When my children were babies we were living in downtown Toronto. My husband was a resident at the Hospital for Sick Children, and we were surrounded by high powered individuals. All of the other pediatric residents who had kids were female, and they didn’t have anyone to stay at home with their children, so they all had nannies and day cares.
The neighbourhood I lived in offered many expensive and flashy day care centres, with sand pits and water play and art and music.
And all around me, parents were signing their children up for a few afternoons a week in Montessori, or in Waldorf, or in something else that was “stimulating”. Even stay at home parents were signing their kids up for part-time day care. And I didn’t.
I felt really guilty for a while. Was I depriving my children of the ultimate experience? Was I really enough for them?
It took me a while to realize that yes, I was enough. What children need is stability, love, and interaction, and I gave them all of that. They don’t need fancy toys and play circles and lots and lots of peers. They just need the family. That’s not to say that day care is always bad; I did sign my oldest one up for two afternoons a week, for three hours each, once we moved to Belleville, just so that I could finish a book I was working on while my younger one napped. Sometimes you do need to for your work’s sake, and Rebecca did enjoy it.
What I feel strange about, looking back, though, is that I felt guilty for not signing my children up. I felt as if I were depriving them. And that’s just plain silly.
Our culture is conspiring to tell mothers that they’re not good enough. The powers that be want you to put your children in day care. Supposedly it creates jobs, and it feeds this idea that we need more teachers, more government, more schools. In Ontario, where I live, they are about to start full-time kindergarten for age 3 and up, I believe, even though studies show that full-time kindergarten has no educational benefits four years down the road. By that time, those who weren’t in full-time have caught up. But there’s this common thread through government that parents can’t do it right, and that they need help.
My children learned to read young, but they didn’t learn because of a day care. They learned because I took them to the library every week, and we read constantly. That was the environment they grew up in. You don’t need a preschool to make them “school ready”. You just need a mom who is involved in their lives.
My government is about to spend billions on something that parents can (and I believe should) do themselves. I understand that some parents have to work, and I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the fact that they’re providing this full-time kindergarten so that even when parents stay at home others can be teaching their children. The government wants to make sure it’s done right, and they can’t trust you to do it.
This irks me. Irks isn’t even a strong enough word. Enrages is perhaps too strong, but it sounds closer to the truth. Everywhere the family is under attack. Children shouldn’t be raised by parents; let us do it for you. Let us teach your children to share. Let us teach your children to read. Let us teach your children our values, because you can’t do it right.
No wonder parents feel inadequate! So if you’re feeling like you’re not doing a good enough job, because there’s always laundry waiting to be folded all over your house, and you haven’t sat down to play a game with your children in days because you’re just trying to keep your head above water as you clean the house, deal with a fussy baby, or get Christmas presents bought with children in tow, remember that you are enough. You’re not perfect, of course. None of us is. But you don’t have to be.
Being a Mommy is such a privilege, and it’s a sacred trust. Children were created to need mommies and daddies, not to need schools or day cares or extra stimulation. Even if your life feels chaotic, that’s okay. At least your children have you. So don’t worry too much about not being enough. Read to your kids. Give them crayons to draw. Now you’ve prepared them for school. But as you hug them, talk with them, walk with them, and love them, you’ve given them stability, confidence, and values. And that’s preparing them for life in a way no school or day care ever could.