A mother's place is in the home
The Hamilton Spectator

BYLINE: Lydia Lovric

Dorothy, the sweet Kansas farm-girl with the ruby red shoes, said it best: "There's no place like home."

Years later, studies on day care for children seem to confirm what Dorothy knew so long ago.

There is simply no substitute for quality maternal or paternal care. Day care, nannies and even grandma are merely compromises.

But the media are trying their best to keep this bombshell under wraps, alleges Emmy-winning broadcast journalist Bernard Goldberg.

In his new book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How The Media Distort The News, Goldberg claims that media managers go to great lengths not to upset feminists or working mothers.

His indictment of day care is well documented in a chapter titled, The Most Important Story You Never Saw on TV. Goldberg argues that with the rise in latchkey and day-care kids, there has been a steady decline in the behavioural, emotional and physical health of children. And he has the studies to back it up.

In fact, a report released last year by the U.S.-based National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that the more time children spend away from their mothers, the more likely the kids will become defiant, aggressive and disobedient.

It's important to note that the study was designed by both opponents and proponents of day care.

Surprisingly, the study also found that it makes little difference whether kids are placed in commercial day-care centres or are cared for by nannies or relatives. It's simply the time spent away from mom that seems to be the vital factor.

Working mothers may take some comfort in the fact that day-care kids may have better language and memory skills. Still, these benefits may be short-lived as other studies indicate that there are no long-term educational benefits to day care.

But I for one would rather have a well-behaved child, even if he can't always remember not to split an infinitive.

For some families, the economic reality is such that both parents must work in order to put food on the table. There are also many single-parent families who have little choice but to work outside the home. But these parents don't work in order to afford expensive trips or silly toys. These parents work in order to provide the necessities of life to their children.

It is hard to deny, however, that there are also many parents who simply choose to work in order to afford the finer things in life. These parents make the very conscious decision to have someone else raise their children for the sake of a second (and arguably superfluous) income.

And I'm not just talking about the rich. I'm talking about your average middle-class family. Granted, it certainly isn't easy to forgo a second paycheque, but who said life was easy?

Andrea Riley, an Etobicoke mother of two, made the decision to stay home while pregnant with her first baby.

"Financially, it's a real struggle," says Riley. But it's "a small price to pay considering the rewards last a lifetime for all concerned. What a shame that for some people, money comes before the welfare of their own children."

Studies show that kids with material wealth are not necessarily better off than those children who merely have their basic needs met, such as food and shelter.

"A growing body of research reveals how little material things matter when it comes to children's outcomes," concluded a report released last year by The Fraser Institute titled, What Is Best For Children?

Stephanie Bontoft, a Hamilton resident and mother of one, blames materialism for the rise in two-income families. "We're such a cash-driven, commodity-driven society," says Bontoft. "If you really want to (stay home), then you make it happen. It's a choice."

Toronto mother Brenda Coffen says she was very career-minded before having her three children. But after the birth of her first child, she decided to stay home.

"Priorities change when you have kids," says Coffen. "What's the point of having kids if you're not going to stay home and raise them?"

Jenn Bigioni of Markham has a business degree, but is happy being a full-time mother to her two young kids. "It was just important for me to be there for them. I'm still young. There's plenty of time to work once they're at school."

Unfortunately, the Canadian government seems to discourage stay-at-home moms through punitive tax laws.

For example, a two-parent family of four earning a total income of approximately $50,000 is taxed differently depending on whether the income is derived from one earner or two.

The single-wage earner will contribute much more to the public purse than would a dual-income family.

"Child-care tax credits are only available to those families that use day care or nannies," explains Riley. "Parents who opt to stay home to raise their children as a form of child care should also be entitled."

Stay-at-home moms are also penalized when it comes to the Canada Pension Plan and RRSP contributions.

Hermina Dykxhoorn, president of the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families, believes the government has to "change the tax system so one parent can stay home."

She isn't surprised by studies that indicate children are better off at home, rather than in institutionalized day-care centres. Dykxhoorn hopes such studies will "put to rest the clamour for universal public day care -- funding something bad for kids."

A recent report published by The Fraser Institute echoes that sentiment. The study, Children's Dilemma: Who Cares More?, called for tax cuts rather than a move toward subsidized day care.

It's a myth that women can "have it all." We can't. At least, not all at once. And neither can men.

There simply aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week to successfully juggle family life with a full-time career. Working full time makes it impossible to simultaneously be a full-time parent. Something has to give.

Although I don't have children yet, there has never been any doubt in my mind as to where I'll be when my baby is born.

I'll be busy reading fairy tales and Dr. Seuss. I'll be helping to build small cities and forts out of Legos. I'll be cleaning up oatmeal and mashed peas.

I know that I'll never be able to drop my child off each day for someone else to raise.

I know that a stranger will not be the one to hear my child's first words or watch as my child takes his first steps.

I know that a stranger will not be the one to put a Band-Aid on my baby's scraped knee, and I certainly know that a stranger will not kiss it better.

Most importantly, my child will know this, too.

After all, climbing the corporate ladder to become CEO or president pales in comparison with earning the treasured title of Mommy.

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