Part-time Jobs and Part-time Daycare

I have a very good friend with a 3 year-old little boy. He’s very smart. Ask him the planets. He’ll tell you. What’s the name of our galaxy? He’ll tell you. What kind of galaxy is it? He’ll tell you. (Spiral, if you don’t remember). He can even tell you the names of the biggest moons of mooned planets. It is surprising how bright he is.

It’s also clear that she spends a lot of time with him. And she’s proud of him, but she’s also really depressed.

She stays at home with him full-time. The neighborhood she lives in doesn’t have other mothers with small children and unfortunately she doesn’t live close to (m) any Mormons. I think she’s depressed because she doesn’t get a lot of adult interaction and because she misses the positive feedback of a job. You have a list of things to do. People expect things out of you. You do them. They like you. Also, generally those people are adults. Hopefully some of them are your peers. And it is very rewarding to make your own money.

I talk to her on a fairly regular basis and her depression and the apparent reasons for it seem consistent. I’ve suggested on a number of occasions that she get a part-time job. Even 10-15 hours a week. Nothing major. It could be a simple retail job. It’s not about the money it’s about the interaction, the feedback, the accomplishment that is easy to get from a job like that, meaning you show up, they like you. You be nice, they like you.

She refuses. She says she doesn’t have the money for daycare for those hours but that turns out not to be true. It turns out she hates daycare. Pretty much thinks it’s evil and that there’s no way that it can do anything but bad for her little boy.

I don’t understand this. I support stay at home moms. If you have that choice, it’s a nice choice to make. Clearly they do better work than any babysitter or daycare and putting your kid in daycare may do a disservice to them. But 15-20 hours a week? Can that really screw up your kid? Is it a terrible idea?

She says that I don’t understand, and that’s true. I’ve just recently come around to the idea of marriage and I’m not sure where the horizon is that kids may or may not be on. I do love my nieces and nephews and am thankful for their mothers that give them much of their time, but I’d still think those kids were geniuses if they were in part-time daycare. And if it helped lift a mother out of depression, I’d think those kids would be better off.

I support my friend in whatever she chooses, but I still secretly wish she’d get a job. What do y’all think? Is it best for a mother to just hold tight, be depressed and stay at home until the kid(s) enter school? If a job would help alleviate depression, is it a good idea to put your kid in daycare part-time? Do I not understand because I have no kids of my own? Will some part-time job not make any sort of difference?


  1. Kristine says:

    There are lots of studies that show mothers who work score better on all kinds of mental health indices than mothers who don’t. This is true even of women who don’t particularly like their jobs.

    If I had it to do over, I would absolutely make sure I had a part-time job while I had preschoolers. My kids would have loved the break from their crazy, bored mom.

    And, from the perspective of just a few years farther down the road than your friend, I’m actually feeling like I am just now starting to do the value-added bits of mothering, where it actually matters that it’s ME and not just some benevolent adult taking care of my kids–they’re old enough to ask questions that I can answer from the physics class I took in college, or to need help with music practice, or to want to hear about when I lived in Germany, etc. I always thought I should be home when they were babies and I could leave them more as they got older, and now I think that’s backwards.

  2. I don’t understand limiting the suggestion and discussion to “daycare” when there are so many alternative arrangements possible. Sure she may be wary of large centers, but what about a 1-on-1 nanny or a family friend who’s home anyway with her own 3 year old? What about just sending him to preschool half-days in the fall?

  3. She is limited by money. She could afford a larger daycare but not a lot more than that. Her family could help a little but that would be more like 5 hours a week.

    Kristine, any job has always helped my mental health. I currently have a brainless part time job that makes me so happy, because of the interaction/relationships and the ease with which I can get approval.

    I don’t have kids and I don’t know how to rank needs (kids vs. yourself when they conflict) but I’m selfish about my mental health, meaning sometimes I put people out to take care of myself.

  4. Amri,
    One question I would ask is are you sure this is the cause of her depression and that working would be the solution? In the end, if she does something she isn’t comfortable or doesn’t feel right about, I’m not sure it would help anyway. Also, work may not always fill a gap for everyone.

    I personally hit a time like this when I had three very young ones, and my husband encouraged me to get out a couple of hours a week while he watched the kids. I didn’t get paid, I didn’t really do anything consistent and concrete, but I spent some brain time in my field of expertise (it just so happened that a man in my ward had a company in my area of expertise!) and it was fun. And my kids never were without a parent, and so I could enjoy it without the guilt.

