Schmoo. A fabulous animal, ready to fulfill man’s wants, 1948, invented by U.S. cartoonist Al Capp (Alfred Caplin, 1909-1979).

I don’t know how many of you are still going to speak to me after reading this article, but I think, have always thought that mothers should stay home until their children are at least five years old and off to school. I can’t in good conscience say or even believe that we should be like the generation before us and dedicate ourselves to being stay at home mums till our children move out. By that time we’d be too far behind and too old to resume our previous life. These are different times and my beliefs are most likely considered old fashioned, but nevertheless (and I’m happy for you to argue it out with me) they are my beliefs and I think it is possible to find a happy medium. I will always remember how wonderful it was to sit at the hairdresser’s and be pampered and spoken to, as one adult to another. Both my boys had started school and I was ready and raring to re-join the adult world.

That was the beginning of liberating times for women, so men hadn’t quite caught up, but things have changed since then. Fathers are equally capable these days of caring for their children. A dad’s working day is not over once he arrives home. If the fathers that I know are any example, dads are much more proactive in the kitchen and in helping to raise and care for their children. So if the mother’s earning power is greater then it makes sense that she work and he stay home. But somebody needs to be there.

The changes are faster and more dramatic in the first five years of a child’s life than at any other time. Children potty train, they learn to walk in the first couple of years and despite not having much language they are listening to and absorbing what’s going on in their little world, so that when they are ready to talk it seems like magic. Long before you’re telling them what to do and what not to do, they’ve already picked it up by your example.

Children learn about right and wrong from us. Somebody’s got to be home to hand out milk and biscuits and answer their questions. If not, it will be the day care centres that raise our children.

I’m not against day care centres. In small doses, say one or two days a week, they’re fantastic. It gives stay at home mums a chance at a break and some ‘me’ time and it expands a child’s world. Children socialise and learn about the sameness and differences of their peers and to respect them. They learn about discipline and consideration and they prepare for the world of kindergarten and school. It’s a chance for them to add to and enrich their perspective, but the important part is that no matter what the world teaches them they have a solid foundation to lean on.
Every expert will tell you that it’s the first few years are important and the influence most long lasting. Procreating might be a natural imperative, but we’re one up on or should be, on the rest of the animal kingdom. We know that vital as they are, our duty of care should include more than just loving them, feeding our children and keeping them clean.

There are two reasons cited when people talk about going back to work in those first vital years. One is that women have just as much right to a career as men do, and the second is that one wage isn’t enough to support the family. Both are valid reasons. I really can’t argue it; I not only don’t have the answer, but don’t think it’s up to me to provide it. We’ve been constantly told the reason why both parents work; it’s now the responsibility of parents to prepare for parenthood and find a way to make it possible to give themselves to their children in those first few vital years.

10 thoughts on “Raising Schmoo

  1. I didn’t get to stay home with mine in the first years, but I was lucky to have sitters that were friends and I think that was a good thing. It wasn’t like being in a daycare. I was lucky to be in a small town which was like being part of a huge family. I’m wondering if it isn’t the lack of real family being around like it use to be to learn good values and family helping out. Mine is so far away my two youngest have not had the pleasure of cousins and aunts and uncles to learn from. It is sad. Very interesting and thought provoking blog. 🙂 Good job.

    I have only had the pleasure of being home with my two youngest the last year and half. They are now 11 and 12. It has been fun and enjoyable. I wish I could have done that with my two oldest. 😦 I think they will be ok. We tried to be a close family and be involved with one another and I think that is key. 🙂

    Now, if I could just win a million a dollars I could stay home with my two youngest until they graduate. 🙂 I can dream. 🙂

    • I agree, it is the lack of real family being around, Julia. That’s where children are most influenced. Friends whose values are probably similar to yours are the next best thing.
      We all dream about what we can do with that million we might win. And it’s usually about helping family. 🙂

  2. I did stay home the first five years after my children were born (except for a brief bit of temp work). We were able to pay the bills on one paycheck and I enjoyed being with my children. I was with them some days when they went to nursery school, too. But that decision is a personal one. While it was the right one for me, it’s not for everyone.

    • You’re right, Judy, it’s not for everyone and not everyone can manage it financially, especially, as was pointed out to me, single parents – there are more of them now than there were in my day.
      I do think, though, that we have a duty of care to our children. And if we can’t manage an ideal situation, then at least, and for their sake, we can do better than just shrug our shoulders and say, too hard, or, it’s not for us.

      • True. My eldest daughter and her husband have two children. She home schools them. She puts a lot of energy and creativity into the schooling and raising them. I applaud those who are able and willing to do so.

  3. I didn’t get to know Al Capp too well, but did see a few of his cartoons. As it happened though, fate was a little tough on me, and I spent a few years as father and mother to my children, and so had a lot of time to consider some of these issues you’re bringing up here. And I do agree with you in principle. Life doesn’t always work the way we’ve planned it. But I do believe that raising children is an important part of the life experience… just as important as career. And that if a person does it right, the rewards are great for all concerned.

    • You know, Shimon, I didn’t let my piece stew for a while as I used to before I had a blog. I’m always too anxious to press that ‘publish’ button to consider the angles I’ve missed. I should have considered single parents. I don’t mean to sound smug about my views, it’s just that I get frustrated about people who put their careers first then wonder why their children aren’t grateful for all that material wealth their parents have worked so hard to provide. You’re right, and so was Robert Burns before you who said: The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley’. We can’t always predict our life’s path, can we?

  4. A huge topic. We are warned about creating ‘latch key kids’ but an economy, (or is just an unwillingness to start at the bottom) apparently demands two working parents. Home alone kids, wandering kids, internet roaming kids or kids with a Mum or Dad around? I wonder, if kids could understand at a young age, what they would prefer? A key or a Mum or Dad when they get home?

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