Monday, November 3, 2014

Daycare vs Mother care: Neglecting the research and putting stay-at-home moms in the crosshairs

I did not plan on writing a post this morning.  Like most moms, I have a huge list of things to tackle as this week gets off to a start.  But President Obama's comments this weekend about stay-at-home moms was so blatantly wrong, I had to brush off the PhD and correct the man. My problem come not with the economy of it all, but rather with his continual push for daycare over mother-care, and his complete disregard for the data. 

“Sometimes, someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage 
for the rest of her life as a result.   
“That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”-Obama

Apparently Obama’s brand is feminism has moved from encouraging women to make choices, 
to making evaluative assessments of those choices. 

That is not progress.  

Getting beyond the offense of the statement, I need to point out why is he wrong - based on FACTS and DATA - not just emotion.  Why do we actually WANT American women to choose to be a full-time mom, rather than putting her children in day-care?  I break it down into three areas:

Benefits to the Child, the Mother, and the Family

Benefits to the Child

The deficit model of research is a great way to explain 'benefits' of childcare.  If children are growing up in abject poverty, and they would not receive quality care at home, then having those children spend time in high quality childcare will result in more beneficial outcomes.  If however, the quality of childcare is not greater than that which the children would receive at home, then any benefits are diminished.  Similarly, if you have a child who would normally spend the day engaged in high quality child care at home (with a loving parent or family member), and you put that same child in any childcare center, you won't see the same overall benefits.  

Therefore, the situations where daycare is overall more beneficial to the child, are those situations when the quality of care they would receive at home is poor, and the day care center they attend is high quality.  Children who were in high quality 'center' type daycare centers, had better reading, math, and memory skills at third grade than did other children.  But children who spent the most time in these high quality day cares were,  more demanding, less willing to obey, and had more trouble getting along with peers.  Furthermore, greater time in childcare was associated with poor working habits, and poor internalizing behavior (Data presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, 2005).  

 "So let's make this happen: By the end of this decade, let's enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool and let's make sure that we are making 
America stronger" -Obama

Look at the data first Mr. President. Let's be realistic- not every center can be high quality. I have worked in them and I have studied them - it is just not possible.  But even if they were all high quality, the data doesn't support your premise that daycare is better overall than a mother's care.  

Benefits to the Mother

The number of full-time mothers is actually rising.  In 2014, 29% of all mothers are full-time mothers and about two-thirds of those are "traditional" families with working husbands.  Only 6% of full-time moms say they WANT to be employed and are unable to find a job  (Pew Research Center).  

So it seems like a large number of families have made just the choice that President Obama finds so damning.  Why?  Why would anyone want to be a full-time mom?  Again, let’s look at the data - Working moms spend less time on housework than full time mothers, but they also spend less time with their children actively engaged in child care tasks (11 vs. 18), less time engaged in leisure activities (22 vs. 31), and get less sleep (58 vs. 63) each week  (Pew Research Center)..  So full-time moms spend almost twice the amount of active engagement with their kids, a third more leisure time, and more sleep in exchange for doing more household work and a paycheck (some of which goes back to pay for childcare). 

Let’s look at their active engagement number -  
The active engagement number doesn't take the normal day to day interactions into account.   

On average, the typical baby will spend
about 50 hours a week less with a working mom
than with a full-time mom. 

This assumes a mother only works a 40-hour week, does not travel, and both the working and full-time mother spend the same time with their baby on the weekend.  In two parent households, this 4 hours-a-day is also shared time with the spouse rather than exclusive time with the child as it is for most full-time mothers.   So although there is only 9 hours different in active childcare activities each week, there are actually 50 hours a week difference in available interactions and very little 1:1 time without spouse involved as well.

Benefits to the Family
Americans disagree with the president.  As of April 2014, "60% of Americans say children are better off when a parents stays home to focus on the family, while 35% say they are just as well off when both parents work outside the home"   (Pew Research Center)..   Note - the survey authors did not ask if children are better off having both parents work outside the home, they said just as well off.

Full-time moms spend on average, an extra 9 hours on housework each week.  This lets them spend their weekends engaged with their spouse and kids- spending quality time as a family, and reduces overall household stress. 

A stay-at-home mom is not just a
paycheck - sitting - at -home

Life is about more than economics.  Full-time moms are there to pick their sick kids up from school, to help in the classroom, to volunteer at non-profits, to start ministries…they take their children on walks, feed the ducks at the park with the little ones, and to run all those errands too.  They tuck the toddlers in for naps and share lunch with them everyday.  You can't measure their interactions with their children, and you can't assign any economic value to what they do. 

So I say to President Obama - Keep your attention focused on the business of this country and stop judging the choices these families make.  

Let women do what is right for them, and their children, and stop 
devaluing the job they do, lest you start a New War on Women.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...