    So what I’m suggesting is that sometimes there are options that don’t require something as delineated as what you have presented here. There are many ways to expand one’s horizons without actually putting kids in day care or getting a job. Maybe something more simple would get her feeling some refreshment and connection. Some ideas:

    – Swap babysitting to go to a gym.
    – Hire a young woman from the ward for a few hours a week to babysit while you go for a walk or drive or shopping trip (even to the store).
    – Take a class.
    – Read a book.
    – Talk to the RS president about forming one of those enrichment groups that you would enjoy heading up.
    – Talk on the phone on a regular basis to a good friend or family member while little one naps or watches a movie. (This was one thing that really helped me as a mom of little ones.)
    – Blog. :)
    – Volunteer for something (I’ve done this, too, and that’s another good booster because it’s getting outside of my little world and helping somewhere else for a bit in a more adult-to-adult kind of way).

    I think it’s great that you are concerned about your friend. I’d just try not to project what works for you (you say any job helps you but that wouldn’t be the case for all people, ya know?) onto her and maybe help her brainstorm a bit until she can think of something that might infuse something new into her life in a way that clicks for her, without disrupting it in a way that feels wrong to her.

    One other thought: are you up to taking care of her child for a couple of hours on one day when she could just get away? Sometimes even ONE getaway can make a huge difference for me when I’m feeling bottled up. :)

  5. “There are lots of studies that show mothers who work score better on all kinds of mental health indices than mothers who don’t.”

    Causality goes in a corner and cries.

  6. My wife is a photographer. She takes [fantastic] pictures of kids. We have four boys ages 7 yrs to 7 months. She takes about 10 hrs a week for her photo work. She shoots mainly on Saturdays and attends to the other work necessities later in the evenings. She is able to retain/sharpen her talents, challenge herself in meaningful ways, and make a little vacation money on the side. All in all it’s a very good thing.

    Usually I can take the kids, but she makes arrangements when I can’t. Her time working is well spent. We’re all a little happier.

    It creates some otherwise absent stresses like my having to skip 18 holes once in a while. In other words, I think that 10-15 hours are doable for any family.

  7. I think its completely her decision.

    I’m not a mother, and I don’t know what I’ll do when I am one, but I was raised by a mother who did work 10-20 hours a week while my brothers and I were really little, and a little more when we were old enough to go to school. When I was little, I resented the fact she wasn’t there, and her sister, her mother and even my dad gave her a hard time about working with little ones at home, but she stood firm and worked. This was in the 80’s when there was a lot of pressure from the leaders of the church for women to stay at home so she had that pressure too.

    I’ve talked to her about it several times and she said that we needed the money but that she was bored out of her mind, and needed to get away from us kids a little to be a better mom.

    However, my mom has a profession that was in demand in our community at that time and she was able to dictate her hours. Not everyone has that choice.

    My mom is an amazing lady, and following her example I may work part-time while I have young children. I have a profession that would allow me to do so. But ultimately I think its the woman’s and her husband’s decision. First off, I have to find someone I’m interested in marrying first. ;)

  8. Marianne says:

    I’m with m&m on this one. Getting a job is not the only solution for a bored mom. And, actually, taking a part-time job does not mean 15 hours in daycare. Most part-time jobs are 20 hours a week and then there is time getting to the job and back. Part-time jobs actually take up a good chunk of the day. And, yes, I do think spending half your day (over half your day?) every weekday in one of those large daycare centers would not be a good thing for a child.

    Of course, now that I think about it, I have had a part-time job for my 4 year career as a mommy so maybe I’m mistaken. But I have always been able to work my schedule around my husband’s (spending sometimes as little as 8 hours a week in the office) and now that we are heading into a situation where I could only work if I put my daughter in daycare I will not be working. Maybe I’ll end up feeling like your friend. But I still wouldn’t put my daughter in daycare.

  9. I can vouch that my mental health is emphatically not better for working.

  10. concerned citizen says:

    Having invested the last 30 years of my life in professional service to children and families through daycare, Head Start and most recently as a lecturer (in child development) at a major research university I can understand your friend’s reluctance to put her child in daycare, even for just 10 to 15 hours a week. It is very very hard to find a group situation for young children where the benefits out-weigh the possible negative consequences. Those groups do exist and it is always possible to get on the very long waiting lists of the families trying to get their child into that program. The fact is that working with a group of children is exhausting work — both physically and emotionally. To do an excellent job of attending to the needs of each child with the sensitivity required, the adult professional (teacher) needs good training and all kinds of resources. There just aren’t that many situations out there where the teachers are adequately trained and the program’s bottom line is what is good for the child.

