Monday's post considered the importance of long-term planning for women. Today I'm featuring a haunting article I stumbled across while doing my book research. It is written from the perspective of a woman who is conflicted about the choices she's made as a working mother and how trapped she feels by them. Titled, "Soccer Mom Wannabe," it carries this sub-headline: "Welcome to postmodern child rearing: I watch my son at daycare over the internet. He is growing up in Technicolor, right on my screen."
Author Jessica Smartt Gullion begins her article with this compelling description (with apologies for her slang):
He has not moved from that spot for 40 minutes. He just sits and watches the other kids come in. I think he has a book— it is hard to tell for sure.
The screen updates every five seconds or so. It reminds me of dancing under a strobe light. Flash: He’s sitting on the floor. Flash: Here comes a little girl. Flash: She whacks him on the head. Flash: He’s crying. Flash: Here comes the teacher.
Now, where is he? Flash: He’s crawled over to the cubby holes. Flash: What’s in there?
Every morning the alarm screams at 6:00 am. We get up, get washed, get fed, get dressed, strap his flailing body into the car seat, and haul him out to the daycare where two 18 year old girls watch him and ten other kids so I can go to my job that pays the daycare bill. And I become the voyeur. Welcome to postmodern child rearing: I watch my son at daycare over the internet. He is growing up in Technicolor, right on my screen.
The picture is not very clear. I can make out my son, but I can’t read his face. He is a blue blur. Wait— is that him? Yes, he has cuffs on his jeans this morning (they are too big but I couldn’t find anything else that fit/was clean).
I shouldn’t complain: I am lucky in today’s harsh economy to have a job that pays so well. At least that’s the propaganda they feed me over the TV.
I am lucky…
My mother’s generation fought hard so that a woman like me could earn a higher degree and have a prestigious career and make more money that most of her male co-workers. Feminists fought so their daughters could integrate into a man’s world, and perhaps, take it over. I am woman, hear me roar.
Problem is, this world sucks. I miss my family. On a typical day I am with my son (awake) for about 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch, and about 2 hours in the evenings for a grand total of 3 hours per day. I spend more time with my co-workers than my husband or son.
The author goes on to describe her emotional reaction to this work/life imbalance, concluding with this interesting observation: " I can’t reconcile this working/daycare thing. If I were a religious woman I would 'let go and let God.' But I’m not, so I fight it every day. I never thought I would pray to be a stay-at-home soccer mom."
The author's bio has been updated since this article was first released. Sadly (a reaction I have based on her own words) it says: "Since writing this essay, Jessica Smartt Gullion has had a daughter, who now is at the same daycare as her brother. 'I watch both of them on my computer at work. I am still very conflicted with my decision to work outside the home.'"
Gullion hits the nail on the head with her observation about trusting God. "Let Go and let God" is a weak theological statement for believers, but it's probably as close as an unbeliever is going to be able to come in articulating what it means to trust God for your provision, for His purposes for marriage and motherhood, and for what's eternally important. I don't quote her article to sneer at her. As a childless woman, I understand how little I know about parenting, so I want to proceed with humility. But I am fascinated by how she feels trapped by her choices and sees that faith is the answer. In fact, I found myself praying for her as I quoted her.
Marx says that we are being exploited for our labor. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. The money part is irrelevant because no matter how much we make we are being exploited. We are disposable drones, punching in, punching out, selling our time, selling our souls. Agreeing that we would rather make money than be with our families. We would rather make money than care for our kids. We would rather sit at our desks watching our children over the internet.
Agreeing that we would rather make money than be with our families. We would rather make money than care for our kids. We would rather sit at our desks watching our children over the internet. That's a powerful summary--and a somber twist on "screen generation" children.
UPDATE: I have opened the comments function on this post, too, to hear from other parents. Comments are moderated.