A Plea to My Fellow Working Moms

by Ginger on February 9, 2012

in Working Mom

I have a request to all the working moms out there, a plea from the very depths of my soul:

Can we please, PLEASE stop saying that other people are raising our kids just because we work?

Photo used under Creative Commons from Lachlan Hardy

 I get it. And I’ve been there, done that, felt those emotions. We feel bad about the time away from our kids. We hear about it from our family/friends/coworkers/random strangers in the super market. We mourn the hours spent earning a paycheck instead of spent teaching and crafting and playing and mothering. We often feel guilty for not being there every minute of every day.

But the idea that someone else is raising our kids is one that we should be fighting against, not perpetrating ourselves.

Parenting and raising a child aren’t just about 24 hours spent together. Parenting isn’t a job to clock in and out of, one that we only get credit for during certain times. No, raising a child is an ongoing endeavor, one that begins the minute we are handed our babies after birth to the day they leave home as “grown-ups” (and one could argue, beyond that as well).

Just because we put our kids in daycare or with another caregiver doesn’t mean we aren’t raising them.

This whole idea drives me batty. We don’t say that someone else is raising kids who go to kindergarten. We don’t say that someone else is raising kids who are in 3rd grade, or 7th, or 12th. Does that mean that raising your kids ends when public school starts?

“Here’s your backpack, and your glue stick, and good luck with the world kid, because my job’s done?”

No. No, we don’t. This argument only comes up with young kids, but the reality is that raising kids isn’t just about when they’re young. So if we’re still raising them when they’re in school—state mandated school, that is—why not when they’re little? If sending them to school isn’t considered outsourcing parenting, why is sending them to daycare considered abandoning our duties?

The reality is that we are still raising them. Yes, they may have extra hands to help them learn certain things, and they may get certain skills from a caregiver, but those are not the entirety of raising a child. Raising a child goes beyond the hours between 8am and 5pm in the years 0-5—heck, it goes beyond the idea of hours at all. Instead, it’s about a long-term role, where we instill values and teach everything from language and history to family and morals. Our children may have a lot of people helping them learn those things, but at the end of the day, we’re still the ones who get the ups and downs and joys and pains of what RAISING THEM means.

So ladies, please. Honor and acknowledge your feelings about being a working mom. By all means, be sad at what you miss, or frustrated by the system we’re stuck in, or envious of the caregivers who spend the working hours with your children. I know I do, often.

But please, PLEASE don’t ever forget that YOU are still raising your children. You are the one that they will look to for help. You are the one they will want to please. You are the one that they will thank when they’re old enough to look back on their childhood.

YOU are their mother. Period. Please stop saying otherwise.

P.S. I obviously think the rest of the world should stop saying this ridiculous thing as well. It’s hurtful, lacks any understanding of the different roles that mothers can (and DO) play in and out of the home, and besides that I clearly think it’s a load of nonsense. But I also think that the moms who are saying this about their OWN situations need to be the first people that drop this language. I’m sad to say *I* used to say this, and not in a joking manner, and this week alone I’ve heard or read five or six other moms do this. We have to stop beating ourselves up over something that isn’t reality!

Lisa February 9, 2012 at 7:39 am

Thank you. I needed this reminder. Some days I tell my mom about Olivia’s nap schedule or something else she has been doing, and I’m hit with this pang in my gut that my mom is with her more days of the week than I am. My mom puts her down for more naps, who am I to tell her what Olivia does or doesn’t do? I needed this reminder that I’M THE MAMA.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

I felt that way a lot about N.C. when J was younger. Drove. Him. Bonkers. As time has gone on though, I realize how insane that is. Of COURSE I’m still the mom–and so are you!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks February 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

Great post, Ginger. What some moms fail to realize is that even though we take our children to daycare or handover our children to dad or grandma for the day, we still have control over who they spend their days with. In fact, many of us spend countless hours researching, debating and stressing over what solution works best for our own family. So, to think we have nothing to do with raising them just because we work is ridiculous.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

And at the end of the day, our kids aren’t going to think that Miss So and So raised them…no, they’re going to know who their parents were!

Jennifer February 9, 2012 at 8:12 am

Agreed. I’ve never said this, and I’ve never heard another working mom say it, but I hate it when other people imply that because my children are in daycare I’m not raising or mothering them. That is so wrong.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’ve mostly heard it from moms when they first go back to work (that’s when I was guilty of it, personally), or when they are really struggling with the idea of working when they want to stay home. But either time, it’s DEFINITELY not true!

