There are many myths regarding working parents. While some of these myths portray parents as saints, willing to do anything and to give up everything for their spouses and children, the truth generally lies somewhere toward the center. We do ourselves a great injustice by judging any statement or myth by its title; however selfless it appears. Myths can be manipulated to makes selfish, inept, and uncaring parents appear to be saintly.
Myth #1 – We are either good parents or good employees; we can’t be both
This myth is based on a belief that one must focus solely on parenthood or job performance. Gone are the days of June Cleaver remaining at home vacuuming the house while wearing heels and necklace and venturing into the outside world periodically to purchase groceries. Today’s parents are often faced with large mortgages, activity fees for after school sports participation, and children who know every new gadget coming out to make their lives more enjoyable and their school work nearly painless. In order to simply survive, it is often essential for both parents to work.
Nine out of twelve months a year, kids are in school from 7-8AM until 2-3 PM. Sure, someone might not always be home when school has ended, but kids are educable and can be expected to take that time for homework, housework, and perhaps some meal planning. Although many kids believe these responsibilities are not far removed from ‘water boarding,’ in essence, they are becoming contributing members of the family. Parents who do not work outside the house, are not necessarily good parents, and those who do, are not necessarily bad parents. This will be judged on a family by family, parent by parent basis and will be best judged by those who comprise each family.
So say “good bye” to June Cleaver, and “hello” to Miranda Hobbes. Don’t judge until one asks for our opinion and remember that it is only an opinion that we give, not the truth to be recorded in perpetuity.
Myth #2 – The parent who is employed outside of the house is the only “working parent” Whose schedule is this: *Up at 5:30 AM, *Breakfast on the run, *Meetings, meetings, meetings, *Lunch on the run, *Phone calls, * Late afternoon meeting, *Serious talk with non management team members, *Quick supper and check in with kids, *Late, late night TV, *Bed. If you believe this is the schedule of the parent working outside the home, you are seriously in error.
Maintaining a clean, healthy environment, a stocked refrigerator and cooked meals, keeping track of what activities the kids want parents to attend and which ones they are engaged in themselves or with their friends, caring for the pets you never wanted but now seem to be the sole custodian for as well as health care provider, and companion, many days is equivalent to at least three days of the parent who works outside of the house. Today’s home life is not The Walton’s from Walnut Creek. In fact, that home life often is best represented by Survivor.
Myth #3 – Parents who work do not spend enough time working with their children on homework and projects that build character
This is far too encompassing to be anything but myth. Certainly, parents who work, must be diligent in making time to monitor homework, engage their children in intellectual conversation, teach by example, and challenge them to grow intellectually, morally, and spiritually. These are not areas of growth influenced as much by time as by quality of that time. As educational methods change, many parents (working outside the home or not) are not comfortable with the many changes in teaching subject such as math and science. Parents feel as if they must learn an entirely new language and are often as frustrated by the “new methods” as their children are in attempting to learn the subject material.
Parents who spend quality time with their children when they are home, will model relationship and confidence building, respect, shared responsibilities, honesty, and much, much more, often without saying a word. If this does not happen, one must look beyond parents working in order to find the stumbling block.
Myth #4 – Working parents care more about their needs than those of their children.
This is no more accurate than saying that non working parents care more about their children’s needs than their own. How many single parents work several jobs in order to make ends meet? They may work part time out of the house and possibly part time freelancing from home. When the children come home from school, they need and deserve attention.
Often children depend upon parental assistance in understanding homework assignments. There are sports and other activities in which the children participate and expect parental support. Meals must be prepared, simple one on one time with children is essential, and by 11 PM the working parent falls into bed totally exhausted and once again, with their need for a bit of alone time, or reading a new mystery, keeping in touch with friends and family via email and others not being fulfilled. Exceptions exist with nearly every situation imaginable, including working parents and the satisfaction of their needs. We can certainly hope and pray that there are few that fall into this myth.
Myth #5 – Mothers who hate to clean and cook choose to work outside the house
Despite statistical probability that might indicate some mothers who work outside the house hate to clean and cook, there is no evidence that dislike of these two tasks is the motivator for working moms. Contrary to this, many working mothers find themselves cleaning and cooking during their off hours and catching up on reading, relaxing baths, visiting friends, and the like while the kids are with friends or doing their homework.
Most families don’t expect a Julia Child supper presentation or something fresh from the Galloping Gourmet, they do appreciate a hot, tasty meal eaten in a relaxed atmosphere and with time for conversation. Mothers who actually hate to clean and cook at home may easily find themselves surprised at the expectations of a clean office space (in order to impress clients, find their own paper work, and have adequate space when the boss comes in to ask them to tidy up an area for a large inter-organizational meeting). Let’s face it, unless we are Sheriff Taylor and have Aunt Bea for a live in mother, there are simply some duties that follow us from work to home and back!
Myth #6 – Work should be the responsibility of the “man of the house”
I hear the theme song from Little House on the Prairie” playing through my thoughts. Oh, sure, the picture is coming now and I see Ma sitting on a swing, nibbling on fruit and enjoying a glass of wine, feet up and looking refreshed and collected after another day at home with a toddler! Indeed, Pa was out in the fields, helping neighbors in need, driving Doc to emergency house calls, begging the banker for yet another extension on a long standing loan, and bargaining with the local mercantile owner for a better price on the essentials of life. Now that’s work, isn’t it?
Ma remains at home, washing the breakfast dishes, sending the kids off to school, tidying up for a group of quilters who will gather later in the day, preparing lunch and then supper, working in the garden, chasing the toddler around the house and yard, taking a fish hook out of a finger, mending clothing as well as sewing new clothing and a host of other duties. This sounds a lot like shared responsibility. Although the “times, they are a changing,” most couples share the responsibilities of the house and divvy them up according to expertise, available time, schedules, and the like.
We have read the myths and contemplated their accuracy. What is true for one or both parents who work, is not true (or is true in a different manner or for other reasons) for others working parents. One of the challenges when confronted by myths is reading with open minds and each myth individually.