Friday, November 2, 2012

What Women Want

I find it very confusing to follow many women's train of thought these days. I am a woman. I am almost 40. I  have 3 children, 1 step child, and 1 step grandchild. We are lower-middle income earning. We rent a house and live pay cheque to pay cheque. I work 6 hours a day unless I am covering holidays, when I work 9 hours a day. 5 days a week. I like working and actually start to feel really bored when on extended leave, such as when I was on one year maternity leave with my last child, or when I didn't 'have' to work financially for a couple years in the early 2000s.

But I am finding a lot of confusing remarks from other working moms that Im not quite sure how to take. Women in general have been fighting for many rights over the past hundreds (or thousands) of years and I am glad for that. I fully support things such as women's right to vote. I cannot imagine living in a time when women were not allowed to vote. Where men did not think it was necessary to have a woman's opinion on record. I am glad that women fought those ideas for so long and won. Finally.

But there are more things that have happened that have led to other major changes in the lives of human beings across the world and I wonder what is going to be the outcome. It can be a very confusing issue to start talking about, and anger often surfaces. One major one centers around women working outside the home. If someone suggests that too many dual-parent families have both parents working, the shit hits the fan immediately. The most common remark I can recall from growing up is 'Yeah, you men just want us women barefoot and pregnant in front of the stove'. Barefoot and Pregnant. That's what I remember most clearly.

But then I consider this - I have worked in childcare since 1993 or so. In all that time it has been either single mothers going to work/school, or dual parent homes going to work/school. There has been only one single father with no mother on the scene in all that time. And the VAST majority of those women DID NOT WANT TO WORK SO MUCH. I have heard them complain and lament for almost 2 straight decades. They do not like missing so much time with their children. They do not like that we often hear their first words, or be the first ones to see their child take a step. They have broken down in tears in front of us. Complained that today's society forces them to have to work full time even when their husbands have good jobs, because of the high cost of living, etc. I cannot actually think of one mother in almost 20 years who has not at one point or another wished they did not have to work.

So, have we fought all these years, got what we wanted, and now hate it? Of course there are moms who love their work and are proud of what they accomplished, but they have all gone through some serious inner issues wondering if it was at the sacrifice of their children. It's really tough. Then there are single moms who have no real choice because if they don't work, they go on welfare and then a large chunk of the population considers them leeches or parasites. They get criticized and made fun of and downright torn to pieces for being on welfare. Or they go to work to get off welfare and then hate that they cannot see their children very often. Many of our single mom kids are dropped off at 730am and picked up around 5pm so their moms can try to keep their head above water and put food on the table. But that means they barely spend any time with that parent, and often do not have a father with balls enough to be a REAL father and help out or be there for their child. I understand that many in society do not want to be forced to help these children just because their father has run off and is being an ass. Wepay  more than $10,000 a year easily in direct income taxes and I would love to keep that money at home with MY family, what a big difference that would make for us! Almost $1000 a month extra in our hands? Or even a third of that?  My gosh, that would make it so that I may only work 4 hours a day, or 3 days a week, who knows. But it is taken from me before I even cash my cheque, so that it can go toward any number of provincial and federal 'plans'. I totally understand why many people do not support so many being on welfare or how much aide goes out, taken from US and our own families. I get it.

But what do we do about it? We have women able to take on any career they want really, and then also being the only ones able to bear children and carry on the human race, so those two do not always mesh. I know that all the books say you can have both -- but if someone else is looking after your child for almost 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, are you REALLY having both worlds? I am one of the few people I know that actually IS, because I chose to stay in a lower paying field in order to have my preschool children with me all day. All 3 of my children have gone to my daycare until they got to school age. I am the only person I know that can do that, other than a few moms that found ways to work from home. Meanwhile, I am watching other children who's moms are at school or work all day. It's a tough toss up - having a family AND working full time. The first 5 years of a child's life are said to be THE most important for forming every aspect of their intelligence, emotional health, mental health, personality, and so on. Yet many are spending their days in the care of people other than their parents. Is this healthy? I work in the field so if most moms started staying home (or dads, let's not forget they can be stay at home parents too and the kids love it), I would have to find a new career lol. But I'm just making observations about the confusion and issues I see in moms every day.

We have moms who cry because they could not get off work to attend a field trip with us like they hoped. We have moms who cry  because their little one finally spoke a sentence and they missed it. We have moms cry because their 20 month old bumb-scooter finally got up and walked that day but they missed it. It's gotten to the point where I dont even want to tell a mom if their child reached a milestone, so it can happen at home that night and mom can think she was the first to witness it. It's hard. I know because my center starts at 19 months and one of my kids had to attend different ones for a short time and I hated it. When my third was born early, I took an extended unpaid maternity leave until he was old enough because he did not talk at all yet from delays and we were not comfortable sending him to strangers. So we had to cut down major and had a rough patch waiting for him to be old enough and then I went back to work, taking my son along. It was rough.

