Sunday, June 25, 2006

Being There: The Benefits of a Stay-at-Home Parent

During the past few years, few issues have generated more heated debate and emotional response than the subject of this book. Being There: The Benefits of a Stay-At Home Parent deals with the dilemma many new and expectant parents face when considering who will care for their Infant toddler, or young child.

This book is written mainly for those parents who are, or can be, in a financial position to make some choices involving child care. It attempts to help those mothers and fathers appreciate the value of their presence in the lives of their children, and the profound importance of continuity of care in the first preverbal years, particularly for parents who feel they must work full-time. Furthermore, the book explores how each parent can play an essential role in discipline, cognitive function, language development, and the teaching of social and moral values.

I warn of the dangerous effects of "caregiver roulette." This term describes the pervasive use of frequently changing caregivers that is now endemic to millions of young children. Usually, when both mother and father are employed full-time, 80 percent of the child's waking hours are spent with substitute caregivers. Unfortunately, these caregivers change with disturbing frequency, often every four or five months. I explain how such discontinuity of care is emotionally devastating, with life-long negative results, because it affects the ability of children to trust their important primary care-givers. This in turn affects their ability to relate to others, to learn, to develop an optimistic approach to life, and even to abide by the rules of society.

The many problems relating to changing caregivers seem to be overlooked probably because their consequences often do not show up until years later. Only recently have we begun to realize that children can experience serious emotional reactions to this "loss" during infancy.

It is also clear that this message concerning the importance of continuity of quality care is disturbing and, for many, guilt producing. As a result, parents may reject the conclusion that frequent changes in caregivers can have long-range effects. It is understandable that many may grow angry at the message, and look elsewhere for comfort.

I realize that some mothers and fathers may be hostile, rejecting, or non-responsive to their own children. It is also true that many substitute caregivers can provide a nurturing environment in which infants and toddlers thrive. However; this book addresses the majority of mothers and fathers, who do have the emotional health and motivation to become involved and loving caregivers to their children.

I want to emphasize my own commitment to the idea that career fulfillment is just as important for women to achieve as for men. I have no wish to raise a regressive voice in the struggle of women to further their professional goals and ambitions and to enhance their economic power base. Nor do I care to be a part of any "backlash" against the feminist movement. Rather; my aim in writing this book is to shift the focus to the needs of our infants and toddlers and other young children as well as attempting to raise the consciousness and status of parenting so that both mothers and fathers grow to respect and appreciate this role.

One of today's difficulties is that many young people are programmed to feel they can have all aspects of the "good life" at the same time. In other words, they feel they should he able to simultaneously experience the joys of parenthood, the stimulation and ego gratification of a career; and the increased material benefits of two incomes, and to do justice to all of these goals. Actually, it is possible to achieve all these goals in a lifetime, but not concurrently if young children are to be considered.

My position is that one parent, either mother or father, should act as primary caregiver at least during the child's preverbal years. This is approximately the first two or three years of life. During this time, a parent may find it necessary to put his or her career "on hold" while parenthood temporarily takes precedence. During this brief part of the child's life, parents who provide positive and responsive parenting make a valuable investment in the future of their child, their family, and society. It is an investment that has the potential to pay large dividends to all in the years to come.

I have enormous sympathy for today's parents who are confronted with many economic, social, and media pressures that past generations have been spared. But, I was motivated to write this book for the sake of our young children who are often the victims of today's parental choices.

These young children, who cannot speak for themselves, have few support groups. They have few advocates or spokespersons to plead their cause. They cannot pressure or plead for quality and continuity of care with money, votes, or energy. They are too young and too powerless.

Therefore, this book attempts to speak for these young children, while recognizing the difficult dilemma their parents face today.


At 7:19 AM, Blogger TWSusan said...

Isabelle- I loved your book and agree with your thesis. Your credibility speaks volumes in explaining the importance of the first few years when babies are pre-verbal. Every pregnant couple ought to read and consider your book.
I have 4 children I stayed at home with, and provided that stability you describe. It required sacrifice, and the payoff is worth it. Those years come and go only ONCE. We don't have three strikes at early childhood. We must go to bat and swing with all of our might during the first 24 months.


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