    I know, we could cite the research here where it shows that the mother’s (and father’s) quality time with the child is more important than quantity time. My experience (with children AND the researchers) cause me to question such outcomes. Political correctness is a profound bias.
    This mother is wise to be concerned about the long-term outcomes for her child. If she is suffering from depression, she must also be aware of the negative influence that mood may also have on her child. Her best efforts would be placed in attending to HER needs as well as her child’s.

    I support this mom for choosing not to put her child in daycare.

  11. What m&m said.

    We have six kids (19-yr-old college freshman through Kindergarten this fall), and the only thing (other than my crazy sense of humor) that keeps my wife sane is “something” worthwhile to do that takes her away from the kids for a few hours each week. She was the YW Pres. in our ward for the past 3 1/2 years, and that was prefect. (I was released from my calling and played the organ and piano in church so she could keep her calling. We had a great Bishop.) Now that she is between callings and I am back in the fray, I have convinced her to find someone to serve, and get out each evening and walk the neighborhood with our 2nd daughter, and block out reading time each day (NOT church reading), etc.

    What works for her won’t work for everyone, but the point is that she found something that works for her.

  12. Naismith says:

    I am skeptical of the notion that a paid job cures things because I was told by a specialist at the Mayo Clinic that my sleep disorder would clear up automatically once I returned to paid work. It did not; it required major surgery, a remedy which was delayed for years because the docs blew me off while I was a mother at home.

    For me personally, my comfort level for being away from my preschoolers was 1 day a week per year of the child’s age. So for a two year old, church nursery plus one day a week swapped childcare with another mom. For a three year old, Primary plus Joy School twice a week. For a four year old, Primary plus Joy School plus a library story hour.

    A part-time job would have been too much stress for me. But I had other things in life that I enjoyed, and obviously had some childfree time.

    People expect things out of you. You do them. They like you.

    Gee, you must have a nice job. A lot of people I have worked with through the years did NOT like me, they resented and sabotaged me.

    And it is very rewarding to make your own money.

    I guess I don’t “get” this. I don’t have my own money. All the money that my husband and I bring into the family is our money. It doesn’t matter whose name is on the paycheck. My current paid work would allow me to support our family if anything happened to my husband, but I don’t get any more “rewarding” feeling than back when I was at home canning tomatoes, raising corn, and sewing training pants.

  13. I should have mentioned at the beginning that she wants to do something more formal (work part-time or volunteer somewhere and finish her degree) as soon as our youngest is in school full-day, but she simply refuses to do so until then. She is adamant that her “job” right now is being a mom for not only her kids but also many of their friends. Our kids’ friends at the high school call her Mama, and they rely on her for support and counsel whenever they are frustrated with their own parents – or when they get kicked out of their homes – or when their dads get violent – ad infinitum.

  14. working mom says:

    I guess I am the lone working mother in this community. I have three wonderful kids and work full time and have since the first was born. I make significantly more money than my husband does, love my job and it just never made sense (at least thus far) for me to quit. He stayed home the first few years and now we have a nanny and have tried to send our kids to high quality schools (pre-school and elementary)

    At an enrichment activity one evening, I mentioned to some older sisters that sometimes I think maybe I should stay home with my kids. I get a lot of snide comments from my fellow RS sisters who do stay home and sometimes grow weary. These older sisters were adamant that I continue working – you are smart, happy and using your talents they said. One said a happy mom makes for a happy child. As long as you always put your kids first in your spare time you can’t go wrong.

    Because I work full time I am surrounded by other mothers who work full time all of whom use a different arrangement – some the dad’s stay home, some have an au pair and some have their kids in full time day care. All the kids seem normal…the moms are fantastically busy balancing all aspect of their lives, but none appear to be depressed.

    If only raising kids were so simple that there was a precise recipe that was THE way to do it…we all know plenty of kids whose moms stayed home and are now miserable and vice versa…parenting is a lot more complex a job than simply time spent on task….

    Empower your friend to explore her options, come up with a plan, and then – if she so chooses – pray to know it is right.

  15. Rosalynde says:

    I have fallen intermittently into circumstantial depressions since I’ve been home with my kids, but my experiences in grad school—when I was away from my oldest baby some, but under the very best possible circumstances—convinced me that the anxiety of being away from my babies for big chunks of time outweighs the benefits of work mentioned on this thread (which are real, I think). Obviously not all women suffer this kind of anxiety, but it seems clear that your friend does.

