The assumption that mothers need to stay home is sexist, outdated

Column by Anna-JO Stuart, Opinion Editor
Photo courtesy of Fortune

In November of 1997, the editorial “Best daycare for kids- mom at home” by Charley Reese was published in The Grand Rapids Press. The article describes having kids under the age of six go to daycare centers while their parents, specifically their mothers, are at work as a tragedy in our society. He claims that it is best for young children to be cared for full time by their mothers, or at least by an at home caregiver such as a nanny or relative. He believes that women should plan to be at home while their children are under the age of six, by either not working or by working from home. Finally he disputes the claim that his idea is sexist by saying that the women who believe this are “feminist extremist” and that the people to blame are husbands for encouraging their wives to work. The gender expectation that men should be the breadwinners and women the caregivers is one seemingly as old as time, and one that increasingly has become more and more archaic. Thus as a female college students who has every intention of having a professional career, but also commends the woman who decide to be a stay-at-home parent, I found the ideas of this article to be quite troubling.

For me there are just so many issues with this article. Firstly, I believe that overall it is a woman’s choice. It is her choice if she wants to have any children at all, then if she does have kids it is her choice on how to ensure that child gets the care it needs. That could mean enrolling the child in childcare, hiring a nanny, or having a relative care for the child, so that the mother can go back to work. Or it could mean working from home, not working, or the father doing one of these things to care for their child. All these options are valid, and they all have to be decided on by the mother and possibly father. A woman has the right to choose what she thinks is best for her family and herself without the judgement of people who have made a decision different from her own. Also, as I briefly mentioned why can the father not be the primary caregiver? This editorial fails to recognize that it takes two to create, and in many cases there are two parents. When there is a father and mother in the family make up it should not be assumed that all the caregiving responsibilities should fall primarily on the woman. Reese does not mention the father’s duties in raising a child, or that he may be the stay at home caregiver, and this assumption is blatantly sexist. A man has just as much ability in raising a child, and if he helped bring one into the world he should share just as much of the responsibility as the woman. Thirdly, I think that it is wrong to assume that a child will be neglected emotionally or intellectually by attending childcare. Just as there are benefits to a child’s mother or father being it’s only caregiver, there are also benefits for a child that attends a daycare. Such as, socialization, enrichment activities, and the opportunity to bond with other positive adult figures. So, again it is up to a women to choose which scenario she believes is best for her family, as both have rewards and consequences and it is unfair to say that one of those options is so much better than the other when it is just not the case. Finally, I think that the idea that Reese states about women being encouraged “to work for the financial gains” by their husbands, is an extremely sexist remark. The belief that a woman would only be working because her husband “encouraged” her is insulting. A woman has just as much of a right as any man to have professional ambitions beyond financial gain for her family. Society commends men with goals to be prominent and important members of the professional world, yet women are still hardly recognized for their ambition beyond wanting to make some money. I know that when I enter the professional world after college its for so more than just money, I want to find something I am passionate about and excel at it so that I can be proud of impact I made in the professional world. I will not  be a working mother just because my husband wants me to add to the piggy bank, I will be a working mother because I have professional ambitions. That is my choice, and thus there is nothing wrong with my choice.

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