Posted by: *carrie* | April 9, 2010

Did I Really Just Read an Article Titled “Are Working Moms Abusing Their Kids”?

Remember my previous post, in which I speculated on heading towards another feminist backlash era?

I just read an article (courtesy of a friend’s facebook post) titled Are Working Moms Abusing Their Kids?

That’s right – the word used is abusing. Not even “cheating” or “short-changing” (or, just imagine, “teaching” or “helping develop”). The title of this article alone implies that a woman whose life is not solely dedicated to raising her child is abusing the child.

I’d also like you to note that the article is not titled Are Working Parents Abusing Their Kids? Obviously it wouldn’t be titled Are Working Dads Abusing Their Kids?, because we can never, ever imply that dads might be responsible for nurturing their children.

This is what the article reports:

While it may seem like a reasonable trade-off to bring home the bacon, one parenting expert claims working mothers are abusing their children simply by handing them off to another caregiver.

“This neglect begins in infancy,” said Jeffery Fine, Ph.D., a psychologist who believes most Americans abuse their kids. Fine argues that when a mother drops her baby at daycare or leaves him with a nanny, she’s neglecting her child’s needs. “Though it’s not politically correct to admit it, children who are raised by parental substitutes, whether by nannies or by daycare, do not get their needs met, and suffer as children and adults,” Fine said.

ONE expert has this opinion. Also of note, he doesn’t appear to actually have any studies or evidence to support this opinion. There are actually several studies on daycare, which…

…[have] consistently found that if daycare has any long-term effect on children, it seem to make children slightly more gregarious and independent. Daycare children also appear to be more broad-minded about sex roles; girls interviewed in day care centers are more likely to believe that housework and child rearing should be share by both parents. A National Academy of Science panel…concluded that children suffer no ill effects in academic, social, or emotional development when mothers work. [all emphasis mine]

Backlash by Susan Faludi

So, just to clarify, actual studies have proven that, in fact, children do not suffer from being left in day care centers.

The article only briefly touches on the concept of economics. Even if a parent wants to stay-at-home full time, it’s not usually financially feasible. From the article:

Other moms …don’t necessarily have the choice to stay at home with their kids. Many women are forced by financial needs to go back to work when their children are very young. Fine, who co-authored the book, “The Art of Conscious Parenting,” sees America’s materialistic, career-obsessed culture as the culprit. “Mothers have been marginalized because they’re needed at work,” he said.

Did you get that moms? You’re needed at work, and this is a problem for baby. It’s not that you want to work. It’s not that you have a dream job, one you’ve wanted since you were just a little girl. It’s not even that you have to work to pay your mortgage and buy groceries and raise your child. It’s about being materialistic and career-obsessed.

Oh, but dads? You’re totally cool. Have whatever job you want working whatever hours you want. You are, apparently, irrelevant in the development of your children.

The article continues:

Forty percent of the moms surveyed said feeling guilty is the biggest obstacle to going back to work.

Perhaps these moms feel guilty because of articles just like this one, where they are accused of abusing their children. Let’s not forget the term the “expert” uses. This is a term chosen to elicit feelings of guilt. How else is he going to convince you that your decision is the wrong one?

The article doesn’t suggest the possibility of stay-at-home fathers. Or about same-sex couples. (Is it okay for two dads to leave their child in daycare? Do two lesbians both have to stay at home?)

The only redeeming moment of this article is the last line:

Terry [a woman referenced and quoted in the article] says she never felt guilty for working, she does regret missing out on some of her kid’s activities. But she believes her career was a higher calling. “I believe it’s possible for women to do it all,” she says.

Working mothers also set a great example for their kids, especially their daughters, and especially if mom works in a field that is not common for women. For example, a woman who is an engineer is much more likely to have a daughter who goes into a math or science related field, because the daughter sees that as a realistic possibility for herself.

The only purpose articles and ideas like this serve is to try and scare women back into the home. Womens’ value is not tied to their uterus or their children. Some women choose to  be moms, and they should take pride in their abilities. Some of these women work, some don’t. Some dads work, some don’t. We need to understand that everyone’s circumstances are different. Kids from all kinds of backgrounds can turn out totally awesome. Having parents who are able to be people and model what different choices look like make a huge difference.

*The studies cited in Backlash: Children of Working Parents: Experience and Outcomes, ed. by Hayes and Kamerman; “Effects of Maternal Employment in the Two-Parent Family”, Hoffman; “Environmental Differences Among Day Care Centers and Their Effects on Children’s Development”, ed. by Zigler and Gordon



  1. Though it’s not politically correct to admit it, children who are raised by parental substitutes, whether by nannies or by daycare, do not get their needs met, and suffer as children and adults

    If this is true, why doesn’t Fine advocate there being more stay-at-home dads?

  2. My mom stayed home with us for a while, and had to stay at home with my autistic brother because no one else would take him in. She was an angry alcoholic (one might say she had lots of provocation). Let’s just say daycare might have been a much happier solution for us kids.

  3. Folks seem to forget that sure, moms are important, but it’s also important for children to interact with peers and other adults.

  4. I didn’t read the article because I don’t really care what it has to say, overall, about moms working outside the home.

    What I would like to note and stress is single moms like me have to work or, uh, we’d be poor and living off the state. Which is also a no-no, yes? I guess they’d frown on my working and getting my MSW combined with career goals.

    Now that my son is 10, nearly 11, I think him being a daycare kid has worked out for the best, teaching him self-sufficiency and independence at best (as stated above). It also teaches him he’s not the center of any one persons universe.

    Egh, articles like these succeed only in pissing me off.

  5. Oh, these people who say we’re “abusing” our kids by letting daycare’s and nannies raise them need to go sit in a J&D courtroom or shadow a CPS worker to see what abuse really looks like. Then maybe they’d put their energy into something more constructive like creating a better legislative process.

  6. What about children who are orphans, or are being raised by family members? Are they being “abused” too?

  7. I find this article horrific both as a woman and as a child-care worker. I mean, I know there are exceptions, but I love and care for all the children I look after, and so do all the other people in my centre. To say we’re doing the children a disservice, to say we’re abusing them simply by caring for them, it’s hurtful to say the least!

    And seriously, do fathers just not matter? Are they not allowed to give a damn about their children or something?

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