There is something that has been bothering me a lot lately. It's the phrase, "raising my own children" or any variation thereof, referring to parents who stay home with their children rather than use some sort of child care. This is usually only said by parents who can and do stay home, and even though I don't think it's meant to criticize parents who do use child care, I do think it is an offensive statement.
When I was much younger and long before children were even on my mind, a friend was preparing to have a baby. She was going to quit her job and stay home with her child. And she said to me, "I just don't want someone else raising my child." Even though children weren't even on the radar for me at that time, I remember being very uncomfortable with what she said. She was implying that anybody who does use child care is allowing others to raise their children. That they're not doing the job themselves. (And even though this isn't the point of my post, there were definitely undertones of, "And that's not good enough.") Now that I have a child, her statement bothers me even more. And lately I've seen or read similar words from other parents, and I'd like to advocate that we all stop saying it!
There are many things that bother me about this. First and foremost, I don't like the suggestion that by using child care, we are surrending the raising of our child to someone else. That is just such huge crap that I can't even come up with an eloquent way of saying it. It's horse crap! Raising children is so much more than caring for their basic needs or spending time with them. Raising children means shaping who they become. It means making all the decisions that influence how they grow up and what shapes them. It means choosing who they spend their time with, including who provides their care when we can't. My child care providers don't decide what Mo knows about spirituality or who her doctor is or whether she gets gifts from Santa or how much TV she watches or whether we take her to a pride parade or what to do if she is every bullied at school. We entrust them to be partners in her care, but we decide all of those things and make so many other impossibly hard choices, and daycare only helps us enforce them. That is what raising a child is, and I'm offended by anyone who implies that I'm letting someone else do that because I don't stay home with her. Even if that is not what they mean when they say it, that is what they are implying, and it is an ignorant statement that needs to stop.
Another thing that bothers me about that phrase is that it dismisses and ignores the privilege of choice. Some people have the choice to stay home, others do not. That's really just lovely that you have the OPTION, the CHOICE to stay home, but many parents don't, and you're basically saying, "Oh you both have to work full-time to make ends meet? That's too bad, I guess someone else will have to raise your kids for you." It's wonderful that some people want to stay home with their children and even more wonderful that they have the option to do that. But that is a privilege. A very big privilege that is not afforded many people. So please don't rub your privilege in my face by implying that you think I'm not raising my children because I have to work.
And also, even some people who have the privilege of choice choose not to stay home. What does your phrasing suggest about them? It suggests that they had a choice to raise their kids on their own, and they chose not to. What is so very wrong about that is that their choice to work is not a choice to let someone else raise their kids. It's a choice to partner with someone else in the care of their children - a difficult choice that is part of the difficult job of raising children.
I fully recognize that most people who say "I'm staying home because I don't want someone else to raise my kids" or "It's important to use that we raise our own children" don't actually mean that because I work, I'm not doing the important work of parenting them and shaping who they become (though some do mean that, unfortunately). But I think it's imperative that we change that language, that we quit implying with our words that working parents who use child care - whether by choice or by circumstance - are somehow not parenting as hard or as well as those that stay home. Child care does not take the place of parenting or of child rearing. Child care is part (one of many parts) of the child rearing process, one of the many decisions parents make in raising their children to shape who they will be.
So please, I beg you, stop saying that you're home with your kids because you want to be the one to "raise them." Even if you don't mean anything about me and my circumstances (and the circumstances of all working parents who use child care) when you say it, please change your language. Instead, how about: "I stay home with my kids because I am privileged enough to have the choice to do so, and I made the decision to care for them full time rather than partner with someone else in their care."
I know that sounds all politically correct and crap, and why do we have to be so damn picky all the time? But language is important. One of the first steps to better understanding is to use the right language. Let's start there.