    I’d avoid pressuring your friend on this, apart from offering your own babysitting services.

  16. Rosalynde says:

    Kris, what kind of a job do you think would have worked for you when your kids were small?

    Also, do you think you would have worried about your babies being left in baby seats or cribs for hours of the day? (It’s my understanding that this is pretty standard procedure in most daycare situations, and this is totally understandable, given even the best ratios of caregivers to babies.) That was my biggest concern about the daycare center situation when I looked into it for Elena.

  17. Rosalynde says:

    Upon re-reading, the above looks like veiled anti-daycare invective, which it truly is not intended to be, I promise.

  18. My friend won’t change her mind and that’s fine with me, it’s not so much about her but asking whether working part-time for mental health and consequently putting your kid in daycare is acceptable to y’all. I don’t really know anything about daycare.

    Another thing I’ve observed in people, not just her, with this kind of situational depression: part of it comes from the inability to structure all of their own free-time. I’m terrible at this too but that doesn’t make me a bad person, it just means I have to look for stuff that is structured for me, like a job with expectations. So you can’t just say go to the gym, volunteer, start doing your own thing, because the person already has the time to do it, just not the oomph. That’s part of the depression. Jobs have expectations that you may be able to meet for other people that you can’t always meet for yourself.

    And as for money, it’s a big deal for a lot of my friends. Of course the money the husband makes is for the family, and it’s not as if the money the woman makes would not be for the family, but a lot of my female friends want to make some of the money too.

  19. Rosalynde, I think my friend suffers the same anxiety that clearly I don’t understand because I don’t have kids and maybe because of my own family experience, in which my mom had to work and I never felt worse for it.

    Folks, I would never pressure my friend to do anything I’m just wondering as a kidless, unmarried if I just don’t understand that world. It seems clear that I don’t, which is not to say at the right time I won’t put my kids in daycare.

  20. I didn’t address the daycare concern in my earlier response, but I worked in the early childhood education arena for nearly ten years, and I can add my experience to cc’s (#10). There are excellent daycare centers out there, but the mediocre, bad and scary ones outnumber the good ones – and the ratio isn’t very close. Also, you tend to get what you pay for. If you want individual and educational attention, it’s going to cost you. If money is an issue, there aren’t many good options out there – other than a friend or trusted babysitter.

    FWIW, the situation is similar in the elder care industry where I work now. Lots of options, but little in the way of personalized attention if money is an issue.

  21. When our kids were small we sacrificed a lot so that one of us could be home with them to avoid daycare.

    My nieces put their kids in daycare and they learned the worst habits from the other kids in daycare.

  22. Julie M. Smith says:

    As others have said, I think the best bet is for her to find another mother (with a similarly aged child) that she can swap playdates with. Doing this has brought me great relief over the years. If that doesn’t work, joining a gym with childcare may help, or doing something in the evenings (bookgroup, class at a community college) might do the trick.

  23. Starfoxy says:

    Naismith, I don’t think it is at all unusual for a person to feel rewarded by making their own money. It has nothing to do with needs being met, or having access to money and control over how it’s spent. I think instead it is percieved as quantifiable measure of how much a person’s time is ‘worth.’ While I’ll agree that it’s indicative of a sad state of affairs that a person would feel that their hourly wage is a reflection of their worth, but such is life in modern America.

    Also, from all your comments that I’ve read I get the impression that you are rather unique in your ability to ignore the detrimental judgements and perceptions of others, and the societal norms that devalue women and traditional women’s work. I wish I knew how you do it, because if we could replicate it then lots of women would be much happier.

  24. My wife and I both work full time. Always have, except for a few years when the kids were very little that she took off. If I can speak for my wife (always dangerous) I think she would say that she “needs” to work nearly full time or she feels depressed, gains weight, goes “stir crazy” (feel free to insert your own label). I don’t think this is terribly uncommon.

    Our kids have never been in “daycare” if that term is defined as a large commercial center. We have been able to make do with flex schedules (she works a lot of evenings and weekends when I’m home) and having our kids cared for by family members and friends. I seriously doubt that a commercial day care center is ever the only option. There are lots of others if you get creative.

    BTW, our kids are complete creative and scholastic geniuses, and I’m not biased at all.