I put a survey out at work last month and one parent wrote a comment at the end saying she was so grateful to have us because knowing her child was safe was the biggest concern of her life, but angry at government policies for forcing her to have to work. I had to read that 3 times because I knew what parent wrote it, she signed her name to it, and yet I know that she and her husband bought a HUGE house 5 years ago, basically right when homes cost the most, and they both drive newer vehicles, the kids wear brand name clothing, and they have purebred pets, and I've seen their house inside once and it was full of high end looking furniture, flooring, and tapestry.

So, while I understand the mom's frustrations, I am not blind to the fact that their choice in lifestyle also contributes to her having to work. I also know that she gets over 3 times more child support from her ex husband for her older child than I get from mine. Actually, what he gives her almost equals what I make in a whole month. So - while she feels forced to work, what is actually happening in that situation? Is she forced to work to put food on the table due to the high cost of feeding a family these days? Or is she forced to work so that they can keep making payments on their expensive taste?

I know of at least 2 moms that ended up having nervous breakdowns in recent years and were hospitalized short term. I know their main complaints once they were ready to talk about it was that they felt like they had too much to do. Working full time in high expectation jobs, trying to make deadlines for school and daycare pickup while the boss is trying to get them to stay later, organizing kids going to various extra curricular activities after school such as swimming, dance, music, other sports, etc. Trying to figure out how and when to make a decent healthy meal instead of stopping at mcdonald's. Trying to find time with their spouse that did not involve falling into bed exhausted at 11pm, and trying to find one on one time with their children when they only have a half hour til bed and still need a bath, trying to do some professional upgrading or other courses to better themselves at work and falling asleep on their computer desk, etc. It's never-ending sometimes. I have a hard enough time organizing twice a week one hour sessions for ONE child in a sport, I can't imagine doing more. I am not surprised that some moms are cracking under the strain. They feel like failures, when really they have a ton on their plate and have been managing it for years, and their minds and bodies just need a damned break.

Then they are trying to do other parent stuff like crafts with the kids, baking cupcakes for a birthday party at school, and they cave. I know a mom who fell asleep on her kitchen table one night, with the spoon of cake batter in her hand, and she woke with a start around 3am and cried because she didnt get the cake done... so she baked it and iced it and got one more hour of sleep before getting up for work. Quite a few of our daycare dads work the oilpatch and are gone days, weeks, even months at a time, so it's like being a single parent and it's tough. Many look haggard when they come in the morning, and I just want to shake them and ask what all of this is for. We have a lot of great dads at the daycare who are good helpful parents, but they are tired and worn out too. There really are only so many hours in a day. Even if dad baths the kids and puts them to bed, mom is not relaxing - she might be sewing a costume for school or doing a last minute project that junior forgot to tell them about (like me the last 2 nights trying to figure out making a two independent axle'd vehicle pod for a pumpkin to race on, because my daughter forgot to give me the leaflet and it's due tomorrow. I had fun at 11pm last night taking apart some old toy cars to try to get the stupid axles off. In the end, I strapped the damn thing onto a chassis that I ripped off and that will have to do. Then kiddo spent tonight decorating it for tomorrow's big race. That's the last thing I want to be doing after working full time this week and then trying to get the kids costumes ready for a bit of trick or treating on sheet-of-ice sidewalks. Blah! And then the alarm goes off at 6am and I want to shoot it and go back to bed. But I can't.

Is this what women wanted? Running around like blue-arsed-flies (as my mom likes to say), trying to DO IT ALL? My spouse is working out of town at the moment so he could not help out physically. We do not have any new furniture other than a tv after our ancient one finally gave up the ghost, and we have a 1994 truck that was paid off ages ago, so I do not feel that we are both working in order to keep up appearances, like so many other families are, and we rented the cheapest house in our preferred area that could fit us all, so we do not have a monstrous mortgage to pay. But it's been tough. Some months I am wondering how cheap kraft dinner is and how many nights my kids can eat it without thinking they are dying (I rarely cook it), but food is costing so much I have had to resort to cheaping out at least once a week. Normally I try to make each supper cost around $15 or less, and that feeds 5 people (2 being man people over 6 feet tall). It's tough. That alone takes a huge chunk of my pay let alone lunches, breakfasts, snacks, and other assortments on the monthly bill like toilet paper and ketchup. So I work and I don't mind - but I am also always aware that this whole 'women working' thing is not quite what many envisioned it was cracked up to be. i don't care if it's controversial to say, because I happen to think it is true.

