise my own children, squeezing in work when they’re asleep or their father is home to tend to their needs. I feel privileged to do what I do—but is staying home to raise your kids a privilege, or should a parent have the right to be her child’s primary caregiver?
With budgets stretched tight for most families, often both parents must work full-time in order to survive. Being a parent means not only spending time with your child but also providing food and shelter, which can mean working long hours away from your home. Kids are often in daycare for nine hour days, five days a week. So who is raising our children?
The average child under the age of four sleeps 11 hours per night and two hours during the day, leaving 11 waking hours. For many, nine of those hours, five days per week, are spent in daycare. This is 45 out of the 77 waking hours of the week (not counting naptime in daycare). Did you read that? Those numbers show that more than half of the responsibility of raising our children is in the hands of an adult who is not their parent.
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The bottom line is that, in our country, we’re often not afforded the right to be our child’s primary caregiver and that we hire people to raise our children for us.
For some parents, this is actually a fine circumstance. Many mothers only want a short maternity leave so that they are able to quickly return to their career, workplace, or adult colleagues. Some are not forced to work due to financial reasons but simply choose to continue to nurture that part of themselves while having small children. For me, there are days when I wish I worked outside of the home, because staying home with my two girls all day is the hardest, most exhausting job I’ve ever had.
COULD WE IMPORT THIS?
In other countries, it’s common for maternity (and paternity!) leave to be partially paid for up to a year, and parents have the right to return to work part-time, if they so choose, when they are ready to work again. Economic stability within families is very different in many countries outside of ours, because those nations provide healthcare and government benefits for citizens. Perhaps in those countries, it is considered the right of a parent to stay home to raise his or her children, at least for a period of time.
Like many things in our culture, the dollar is the deciding factor, along with chosen lifestyle and family priorities. For me, I feel as though I do, in fact, have the right to stay home to raise my kids. But I had to compromise in other areas to get there. We’ve sacrificed little (and big) luxuries in order to provide for our basic needs while I parent our children full-time. So while I feel privileged to be a stay-at-home mom, I believe it’s also my right—and that of my kids—for me to be one.