  25. Also, from all your comments that I’ve read I get the impression that you are rather unique in your ability to ignore the detrimental judgements and perceptions of others, and the societal norms that devalue women and traditional women’s work. I wish I knew how you do it, because if we could replicate it then lots of women would be much happier.

    Judgments about what? I’m not sure what you are saying in the first half. At some point, don’t we all have to learn to do what we feel is right, not what someone else thinks might be right?

    The second half of this is why to me it’s so good that the prophets keep reminding us of the importance of motherhood. It’s not to cause pain for those who don’t have that yet in their lives, but to encourage and remind those who are mothers that society can say whatever it wants, but we can know that “traditional women’s work” has great value. That has made a huge difference in my life and my decisions to be home even when it’s hard. Because sometimes it is! But I have the perspective to keep me going. (I also am seeing that they DO grow up and will be gone faster than I think I’ll be ready for it!)

  26. p.s. Not that I have the whole “don’t care about what others think” thing nailed. Ha. Not yet. :)

  27. I stayed home with my kids until they were both in school (the littlest was 3, but it was a full time pre-school through grade 12 private school, and I worked as an elementary teacher in the same building). During the 5 years I “didn’t work” I did do things like earn money teaching English in at a small English school after my husband got off work, or for a year I taught a cooking class to mom’s. The cooking class was held in a different pre-school, and all the other moms’ pre-school aged kids played together for a couple hours while an assistant watched them. This was only once or twice a month, but my kids and I both looked forward to it.

    Another semester I got a part time job where I was lucky enough to have my own office. I could bring my kids with me for the few hours I worked several days a week. They napped and played with toys and books I brought along.

    There are all kinds of options. Day care isn’t the only one. For what it’s worth, I had absolutely no extended family or friends when I was a SAHM (we were living in Japan and I couldn’t even communicate with my neighbors. I had no car. All my English speaking acquaintences were working during the day). I understand needing external pressure/structure to get things done (I’m like that too), but if your friend doesn’t like daycare, there really are a number of other creative options to pursue. I think your friend’s husband should INSIST on her going out and taking time to go to the movies, the library, the gym, or over to your house for dinner (!) after he gets home from work at least once a week. It would be really helpful… probably to the whole family!

  28. meems, I always mean to tell you this but forget. I live in Albany and there are stickers all over the city that say I heart meems. I’ve seen at least 8 of them. Funny huh?

    My friend and I unfortunately don’t live near each other. I’d babysit frequently I’m sure. I like to babysit for young mothers because I think they must be feeling crazy and a few hours with a boring kid won’t kill me.

    I think she feels stuck. Maybe she realizes that there are lots of options but can’t get herself to do them. Maybe I project on her since having a job makes all the difference to me. Who knows.

  29. Starfoxy says:

    M&M it’s not the she’s avoiding the judgements, it (appears) that she’s been able to avoid letting those judgements make her feel bad. I don’t think many women are letting those judgements alter their decisions, but many (including me) often feel deeply hurt when others express disdain or condescencion for stay at home mothers. Especially when those people are family members, husband’s coworkers, friends or strangers at the store. It bothers and frightens some of us so much that we are uber-sensitive to anything that remotely sounds like a judgement of our choices.
    From Naismith’s comments it sounds like that is just plain something she hasn’t been affected by, and I’d love to know why.

  30. A few things:

    1. Daycare has helped millions of women support themselves and their family. It is a good thing.

    2. You can find statistics to support the benefits/evils of ANYTHING. Statistics are practically useless unless possibly you know the ins and outs of how the information was gathered. For instance, I read a survey that said people that sleep more than eight hours are more likely to die early than people that don’t. Who did they interview? Were these people going to bed at ten p.m. or 2 a.m.? What other factors and trends are involved that aren’t outwardly apparent? #5 hit it on the head.

    3. As was previously mentioned, working a job isn’t necessarily a boon to one’s mental health.

    4. Depression can haunt the jobless as well as the working mom.

    5. Question: why does is working 15-20 hours made to sound so virtuous on this site as opposed to full time? At what workable hour does a mom change from being good to bad? The 21st?

  31. Melinda says:

    If she’s experiencing depression, then she’s already layering the guilt on herself with a spatula. If she thinks daycare is a bad option, then getting a job and sending her child to daycare will just quadruple her guilt load, regardless of how good the daycare is. Depression is not a rational thing. Getting busy may not affect her depression much either.

  32. Wow! I heart meems?

    They love me! They really love me!

