A friend of mine who is a stay-at-home-mother of three young children recently confided in me that she had read an article in NY Magazine that was causing her to lose sleep at night. The article’s thesis, she explained, was that people without children are happier than people with children. RED FLAGS. Elevated blood pressure, curiosity… I had to read this article. I had to see what was bothering her, how the article defined happiness, what this new piece of media poisoning was doing to the minds of the courageous individuals in our nation’s first city who are trying to raise families there.
So, I present to you the article. You may read it and form your own conclusions, but I would also like to share mine. The women profiled in the article are all women who work outside of the home. Some of the most poignant anecdotes describe the frustrating behavior they encounter from their children in the evenings when they are home with them. These kids disobey, throw tantrums and are often disrespectful. One of the article’s conclusions is that these annoying childish tendencies are interfering with the parents’ zen, and furthermore, preventing the parents from being able to spend valuable time together. How about this as my alternate hypothesis. These children have been entrusted to another adult’s care for probably nine hours a day. The mother has done her best to hire someone who shares her child-rearing philosophy, but it is still probably a far cry from the guidance and discipline she would provide her own children. Does the nanny worry about whether the child will turn into a good adult, a Godly man or woman or is she just trying to make it through the day with a minimum of strife and make it back to her own family in the cheaper suburbs of NYC? Are there nannies who read parenting books? Or have most of them just discovered that being a nanny in NYC is a lucrative occupation and one in high demand? I found this article infuriating because while it does depict many of the troubling behavioral traits children manifest as a result of not having the full-time care of one of their parent’s, the author refuses to offer any explanation of why the kids act this way. It does not call a spade a spade. The article never even dances around the conclusion that these parents might enjoy the task of parenting their children more if they invested greater amounts of time in shaping the children’s habits and behaviors rather than prioritizing earning a second paycheck outside the home.
Parenting is really hard. The article does a great job of making that clear. Parenting gets harder and harder as life becomes more modern or post-modern or whatever the avant garde term is. The article also makes that clear. However, the article fails to offer a hard-hitting, hard-to-hear solution to dual-working parents’ misery. How about they stop being dual-working-parents? Someone has to give it their all. It is going to be hard on that person. I know, I am her. I am quite ill-suited to be a stay-at-home mother, but I am giving it my all. And then I give it some more. I am not trying to be sanctimonious, I only want to explain that I believe staying at home with your children is an act of the will, not a “make-me happy- lifestyle choice”. I am no God-made preschool teacher, but I am home with preschoolers.
You know what I am rewarded with? My oldest child is starting to manifest her own: sense of humor, intellectual curiosity, ability to empathize, warmth toward her young siblings, fascination with the English language. She is polite to strangers, she has an endearing sense of wild fashion, she likes to invent things. She helps around the house. She spends so much time with me, that she understands when I “need some alone time” and will find a way to offer me that. Six years! Granted, we are in the “latency period” of childhood, annoyingly described in the article, but the time invested in her upbringing has been well worth it. She makes my husband and I very happy… whatever “happiness” is. More importantly, we have acknowledged the awesome responsibility with which we have been entrusted — to guide new human souls into a closer relationship with their fellow humans, and their heavenly Father on their way to life in eternity with Him.
I am pretty sure that outweighs my ability so spend time living abroad seeking out professional fulfillment, but maybe that is just me?