What I have seen over the past few decades is more women getting into high position jobs, which is great because women CAN do them too. We are humans with many great ideas - men and women alike. We can all do it if we have the want and the talent for whatever our chosen career is. But it is still a fact that women are the only ones who can birth a child. It is still a fact that in order to accomplish these goals outside the family, most children will have to spend their days with people other than their parents. Some get to stay with gramma or auntie, but most are in other forms of child care. In fact, there are constant calls for more centers to make more spaces available. Alberta is ranked in the bottom 3, according to several online sources, for number of spaces available compared to how many parents need spaces. We are full to the brim, in other words, for regulated childcare spaces. We often have a waiting list at my center that is longer than how many spaces we have TOTAL, let alone empty. THAT'S how many families are working outside the home or going to school. I think I only know 3 stay at home moms these days. The rest work at least part time, but most work full time. Outside the home. I wonder how many more are going to start feeling the immense strain? I would bet that a lot more are very near the brink of asking for professional help than we would care to realize. And those are the ones in two parent homes with decent husbands who take a big role in the family as well. Mine is home at the same time as me the vast majority of the time and we still struggle to get everything done in the evenings, so I cant imagine what other families must be like with BOTH working full days.

I know that most of these women would say they are glad to have their career and their family, if someone were to randomly ask them one day, but I see the very personal side of them each and every day and it tells a different story. Just some thoughts to put out there. I just wonder if we are taking on too much too soon, and falling into the trap of believing that our children also have to be as well-rounded as possible and join every sports club or extra curricular activity that we can possibly cram into our week. I know many that have their children in 3 different activities per week, on top of school. When are these people home? Do they do much more in their big houses besides fall into bed and sleep? I don't get it. I really dont. I grew up in a very rural area with only 6 kids in the town of 100 and we didnt have sports teams and dance clubs. We had music lessons from the old lady with a piano, and we had Brownies when another mom wanted to start it up. We did a craft night every 2 weeks for awhile, switching to different homes in the town. But that was it and each one was just for a little while. There was no swimming pool for lessons (our dads just threw us in the lake lol). Nothing. And we all survived. We didnt have all this crap going on and many of us even managed to go on to college and university and become teachers, doctors, lawyers, crazy-smart scientists, etc. How did anyone manage to become a NASA scientist in the past, when they had to use their brains, with paper and pen to figure things out, and a hilarious old computer screen to help out a bit, when our moms (or dads, cos I grew up around farmers who's wives liked to work in the field too so they would switch off)stayed home and we didn't have karate and football and tuba classes after school? I don't know how on earth the planet flourished when none of this was going on. Weird.

But whatever, I find that I am just concerned about today's women taking so much on and still feeling like we have to prove that we can handle work and a family at the same time. Work and family have taken on a whole new meaning right along with these changes. In the past, I did not have to do professional development upgrades every year for my job - but now I do. In the past it was not seen as a crucial child need to be involved in extra curricular activities outside of school, but now it is. You are made to feel guilty if your child is not doing that - AND your child can even lose marks in school. Did you know that? For two years, my son had to bring home a form that I filled in every 3 months to list what extracurricular activities he was involved in, plus physical activity, and he had to get 100 points total or he would lose 20% of the class mark. WTF is that? Thank god he liked football at the time so he got 100 points automatically because he was in an organized sport that met for 2 hours six days a week. His coach signed it, and then we were done for a few more months. But my daughter will be going there in 2 years - if she doesnt score high enough or I dont lie on the stupid forms, she could lose 20% of a class's mark. That is fricken crazy. So yeah, things have changed.

It's no longer good enough for mom to get a job as well, the parents also have to figure out when to eat around sports or other organized activities, do homework, be a family together, get some sleep, and do it all over again. And clean the house. Mine basically does not get touched until Friday night or Saturday. I have working friends who mop their floors at 2am cos it's the only time they can find to do it. Insanity! What are we doing to ourselves? Perfect kids, perfect jobs, perfect house, perfect activities for the kids, perfect meals... where does it end? Sometimes we cannot do it all, and I think some people are going to have to figure that out fast before things start showing the cracks in the facade and more moms (or dads) end up in hospital. I am totally serious.


  1. Interesting rant. Don't know if these time-stressed women will have enough time to read it all!

    I am at the other end of life so I am in the empty nest phase. I was very lucky in that my husband made enough money that I was able to stay home and breastfeed my two kids for two years each and see them grow up.