  33. Naismith says:

    Starfoxy, I hate to threadjack, but your question deserves at least a brief answer, although maybe the truth is just too internal to explain in words. The reasons I don’t let other folks opinions bother me too much include the following:

    1. I’ve recovered from some heavy-duty issues in my past, and part of what one learns to survive is to say something like, “Okay, that person had control over me in that situation. I am not going to give them one more minute of my life. Feeling bad is to let them keep control over my life, mentally if not physically this time, and I refuse. The rest of my life is mine.”

    2. I am a baby boomer and I think we are less materialistic. Few of us actually lived on a commune, but lots of us knew and respected people who did. And the John F. Kennedy speech about serving others and all. The idea of measuring value by money earned just seems ludicrous.

    3. I’ve been doing this mother thing long enough that I know I can’t make anyone else happy. No matter what I do, other people will criticize. So why waste effort in a lost cause?

    4. I’ve gotten away with doing things non-usually, and managed to nurture my children at a level with which I was comfortable, without abandoning my professional career. I haven’t held a full-time job since 1976, but I was awarded a prestigious fellowship for grad school (during which I was always home after school with my children) and have garnered awards and professional recognition despite working only part-time so that I can be home with my children after school and be a supportive wife and involved grandmother, etc. If I hadn’t been able to pull things off, I might not be so confident about Taking a Different Path, but it did work for me professionally.

    5. I’m also an Introvert and Intuitive on measurements of psychological type, which helps me to focus on the inner voice rather than the external hubbub.

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but I do get asked that question a fair bit.

  34. When my daughter was born, I quit working and stayed home with her for her first year. It was hard and I felt somewhat depressed. I decided to go back to graduate school when she turned one. My husband was in school too, so we were able to juggle our schedules around school and work. My second semester we ended up with some overlap time that we just couldn’t work around. We thought and prayed about it, and both suddenly thought of a family member who stayed home with her two small children while her husband was in business school. We were worried that she would be overwhelmed with kids, but she was enthusiastic about watching our daughter and we felt good about being able to provide their family with a little bit of extra income. It worked out pretty well for everyone, and my daughter loved it. She has a very outgoing personality. At that time, care worked out really well for us and it was a good option for all of us.

    Flash forward another year and a half to last fall. We had moved before I finished school and we had another baby last spring. I was trying to write my thesis and it just wasn’t happening. My husband was still in graduate school and working as well. I found an opening at a large day care center that was very close to my home and enrolled my daughter for a few mornings a week. She had just turned three. I’m really glad it only ended up being a temporary thing, because it just wasn’t a good fit. My daughter did OK, but I never felt very comfortable there. There were 20 kids and two teachers, and I didn’t feel like one of the teachers cared much about the kids much. I just didn’t like what I saw when I visited. I finished my thesis and we took my daughter out. But, she was really sad without school and I was going crazy home alone with her all day. So I found a different program that’s a part-time preschool and she goes two days a week. It’s a lot more affordable and I feel so much more comfortable with it. Some days I feel guilty when I come home and it’s just me and the baby hanging out, but the thing is, my daughter loves going there. If she didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it. It’s only about 7 hours out of our entire week and we both need the break.

    Anyways, I’m totally rambling here. Part of my point was going to be that there are different solutions for different families. I can understand her concerns about daycare when that means the kind of large center that I’ve had experience with. If you can find something that works well for your child and can be an enrichment for them, then it can be a positive thing for the whole family. I think it totally depends on the child and on the mother.

    I thought that going back to graduate school would help me feel more fulfilled and less depressed. In some ways it did and in some ways it didn’t. I loved my classes and I liked the positive experience of contributing, interacting with adults, etc. At the same time, it was exhausting to balance school and the needs of my family. Even though it was “just 15-20 hours a week”. It’s hard. And even if you get a good job, it won’t always be positive and happy every day. If you are already insecure about being away from your kid, that won’t help. To be honest, I don’t know what kinds of solutions you can offer your friend. If she is truly depressed, she needs general depression help (therapy, possibly meds, etc). I don’t know if you have the kind of relationship where you could say to her “you need help for your depression”. Just changing circumstances probably won’t lift the depression. If it’s just being home all day with a kid that’s getting her down, then maybe she can find some sort of playgroup, mom’s group, preschool exchange, or even an enrichment class for him (kids sports, swimming, etc.) that will give her a chance to take a break and interact with adults. Those kinds of things are out there and available in most communities. I’ve gone on for far too long, sorry :)

  35. I am a baby boomer and I think we are less materialistic. Few of us actually lived on a commune, but lots of us knew and respected people who did. And the John F. Kennedy speech about serving others and all. The idea of measuring value by money earned just seems ludicrous.

