Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And Then The Guilt And The Freaking Out

Reporting on the front lines of the Mommy Wars here. Can you hear the bombs going off in the distance? They are not physical bombs but that doesn't mean they don't hurt.

I read some blog-type reactions on the piece of research I wrote about yesterday and found them very interesting. A few examples:

As if I don't already feel guilty for putting my son in day care at the tender age of three months, a new study shows that the more time children spend in center-based care before kindergarten, the more likely they'll fight, disobey and argue, according to their 6th grade teachers.

The increase in problem behavior was slight, but studies like this inspire me to look for the silver lining. And I always return to the same thing: "the hygiene hypothesis," or the belief that early exposure to germs helps the immune system develop properly.

There's the mother-guilt with some fighting back.

And here's the freaking out:

First, some background: I'm 28 and don't have children. Every morning I pass a day-care center near my home with a sign that says "Jungle of Fun 'Child Care'" and I feel a little shiver run up my spine. Sure, part of that shiver has to do with the fact that on the sign "child care" is in quotation marks instead of the "jungle of fun." But there's something more: I find the idea of parenthood overwhelming. I know I want children eventually, but every time I think I might be getting over my fear of babies, I see an article like this one from The New York Times and start to freak out all over again.


Are we ever going to figure this out? Is there a good way to have a kid and have a career? Will there come a time when I can stop running away from strollers? If so, do tell. As it stands now, I'm worried that if I put my as-of-yet hypothetical children into day care, I'll be sending them into a jungle -- and not necessarily a fun one.

This is freaking out, because what the study found was that the children in daycare were slightly more disruptive in class at school. It didn't find out that their eyeballs fell out or that they were learning less at school. The study found that parenting swamped all other influences, and that there were even vocabulary benefits to going to high-quality daycare which lasted to the age of ten.

I hope my writing doesn't read too exasperated, because I am. It is not that I don't feel enormous sympathy for the writers whom I quoted and almost equally enormous anger at those finger-wagging know-alls whom I decided not to quote here. It is just that I've been through so many earlier rounds of the Mommy Wars (remember the alcoholic stay-at-home mommies?) and writing about them in a reasoned and calm way is pointless because everybody is running around yelling "Ohmygod". All shades of gray disappear, everything becomes starkly black-and-white, and the harsh floodlights look for the mothers and the mothers alone. Add to that my inability to find the study itself yet and the numbers it reports, which means that I have no idea what the size of the molehill is though I know it is not a mountain.