Tragic Sandwich February 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

Thank you. I never say this. My child is MY child, not her day care provider’s. I know it, and so does she. And, frankly, so do her teachers. And we’re all fine with that.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

And that’s exactly, EXACTLY as it should be!

Jocelyn | ScooterMarie February 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

So excellently put!! I especially love this line “…be sad at what you miss, or frustrated by the system we’re stuck in, or envious of the caregivers who spend the working hours with your children” because that is EXACTLY how I feel. What I wouldn’t give to be able to stay home with D, but right now, I just can’t. But I am still raising her, I am her MOTHER, and I never let anyone make me feel otherwise. Great post, Ginger.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

I think it’s especially in those times of vulnerability that it’s easiest to let this idea seep into your head, but that’s the time that we most need to remind ourselves that WE are the mom!

shasta February 9, 2012 at 9:18 am

I prefer to think of it as paying for a village (you know, considering it apparently takes one to raise a child). I admit, Mittens’ teachers have taught her a lot – crawling, walking, manners, and now how to use the potty – but I don’t think of it as someone else raising my child as much as a group of people HELPING me raise my child. Because seriously, if you’d ever met Mittens, you’d know that one person (even me!) just isn’t enough.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

I love that, “paying for a village.” Perfectly put!

Christa the BabbyMama February 9, 2012 at 10:43 am

Yikes! I never realized people were saying this about *themselves*! I’ve only ever heard as an insult meant to make working parents feel terrible about their choices and/or circumstances. And usually moms, right? No one tells the dads (that I’m aware of) that they’re letting someone else raise their children. That I’m aware of, anyway.

But it’s kind of culturally biased to say anyway, right? I mean, for thousands of years, people cared for other people’s children… in a tribal context or villages, relatives, and so on. It’s still the reality in some countries!

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

I do find it interesting that we are so “stand on your own two feet” in this country that even raising a kid has come to that. It didn’t used to be that way, you’re definitely right, and I wonder what we’ve lost because of the change…

Cloud February 9, 2012 at 11:48 am

I agree 100%. I say that parenting is a full time responsibility for me, but it is not my full time job. I also don’t get the idea that I’m supposed to feel bad that my kids love their day care teachers. Why should I? I’m glad they are happy during the day. They still love me, too. My god, I go to the bathroom with an entourage sometimes because they want to keep talking to me. I clearly have not been supplanted.

A long time ago, I came across a review of a book called Mothers and Others, bu Sarah Hrdy. She is a well known anthropologist, and in the book, she argues that humans have always been “cooperative breeder”- i.e., we’ve always shared the work of child-rearing. Here is my old post on this:

I later read a comment from someone that the material in the book is also covered in her book “Mother Nature”, so I’ve bought that. Someday, I’ll get time to read it!

But anyway, I think we need to remember that our current family arrangement of one little family, isolated and on its own is a relatively new thing. It is a cultural construct, not a biological imperative. It is not the only way to raise kids. There are a lot of different ways to raise kids well.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

I scoff at the idea of being supplanted by my kids daycare teachers. That kid is firmly bonded to his dad and I, that’s for sure. And beyond that, I look back at my own childhood and I don’t think of my (many) childcare providers, I think of my mom. So this idea? Come on.

I do want to check out those books, they sound really intriguing…

Erin//suchsmallsteps February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I’ve never said that, and I’ve never felt it. But I’ve felt the implication from others and it sucks. Great post. Agree with it 100%.

jive turkey February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

YES. Thank you.

Courtney February 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I agree with your post completely! My son’s daycare teachers truly care for him and are excellent with him during the day. However, they are not the ones making sure he has insurance; a safe, warm house; taking care of him when he is sick; or pumping breast milk for him! I do (or did, goodbye pumping!) all that and so much more because I am his mother. And yes, I miss him during the day but I am still raising him.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:43 am

I’m pretty certain, too, that the fact that we miss them when they’re gone is pretty much a key indicator that we’re the parents.

Jamie February 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I am not a mother, but thank you saying this and writing about it!!

