by Melodie Davis
for release March 31, 2000
The Dilemmas Keep Going And Going
A co-worker lamented recently when he had to leave work early for childcare duties, "I guess parents shouldn't hold a job." I thought, "Yeah, tell me about it." I had just gotten back from a business trip that had conflicted with my daughter's birthday plans. (Not with her actual birthday, but with her desired plans for a sleepover that we had to schedule for the following weekend.) Once again, I felt a load of guilt.
Like I have said many times, I always thought parent/work dilemmas would be pretty much over by the time they enrolled in school. I have finally decided they are never over, they just change. Even with one daughter in college, I still have to take off work to run her back to college occasionally (Three hours away).
It has been 17 years since I wrote what was then the only book (as far as I know) on the difficulties and joys of combining being a mother and holding a job-from a Christian perspective. Yes, there were other books written from a secular perspective, but at least among religious publishers, no one had yet dared to publish a book admitting they were trying to be a good mother and hold a job. I will always be thankful to Word Books for taking a risk to publish Working, Mother, and other "Minor" Dilemmas (1984).
Yet the landscape regarding pros and cons of both parents working, and the questions on how to provide for the full range of needs of our children has changed a couple times in the last 17 years. For instance, I wrote in the book that I didn't personally know of any other mothers at that time who were trying to combine breastfeeding and working. Now it is commonplace-along with taking care of the necessary duties associated with that (pumping, storing the milk, etc.). Now there are family-friendly bathrooms not only in malls but in airports too-where a mother or a father can change diapers, or perch a not-quite walking infant in one of those seats you find in some restroom stalls. What a wonderful invention. Going to the bathroom while trying to hold a large infant on your hip was such a major dilemma!
Indeed, now more and more fathers stay home with their children full or part-time. This is a special gift-to father, child, and mother.
The "wars" between women over whether or not you could be a good parent and be employed too raged for a while, with the pendulum now turning, even in secular society, to putting priority on the needs of children over "self-fulfillment." Many families have found ways to have at least one parent home at least part of the time during years 0-5 (I worked half time). I have also found it is just as important to find ways to have one parent home as soon after school as possible on up through the high school years. Countless studies show us that adolescents and teens frequently experiment with drugs, alcohol, and sex in empty houses before their parents get home.
Even if the dilemmas continue, it is not quite the same as dealing with the sheer exhaustion of those early years of combining parenting and a job. Watching my adult nieces and nephews cope now with their 13-month-old "explorer" after a busy day of work makes it all come flooding back. How soon we forget how much energy it takes to get out the door with a baby on the hip, a tearful toddler in tow, all the while hurrying along a bird-gazing four year old. And don't forget the diaper bag, purse, and brief case.
These days there are many good books on this topic, written from many different perspectives. Some recent ones that look worthwhile that made their way to my desk:
* Working Parents Can Raise Smart Kids, by John E. Beaulieu and Alex Granzin, Ph.D.s, with Deborah S. Romaine (Parkland Press, Tacoma, Washington, 1999). It offers simple, effective ideas any time-starved parent can use to help children with their schooling.
* The Caring Parent's Guide to Child Care, by Elissa Tabak-Lombardo, (Prima Publishing, 1999). It deals specifically with how to find and use a good child care center.
* What Young Children Need to Succeed, by Jolene Roehlkepartain and Nancy Leffert, Ph.D., (Free Spirit Publishing, 2000). An excellent, more general look at how parents can provide for the full range of needs of children.
What are your child care dilemmas? Send me your stories or write for a free copy of my book, Working, Mothering and Other "Minor" Dilemmas. Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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