Full-time earner or full-time parent?


There was a recent exchange of letters on this subject in the Independent newspaper which very neatly summed up the issues, I thought.


On 28th February 2007, J. Dunn wrote;

“Mary Dejevsky says (Opinion 15 February) “ For one parent to stay at home has become a luxury that only those who are entirely dependent on state benefits or one of a high earning couple can afford”. This is untrue, but it is constantly reinforced by the media and our consumer culture and it needs to be challenged.

Its acceptance inflates the “minimum” acceptable standard of living to which people aspire, making it harder for people to choose time with their children over paid employment. My partner, while not poorly paid, is certainly not a “high earner”, and we have friends with family incomes considerably lower than ours who also have only one parent in employment.

Our children enjoy the benefits of our company, time, guidance and home-making; they see little of expensive holidays, pastimes or designer clothing. For many people, the choice is there for them to make, but they don’t want to do it; they should not be hiding their decision and the reasons for it behind a cry of “We can’t afford to do otherwise”.

There are those at the bottom of the financial and social scale who really do have limited choices and that is where state moneyand attention should be focussed not on providing subsidised child care for medium to high earning families” (Stapleford, Nottingham).

Laura Elliot from Worcester then replied;

“Once again I am to hang my head in shame, guilt and despair. I am a working mother.

What J Dunn.. and many others fail to consider is those of us who do not have the luxury of a partner because they have died or otherwise left. How I would love to be a stay-at-home mum. My children don’t see “expensive holidays, pastimes or designer clothing” either; what they see is a very hard-working mum and a heavily mortgaged, extremely basic, roof over their heads.

I am not “at the bottom of the financial and social scale” but I absolutely do not have this imaginary “choice” about whether or not to work. I would welcome a reply from the smug and sanctimonious people who insist that I do” (The Independent letters  2nd March 2007)


“How I would love to be a stay-at-home mum”. How often have I heard that statement from other mothers who felt despairingly, like Laura, that they did not have a choice. I do not feel at all smug or sanctimonious about the fact that I am doing what seems to me to be the best job in the world; that of looking after and educating our own children. What I do feel is great sadness that more people do not realise the freedom that they have. And this freedom is based on trust and an understanding of Providence. If you genuinely feel called to return to paid employment after the birth of your child, you have prayed about it and feel God calling you to do so and to give your child to someone else to care for, no one can (or indeed it seems to me should) criticise you. If, on the other hand , you come to understand just how vital is a mother’s care (and in a different but equally important way, a father’s care) for the child in the first few years and yet feel an overwhelming social or economic pressure to hand your child to another on a daily basis, pray about it. A couple who have faith can always find a solution but I even have friends who are single mothers like Laura who look after their own children themselves and yet do not rely on benefits.

If you feel you must earn money, there are a variety of child-compatible ways of doing this such as the increasingly popular options of registering as a childminder or of setting up and running your own internet company, to name but two.

Ask God what he wants and ask him to show you how to go about it.

If you feel he wants you to care for your child yourself and you ask him for help, you will always be shown a way.