Monday, September 22, 2014
Week 57: Taking care
This week, I have been thinking a lot about child care. That shouldn't come as a tremendous surprise, I suppose--I am a working mom, and what working mom (or non-working mom, for that matter) doesn't spend some amount of time thinking about child care? This week, it's been the attitude of several consecutive people about my child care arrangements that has really caught my attention.
At my job, I'm constantly meeting new people within our organization. One of the first things they often ask me is whether or not I have any children (I'm going to skip the whole discussion of whether or not that's even an appropriate question to ask, and whether they would ask it of a male coworker in the same situation). When I say yes, I have a son who just turned one, the next question inevitably is "Does he go to daycare?" My answer to that is something along the lines of "No, he stays at home." And, as far as I'm concerned, for a discussion in a professional situation, that is really more than enough.
But, a surprising amount of the time, people want to know more about this mysterious concept of the child staying at home while I'm not there. Even more surprisingly, a lot of the time they go on to compare this arrangement unfavorably to a daycare center. I've had multiple people tell me how I'm not doing my child any favors by preventing him from being exposed to the gamut of childhood illnesses by keeping him at home. It's as though I'm spoiling him or failing to be sufficiently tough. What places these (mostly male, mostly older) colleagues in a position to judge my childcare arrangements is a little beyond me, but clearly it's happened enough times to get under my skin.
I think I would find the whole thing absurd even if Lemon didn't have CF, but I find it all the more absurd since he does (a fact I don't generally share with my coworkers). If I were a stay at home mom, would people tell me that I should put my kid in daycare for a few hours a day so that he could have the benefit of a bunch of colds and ear infections?
It's not like I don't understand where they're coming from--it is true that in order to become immune to things, you have to be exposed to them (see vaccination, which everyone should do). So it is true that Lemon will be several years old before he is exposed to some things that other kids got in daycare. And I am totally OK with that. A person's immune system continues to mature and strengthen at least through elementary school age. So, something that might have made Lemon really sick when he was 6 months old might just be a mild cold when he is 3 years old and his immune system is able to combat it more effectively. Will he have more colds when he is 3 than is preschool classmates who went to daycare as infants? Probably, but our bet is that he will be better able to handle them the older he is. And, given the number of stay at home moms here in Madison, he won't be alone in having colds when he's 3.
Every family makes their own choices about child care, and those choices are among the hardest that families with young children have to make. I am not advocating for our system over another; raising kids takes a team and who the members of that team are, where they are located and how they are compensated is something every family has to constantly define and adjust. All I am saying is that our system works for us. And I really wish people exercised a little more restraint in critiquing other people's child care choices, especially in the face of incomplete information. Colleagues--I'm here at work without my kid, ready to get the job done. So, let's focus our energy on that, shall we?