Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Wading into the Great Parenting Divide

Does anyone else sometimes feel that parenting is yet another "polarizing" issue in this country these days? There are so many, it's hard to keep track -- it seems we can't agree on Iraq, abortion, end-of-life issues, etc., etc. Not only can't we agree, but each side of each debate is so convinced of their rightness that they see the other side as immoral and practically inhuman.
Being a moderate, myself (yes, there are some of us left -- if you are one, please contact me, I'd love to know you're out there!), I get very depressed some days hearing all the rhetoric spouted about these various issues. The logical part of me realizes that the extremes are just the loudest and most media-friendly positions out there, and that most of us really do fall somewhere in between. However, in the midst of somebody's diatribe on one issue or another, it's hard not to feel sick to my stomach with the thought that the middle ground is rapidly being rendered irrelevant.
It's especially worrisome to me that the question of how to raise our kids seems to be subject to the same phenomenon. I've heard office-job-holding moms complain that their stay-at-home friends never have time to do them favors. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that these moms must just be lazy. I've also heard a stay-at-home mom berate a working mom because she complained about a mistake her daycare made. The stay-at-home mom felt that if the working mom had been caring for her children herself as she should have been, it wouldn't have happened.
I don't hold myself blameless, either. When I was on maternity leave after my daughter was born, I didn't know how I was ever going to force myself to go back to work. I resented the heck out of my husband and mother when they pointed out all the things we would have to give up if I gave up my salary. I lined up a million arguments in my favor, without any regard to how they might hurt. My husband had certainly struggled the first day he had to return to the office, and my mom still clearly remembered the first day she dropped me off at the neighbor's house.
I did return to work, extremely ungraciously, only to find that my daughter is a socialite who LOVES daycare, and that my husband and I are better time-jugglers than I thought we'd be. It made me realize that it really isn't so black-and-white after all. So for those of us (and I'd like to think it's really most families) who are groping our way through the gray area, I'd just like to say I think we're doing ok. If you went back to work and you're happy, congratulations! If you chose to stay at home and you love it, excellent! If your choice (or lack thereof) is making you and your child miserable, I pray that circumstances will change so that you can quit/return to work/move to Africa and join a tribe of nomadic herdsmen as you see fit.
Now that I've had my little catharsis, I can acknowledge that examples abound of families who have complete respect for either position. I sincerely hope I haven't offended anyone with this entry. I'd love to hear opinions on any of this, but please be kind. I'm a sensitive soul :). Thank you!

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