This kind of attitude is what kills me. Yes, you may be working. yes, you may not have the time in the day, but YOUR kids should be Priority #1. And you make the time. You are their primary caretaker, so why wouldn’t you want to take the credit for it.

Anyways. I could go on, but I think I’ve said enough for now 😉

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

YES! We should be taking credit for it!

Ashley // Our Little Apartment February 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I actually came across some random blog link last week that was a teacher (no kids) who said that she knew her elementary students better than their parents did.

I just…no. Not true. Maybe she knows another SIDE of them and she is certainly responsible for a lot of things, but she is not their parents.

And THEN, I saw something listing the ‘lies of feminism’ that included, and I am not kidding though I wish I were:
– It’s ok to put your children in a daycare center.
– Motherhood is secondary to self-fulfillment in a career.

I was livid. How patently ridiculous is that?!

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:46 am

Ooooooh, those are enough to get me all steamed up all over again. AAArrrrrgghghhh!

(p.s. I’ve been stealing patently ridiculous since you posted this comment.).

Jen February 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Thank you for writing this post! No one has ever said anything to me, but *I’ve* certainly thought these very things about our situation, ie. our son spends more waking hours with his Daycare Lady than with us, at least *someone* is teaching him something while we’re at work. On the other hand, though, I’ve also always maintained that my son has been far better off for being in daycare with a mix of kids who are different ages at different stages, giving him a much more well-rounded experience than if he were at home with just me. Our Daycare Lady has been in the business for 25+ years whereas I’ve been doing the mom thing for only three! She may know a thing or two, and a lot of the time, I go to her for advice on things like potty training or sleep issues. I also find that the time we DO spend together (evenings, weekends) is (usually) quality time. I find myself missing my son when I’m at work, which makes the evening pickup so much sweeter. And now he’s at an age when he can talk to me about his day! That’s pretty awesome.

Anyway, this was a long rambling way of saying, right on! Isn’t there also that saying “it takes a village”? Yeah, that’s it, and it’s true.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:49 am

I’m actually really grateful for daycare. It wasn’t until J got into the 2 year old classroom that he started talking more–I fully credit him being around other kids that talk for that. He’s learned things that not only do we not have time to teach him, but that we wouldn’t have thought he was ready for anyway (what up kid who can point to the right shape when told it’s spanish name!). And! It’s great to have some feedback on things like tantrums and NO and defiance–his teachers are able to give us some feedback on whether he’s being a typical 2 year old, or pushing beyond into another behavior issue. That’s been SO helpful.

Kathleen February 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Yes. This.

I find that one of the hardest things to hear as a working parent. It’s both hurtful and untrue. The other phrase that really hurts is that I’m “outsourcing” my parenting. That one cuts deep.

The reality is that no one parents my child but myself and my husband. I see all other caregivers more like teachers then parental figures. A seems to get this intuitively, when she behaves quite differently at daycare then she does at home. She knows that parents are her place of ultimate security and so it’s only with us that she does the typical toddler limit testing. The kid knows who her parents are.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:50 am

Our kids DO seem to intuitively get this–which is part of why I wish we could make the entire phrase go away. If my two year old knows that we’re the ones raising him, who is anyone else to argue with that?

Nicoleandmaggie February 10, 2012 at 4:43 am

Huh, I have never heard a working mom utter those words ever. It’s always SAHM and single 20-somethings who want to be SAHM once they find a man willing to support them.

It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes that village includes extended family, sometimes playgroups, sometimes daycare. The only one adult with children model isn’t healthy for anyone.

Ginger February 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

To be fair, I’ve mostly heard it from moms when they’re first going back to work (that’s when I was guilty of it, personally), and when they’re struggling with wanting to stay at home but having to work. So I get that it’s often really wrapped up in that whole guilt/sadness/unfulfilled desire thing. But man, does it not help any of those things.

Nicoleandmaggie February 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I never understood that. It didn’t even occur to me that I was supposed to feel guilty until I started reading mommy forums. Somehow didn’t get through to me, no doubt because my working mom, working grandma, and working great-grandma (and back before that, farm-wives) did fantastic jobs and didn’t feel a lick of guilt (and why should they?). I always felt a little sorry for people with SAHM growing up. And I guess as an adult, if having had a SAHM makes women feel guilty for going to work, then I feel sorry for the grown-ups too. I think most people don’t actually feel all that guilty though… it’s some sort of online culture thing, or else we don’t talk about it IRL.

adrian February 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Awesome perspective! For the record, I don’t think I have ever said that or even thought it and I’ve been in the work force full-time for about 35 years now. I say the proof is in the pudding – my boys are mostly grown now (youngest is 13) and they are all awesome guys! So if I didn’t raise them, I must have picked someone fabulous to do it for me – ha!