    Naismith, I think you mean you’re a hippie! I have known a lot of boomers and the non-hippie ones are just as materialistic as anyone. Peace, baby.

  36. I’m pretty sure that questions like “is working good for your mental health” depend on so many factors that it’s utterly hopeless making generalizations. My house is full of creative, self-directed introverts whose biggest concern about kids is that it takes about three years to get them to the point where they’ll let you be alone with a book (my sisters and I all spent a fair amount of time as toddlers in enclosed yards or a car parked in the shade, with Mom watching from a few feet away.) Not a single one of us feels happier working outside the home — we feel drained by those happy people who say “good morning” in a cheerful voice, and I, in particular, am very good at things which bore me to tears (for instance: spreadsheets, typing, filing, answering phones.) I won awards as a cashier for always getting “perfect” drawers at the end of every night, but after a few months I hated my life so much that I just up and quit.

    I might have issues with taking care of a child or children 18 hours a day, but it’s not something that, for me, a retail job would fix.

    (The daycare situation is sufficiently messed up, to my mind, that I’d look for almost any other solution first. My youngest siblings learned bad words, brought home really nasty germs, and became virtual strangers to the rest of us after a few years of 6am to 6pm daily care, and I mostly learned how to avoid the bewildering and unpleasant presence of other children during my years of before/after school care. But then, I also hated school and don’t want to put my hypothetical future children there, either, so. YMMV, obviously.)

  37. The problem is that so much more is expected of mothers today than was expected from our parents.

    My mother used to leave us kids in the car alone and run in for a couple groceries back in the 70s. ALONE!

    If a cop witnessed my mom do that today, she could be arrested.

    I used to disappear for hours at a time with my friends when I was in second grade. If today’s parents were to hear that your kid had been gone two hours and you didn’t know exactly where they were, they wonder why you weren’t calling the cops.

    Some of this represents better parenting. A lot of it simply represents how we’ve forced our neurotic feelings of self-inadequacy on all parents in society.

    Not only that, but while demanding superhuman efforts from our parents, we’ve locked them away in suburban isolation chambers where they don’t know their neighbors, and have absolutely no one to look to for support. Moms in the 60s used to gather together and chat on the front porch while the kids got lost for the afternoon. My grandmother had regular Bridge club meetings with other women. That stuff really doesn’t happen anymore.

    So while placing greater expectations on parents than ever before, we are at the same time, isolating them from all possible support groups. No wonder moms today are depressed.

    Thank God that we at least have the Church as a support network! Most American parents don’t even have that much.

    Faced with these problems, it’s no wonder that people are opting for less, or no, children.

    I got thinking about this whole situation during a thread over at Nine Moons on the shrinking family, here.

  38. Norbert says:

    This is Norbert’s wife. I usually don’t read this, and I have wondered who you all are, but he showed me this and I have something to say about it.

    Everybody has a different way of feeling about being home with children. There are lots of little things that might make it harder or easier. A mother should have as many choices as she can and try things to keep from burning out. That burnout is very dangerous and when it starts it is too late. So if someone wants to work some hours, why not? A church calling is maybe not the right thing for this. I love my calling, but I don’t feel more like myself because I do it. What somebody needs to do to feel like they are a strong person only that person can really say, I think.

    I stay at home, and I have felt the craziness coming. My husband worries about it very much, and ‘forces’ me to go out some nights, even to hotels overnight. I have started entering design competitions (that was my field before being married) and we work out the schedule every week so I can work on that. He is a teacher, so long holidays are very very good for me. We also get four hours per week child care very cheap from the city because we have twins. Plus I go to all the organizations now and meet other mothers. The Lutheran church has a nice club for all of us. This helps a lot.

    It makes me sad to see a mother feeling like I have felt and have people say she should not feel that way. Sorry my English is so bad.

  39. Your English is fabulous, Norbert’s wife, and thanks for your comment.

  40. A lot of it simply represents how we’ve forced our neurotic feelings of self-inadequacy on all parents in society.

    I. Hate. This. It’s also simply because our society isn’t as safe as it used to be, both for our children and for parents because of the charged and litigation-driven culture we live in.

  41. My wife and I have professional careers, and we’ve had to deal with this challenge head-on. In our experience, most day-care centers we looked into – and most of the ones we selected out and tried – were not very good. The better ones were still too institutional and impersonal.