    I also worked in the child care field but I found there weren't that many places that encouraged you to have your own children on-site. One year I had my daughter in my preschool class and I found it very hard because I had to bend over backwards not to give her more time than the other kids and of course ended up giving her less time.

    I also found the daycare centres had more and more extended hours which was hard on the educators and the children.

    Certainly if we were taxed less more women could stay home to look after their kids, especially if they got the same money that those who send their kids to daycare get.

    I find the men want women who can do everything these days and yet they don't really pick up the slack even though they think they do as it is the mom who is always checking the notes for school assignments and what they have to bring to school the next day, etc.

    And after all that stress and being pulled in so many directions, parents find that the kids grow up and lead their own lives and you hardly see them at all.

  2. Thank you for your reply. It's a horribly long post eh? lol. Very complicated topic, plus tired mom brain rambling in circles :)

    I was trying to be nice to fathers in my post, but yes it is my experience that though they are trying and most are more involved than I remember dads of the past being, it's still a far cry from the amount of time a mother puts into the care of everything.

    Oh and here is something else I noticed as a change over the years - healthcare issues in child care. The edict came down just over a year ago that it is now a mandate that if a child appears to be ill based on a list of symptoms, the parent is to be called and they have a maximum of 2 hours to arrange for their child to be picked up. I am not sure what is supposed to happen if the parent does not pick up the child - the mandate does not offer centers the solution for this reality, but the point is, we used to try to deal with a child who was becoming ill as long as we had staff available. We tried very hard in the past to do this because we knew that #1, kids get sick and being in a group setting increases that chance no matter how hard you try to keep things clean and prevent kids from sneezing on each other, so you kind of assume parents know there is a risk (many things go symptom free until it's too late and it's spread anyway), and #2 bosses need staff they can rely on and a parent getting a call every time their child starts a 'new sudden cough' (one of the symptoms on our new mandate) can cause some issues. We knew that moms trying to work can be hindered if their daycare is calling them to pick up their child too often.... so we tried to help out and deal with what we could (colds, etc).But now we are not supposed to.

    We have had parents call Health Inspectors on us because their child was sent home ill and was sick with say, a stomach bug, for several days and the parent had to take a long stretch of time off work and was totally stressed out. Nothing was found wrong on our end, and we always showed the sign-in book so the Inspector could see that no other children had been ill and out of care in the previous months or days/weeks. Their child was sick, was not supposed to come back until they had a doctor's note or were symptom free for at least 24 hours, and the parents were upset because they were missing work and their boss was angry and they were worried they could lose their job.... and they would take that stress out on us. I keep copies of the provincial mandate now to show parents and I sent it home with them if we have to call them.

    One of our parents IS a daycare inspector in our city so it's not like we can hide kids with a cold or a rash to help the parent out, cos she can see them twice a day, every day. By the way, the onset of a rash is another new mandate to be sent home immediately. At my center, 4 staff have over 90 years of experience in direct childcare between us and we have a lot of experience recognizing illness and rashes -- I get called The Nurse because I have a particular affinity with being able to know when a child is ill enough to go home and be kept away from the others until mom/dad can come, but we are no longer allowed to try to decide for ourselves what may be wrong. It's tough.

  3. But really, shouldnt a sick child be at home regardless if our society is turning into a germaphobe? It's tough to get the rest needed to get over a cold or worse if they are piled in with a bunch of other rambunctious noisy kiddos. But mom cant just run from her job all the time because the boss needs to run a business in order to make enough profit to PAY the staff, and will look elsewhere if necessary. We have had at least two moms lose their jobs after their children happened to get sick a lot. They were angry at their bosses, but what is the boss supposed to do? In my job, if one of us goes home sick and we cant find a replacement, we are actually running illegally (staff-child ratio regulations), and then have to call parents to come get their children so we have the right number again. If my boss needed to let someone go because they were not reliable due to being called to get their child from school all the time, she would be looked at as an evil witch, but the reality is that she is a boss and has a business to run. So that's another problem that pops up these days for working parents. We have a mom right now that works for a lawyer and her kids were playing tag over who got sick - and she was very upset that her boss was going to turf her. But her daughter in school and her son in my daycare, were getting stomach bugs and throwing up or having the runs badly, and needed to be home. Unfortunately they never seemed to get the same thing at the same time and she was being called out of work weekly. She said her boss was getting very angry. I can imagine! Luckily her son has not been so prone to illness over the past year, so she doesnt get calls from us. But she does from the school. It's sad and it's hard!



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