Emily February 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I don’t like it when people say that either. We don’t say it when our kids go to school, go to church, go to a friends house, take music lessons, etc, and we shouldn’t say it when kids go to daycare. There’s nothing wrong with a woman, who has children, working. More often than not she’s doing it because she needs to, not because she wants to.

Devon Riesenberg February 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm

A strong, passionate, honest, and poignant post Ginger!
I was in daycare from 6 months old until 11 years old. I stayed after school in the after-care program until 4:30pm everyday. One could say my parents relied on a lot of support to look after me when I was younger, but…funny…I don’t have a single lasting and lingering memory of anything noteworthy about being in daycare…just memories of me playing and having a good time. On the other hand, I recount daily all the lessons and experiences by parents gave me as I raise my son today. When we work, we work for our families, our children, and for our own sanity sometimes! And during those working hours, our children are not being RAISED by anyone. Yes, they are being mentored, looked after, and tended to but parenting is a sacred privilege and no one has the right to impersonate you 🙂

ARC February 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Interesting that working moms would use this phrase themselves. I’ve always hated it. I have a friend who calls it out when other people say it, even in passing, and I really appreciate that. I think a lot of people don’t realize how hurtful it is.

hollow tree ventures February 11, 2012 at 8:05 am

I couldn’t agree more. Right now I’m a SAHM, but for 10 years I’ve bounced back and forth, sometimes working, sometimes not. I’m familiar with the hardships and rewards on both sides, but either way WE are raising our children, no one else. I don’t say my schoolagers are being raised by their teachers any more than I felt they were being raised by daycare during the years when I worked. Anyway, thanks for the post – very well-written!
I’m here from Studio30Plus, and I’m glad you were in the Weekend Spotlight – it looks like you write about a lot of interesting topics, so I’m subscribing by email – can’t wait to read more!

lori February 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

Great post! Found you from SITS. Kids benefit from lots of good influences in their lives, but the role of parenting is ours, and ours alone.

Jw February 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s true that women are more worried about gaining material wealth than raising there kids. Sad but true.

Christie O. Tate March 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

OMG. THis is the best post ever. I hate this. Thank you. and Amen.


Amber March 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Oh how I love this. This should be handed to every new mom as she drops her child off at day care for the first time.

Amy September 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I stay at home and work at home and now homeschool at home (one child) while the other child goes to public school. We all find ways that work best for our families, and respecting that goes a long way, I think.

oilandgarlic September 13, 2012 at 9:33 am

At first I was going to ask if working moms actually say this? But after some thought I do remember some moms at my work using the term “raising my kid” in reference to family/daycare help. However, I’ve seen this term used most often in parenting forums/blog comments from stay-at-home moms/parents and most often in more conservative forums like wall street journal.

Anyway, agree that it’s ridiculous. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother when i was young but there’s no doubt in my mind that I was loved and protected by my mom and get much of my values from my parents, especially my wonderful working mom!

Lori October 6, 2012 at 9:40 am

“Does that mean that raising your kids ends when public school starts?”. That really got my attention because, as a SAHM with kids in elementary school, I get the message often from people that their answer to that is “absolutely yes”. There’s always the questions of when will I “go back to work” or what do I possibly do all day (other than eat bonbons I presume). I worked hard, long hours until I was 40, and saved my money upfront. And now I put that same energy into taking care of my family even when they are not at home. That’s just the way I chose to do it and I certainly don’t recommend it for everyone. So it appears to me that our choices, from society’s view, are either (A.) Neglectful working mom; or (B.) Lazy SAHM.

Lisa @ The Splattered Apron October 23, 2012 at 8:04 am

Ginger, thank you for this post. I was just talking to a friend yesterday, a fellow working mama, who was really upset when a pregnant friend said to her, “I can’t imagine working while someone else raises my baby.” I told her what you’ve said here, but not nearly as eloquently as you did. So I’ve passed this post on to her to read and I hope it makes a difference for her as it did for me.

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