This I Believe

William - Centereach, New York
Entered on October 15, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, morality
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This I Believe

I believe in the value of the full-time parent.

This topic is seldom discussed in today’s high-cost material culture, but having grown up in the ‘60s, I clearly remember the ongoing debate over the economic value of the ‘stay-at-home-Mom’. Back then, a long time ago both chronologically and culturally, most Moms were still tucked away at home, not yet driven into the workforce by economic demands and societal expectations that relegated the fabric of family to second-place consideration. The debate over their economic value was purely clinical: just how much was all that cleaning, cooking, managing and nurturing actually worth in dollars-and-cents?

Quite a bit, as it turned out, by even the most conservative of estimates. Stay-at-home-Moms – and in rare cases, stay-at-home-Dads – were clearly earning their keep. Nonetheless, four decades worth of hindsight seems to indicate that they were grossly undervalued.

Today, the stay-at-home parent of either gender is rare enough to qualify for Endangered Species listing. Housing costs alone – 50 times what my parents paid for their suburban high-ranch in 1960 – are driving mothers and fathers out of the home and into the workforce in ever increasing numbers. Many of them work significantly more than the once standard 40-hour-week. Some of them, out of sheer desperation, hold two jobs, and still they struggle. Yet are any of us really any better off for all of this effort?

Well, that depends, I suppose, upon the yardstick you choose.

Sure, many of us live in mega-square-foot homes with enough bedrooms to rival a small motel. And drive expensive luxury imports with price tags that would have forced our parents into a second mortgage. I own a computer system that cost me as much as my mother spent to feed me for an entire year in 1965!

Impressive? I think not.

Call it childhood innocence, or a selective and falsely idyllic memory of bygone days. I believe it’s neither.

I believe life really was qualitatively better when I knew that Mom was home waiting for me after school. When she had a snack ready and was there to help me with my homework. When she cooked dinner and we all sat down to eat together. When she knew what I was watching on television, and made sure I wasn’t watching too much of it.

And certainly life was better when I was able to play outdoors in my own neighbor- hood without too much concern about the stranger who might drive down the street. My mom, and at least a half-dozen others, were on guard. And speaking of guards, I know life was better when we didn’t need armed guards in our schools to counter the unheard of threat of armed students.

I believe, also, that I’ve probably run roughshod over some cherished tenets of ‘poli- tical correctness’ in expressing these views. That’s okay. More importantly, I believe that moral integrity supersedes all other considerations where the welfare and well-being of our children are concerned, and I believe that nothing can safeguard that welfare and well-being so much as the presence of the actively engaged full-time parent.