process of educating our children begins the moment they enter the
world. No, the foray isn’t so formal at the outset, as the primary
parental motivations are the basic, essential needs of the infant
– feeding, clothing, cocooning, protecting, loving, touching, bathing.
We may buy organic baby food or make our own to help our child get
the most nutrients in the most unadulterated form. We may purchase
learning DVDs, like the “Baby Einstein” series to whet their intellectual
appetites early and stoke the fires of curiosity. We may shy away
from commercial cleansers and lotions in favor of baby-friendly
soaps and natural body butters.
of these fundamental tasks are informed by the social, political,
personal, familial, religious, philosophical and other imprints
parents wish to instill in their children. In fact, the approaches
are many and the concomitant rationales are as unique as the potentialities
and personalities of the very children being raised. These efforts,
acts and intentions are undertaken fervently, ferociously and fiercely
in the hope that we propel our children forward. We want them to
grow into healthy children who hit expected developmental benchmarks
at the – or before – the right times. We want them to be readied
– and ripened for the right opportunities at the right moments on
all fronts – physiologically, anatomically, psychologically and
course, this is only the beginning. As you can see, the competition
begins early, but the stakes strike higher and mightier just months
after our babies come into the world. It begins with the issue of
primary care taking during work hours. Stay-at-home motherhood is
perceived as the province of the privileged (women whose husbands
earn enough to support an upper-middle class or affluent household
with all the expected perks and entitlements) – and the impoverished
(those who may argue that their government aid or other programs
render their would-be income pointless with the efforts of paid
work and the need to secure childcare, which may consume most of
women who don’t work or don’t have to work are edged out in envy
by those women who don’t work AND have the means to employ a nanny.
This nanny may assume care of the children while the mother gets
a needed break or pursues other interests. For high-income working
women, a nanny represents the best of the best in paid childcare.
the battles of the daycare centers/pre-school programs take hold.
The commoners, who cannot rely on family care, can’t afford to have
a parent stay home and must secure reliable care for their children,
generally count on daycare centers or small home-run outfits. I
laughably call them “institutions” because many children don’t appear
happy in these settings. In my many visits to different programs
of all types, the overwhelming majority don’t comfort my maternal
instincts. My internal alarms go off, the bells sound and the overwhelming
signal is that something is awry.
Rising are fighting to raise awareness about a number
of issues that make the industrialized United States seem like an
anachronism compared to its counterparts. Excellence in childcare
is on the agenda – the Children’s Defense Fund estimates that it
costs $4,000-$10,000 for childcare for one child per year, on average.
Our monthly payments for full-time daycare were nearly as much as
our mortgage, at the time, for Little Lady #1 during the first year
of her life. Such expenses are uncomfortable, at best, and represent
an all-out crisis for many. By the time Little Lady #2 enters Kindergarten,
we would have spent about $50,000-$60,000 in childcare for both
Lady #1 has been in some form of outsourced paid care since she
was eight weeks old. She doesn’t appear to have been hampered or
hurt by my never taking a respite from work and from her being in
the care of others for most of her life. (Of course, for me, the
guilt rages and the ire occasionally engages on the homestead from
the inanity of the breakneck pace that has been my life.).
Little Lady #2 was spared until just recently, when she began attending
a childcare program, primarily for social exposure several days
a week. Such an arrangement, not being in a commercial childcare
setting for 40-50 hours a week, would not be possible without my
parents, who pick up more than any grandparent’s share of the slack.
how have you weathered the childcare conundrum? Daycare centers?
Small, home-based childcare? Does family help pick up the pieces?
Nanny? Have you opted to stay home because of one or more of the
many considerations: costs, quality of care, hands-on involvement?
MARRIED MOMMA are musings fromBlackCommentator.com
Columnist K. Danielle Edwards - a Black full-time
working mother and wife, with a penchant for prose, a heart for
poetry, a love of books and culture, a liking of fashion and style,
a knack for news and an obsession with facts - beating the odds,
defying the statistics. Sister
Edwards is a Nashville-based writer, poet and communications professional,
seeking to make the world a better place, one decision and one action
at a time. To her, parenting is a protest against the odds, and
marriage is a living mantra for forward movement. Her work has appeared
MARRIED MOMMA, MotherVerse Literary Journal, ParentingExpress, Mamazine, The Black World Today, Africana.com, The Tennessean
and other publications.She is the author of Stacey Jones: Memoirs of Girl & Woman, Body & Spirit,
Life & Death(2005) and is the founder and creative director of
The Pen: An Exercise in
the Cathartic Potential of the Creative Act, a nonprofit creative
writing project designed for incarcerated and disadvantaged populations.Click
here to contact Ms. Edwards.
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15 , 2009
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