Raising kids – the reality

A diversion from my usual content, but on a topic I am very passionate about.

We know that women still face pressure (often self-inflicted) to "stay home and be a good mother" to their children, and consequent discrimination in the workforce. And men tend to face implicit pressure to spend more time at work and less at home since only "committed" workers can be promoted. But this solo act of heroism is not only really hard to pull off, it's also unnatural.

As Kate Clancy wonderfully points out:

... all mothers have help. All of them. Childcare and babysitting, school, camp, government support, a partner with a paycheck, family members’ time or money, all of these things support a mother as she raises a child. No mother does it alone ...

Perhaps more importantly, our ancestral mothers did not stay at home and watch their children alone, the TV or radio the closest thing to adult company ... [they] got help from fathers ... other mothers, lovers, friends, community members ... grandmothers ... even younger siblings ...

[I]n our evolutionary history, mothers who had helpers did far better than those who did not, and that the social and cognitive skills needed to give and receive help are part of what make us uniquely human and intelligent ... When children receive allocare it helps their development of social coordination and tolerance as well as positive social behaviors, and when those [alloparents] learn to care for children it helps them build attentional biases and responsiveness to others. [Alloparenting] is the foundational mechanism for what has made us a socially intelligent species...

Kate then lists all of the alloparents to her child — her husband, salary, sister, parents and parents-in-law, babysitters, preschool teachers and daycare staff, friends, neighbours, and roller derby team-mates!

Having multiple points of support for children is normal, not a sign of weakness or failure. And unless we want to go back to big extended families in villages, that means embracing childcare as an important social development tool, and enabling both parents to contribute to carer duties, especially when children are young. We need real work-life balance, not just the lip-service that is often paid in organisations.

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