It is mystifying to me why it still continues: that great debate regarding whose kid is better off – a Working Mom (WM) or a Stay-Home Mom (SHM). Interestingly, it's still moms who are labelled – soccer mom, tiger mom, helicopter mom…although Stay-Home Dad has become a part of the vernacular recently. But since I was both (SHM & WM) during my daughters' childhood, I wonder myself – were they better off with me there to tend to their every need or were they better off in daycare where they could mix it up with other kids and authority figures.
That said, I reflected on my own childhood where neither my mom nor anyone else's mom worked outside of the home until I was a teenager except for Ellie's mom Eleanor the Avon Lady who would cruise the hood selling her wares and handing out fabulous mini lipstick and hand-cream samples that surely ignited my love of makeup that I have until this very day. But Eleanor would be in the neighborhood, we'd see her and she'd see us as we raced by on our bikes leaving her in the wind. That's the point – we saw her briefly and only because she was walking the sidewalks. For the most part, we were largely unsupervised after school into the early evening and during the summers, from rising until the streetlights came on. And our moms were home!
Nobody knew where we were as kids. We'd go as far as our bikes would carry us, stopping at a corner store for a bottle of soda and a candy bar. We walked along railroad tracks and we jumped into the Allegheny River from what seemed like mountainous cliffs but were probably just kinda high if I'd see them now. We crawled under Holy Family Church and listened to mass going on above and we'd laugh hysterically (sorry, God). When we got a bit older, we took busses into downtown Pittsburgh and hung out at Point Park. We'd take busses to Oakland and transfer to Schenley Park to skate during the winter. Nobody drove us. We were on our own and resourcefulness was second nature. If we were hungry, we'd cajole someone into giving us something to eat. If we had to use a bathroom, we'd find a store. If we wanted money, we got a job. Mine was sweeping a hair salon in the evenings after closing time. If we fell, we got up before someone called us 'sissy' and if someone got badly hurt, like when a kid from down the block took a header over his ten-speed bars, then we ran as fast as we could and got his mom. We knew where that line was and we never crossed it.
As kids, we raised ourselves and we raised one another. We learned what was appropriate and what was not by the reaction of other kids. Our parents took us to mass on Sunday and sometimes to buy us clothes at K-mart or Sears on a week night. But other than that, we had nobody hovering over us, checking our homework or driving us to playdates. We knew better than to bring home a lousy report card so we did the homework. We would knock on another kid's door and yell "calling on (insert name here)" to see if they could come out and play. We forged relationships, explored constantly and made adventures out of nothing except imagination and some old junk we'd find in an alley.
I'm not sure if today's kids are better off with all the attention they get whether it's from their SHM or a daycare provider. I guess we'll find out soon enough.