    On the other hand, we found two centers that were excellent – one because of the personalities of hard-working caregivers, and the other because of a careful set of policies and procedures and a creative use of resources that really worked. But we had to look long and hard to find them.

    Individual, licensed care-givers were easier to evaluate, in my opinion – but our experience with several were inconsistant, as well.

    Fortunately, my wife and I have flexible schedules under our control, so we were able to juggle children when we felt the alternative care situation was inadequate and we had to look for another. I really feel for couples who are locked into schedules. I feel a bit differently about people who lock themselves into “roles”….

    My wife is a very good mother – and among her best traits are consistency, organization, a combination of flexibility in meeting parental challenges and firmness in parental principles, and an abiding clarity of feeling for her children. She has convinced me that it is possible for a woman to be a wonderful mother and have a complimentary life and ambitions – whatever they might be. So I think the overall problem has more to do with the attitudes, issues, alternatives, and solutions we accept or disapprove of – as a society.

  42. This has been an extraordinarily enlightening thread for me. Thank you for the post amri.

    A lot of husbands in households that have gone the traditional route of husband working and mother nurturing the children care deeply about how their wife is doing at home and about the happiness and sense of fulfilment that their wife is able to achieve in such work. If working a part-time job is the ticket to helping a wife who is feeling isolated, overwhelmed, or underappreciated to feel better about things, then it sounds like an avenue worth considering.

    Also, I find the comments by m&m, Naismith, Rosalynde and others to be very insightful. I don’t think that daycare would be bad for a child per se, but for me personally there would be some measure of anxiety associated with the idea of landing in a detrimental or even abusive one.

    If your friend is skeptical about daycare and convinced that it would be bad for her child, then it sounds like she has already considered and rejected that approach. But one of the best suggestions I’ve read on this thread is for you, amri, to offer your assistance to watch her child for a couple of hours a couple of times a week. That would give her the chance to get out and have some child-free time or even to do some kind of non-home-related work such as volunteer work.

  43. I don’t know if this has bearing on the discussion or not – but I just saw an article at that is titled “Internet Moms: Getting the Best of Both Worlds

    When I read the story of the mother in the post – it makes me think that she might be able to get some of the adult interaction/approval/business interaction she needs via the internet – in one way or another.

    That may or may not be a solution in this case. What do I know? No kids yet.

  44. Allison says:

    Amri, it’s good you’re concerned about your friend’s depression, but I’m not sure there’s going to be much you could personally do to cure it, other than just listening and talking to her, and helping out with child care when you get a chance to visit. I’d avoid trying to convince her to get a job if she’s already decided she doesn’t want to right now.

    In my experience, being a SAHM is much harder if you’re isolated. When I quit my 15-20 hour job, I didn’t miss it, but the isolation and the lack of structure were hard. It helped to have a routine and to try to leave the house every morning. It can also help to see adults regularly, even if it’s just some friends for lunch or a weekly playgroup or Early Childhood PTA.

    There are other things that make being a stay at home parent taxing — no matter how much I value my time with my kids, an awful lot of what parents do is more necessary than fulfilling. It’s easy to feel like your identity is being smothered in diapers and laundry. I really like Norbert’s wife’s suggestion for the mom to go places without kids, and do things she is good at and enjoys.

  45. Kristine says:

    Just an interesting factoid: in Tim Heaton and kristen Goodman’s research (published, among other places, in _Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives_, ed. Marie Cornwall et al., U Illinois Press, 1994) the largest statistical difference between Mormons and non-Mormons in a survey of attitudes about gender roles was a strong belief among Mormons that children would suffer if the mother of preschoolers was employed. Apparently, we are fairly typical here. Also, one paragraph from Heaton et al’s conclusions in the gender role section of the article is interesting:
    “Mormon women are especially likely to feel that homemaking is unappreciated, overwhelming, lonely, and poorly done. This could reflect greater demands of a larger family or cultural expectations regarding role performance. Overall, Mormon women persistently have the worst scores on boredom, appreciation, manageability, loneliness, and performance.”

  46. m&m

    While I do think that crime is up in society, I think the perception of our neighborhoods “not being safe” is a bit overblown.

    As far as litigiousness, I’m skeptical. I think it’s more of an imagined problem than a real one. Litigation rates per capita in America have remained fairly stable since the 1800s (except for divorces of course). I don’t think today’s society is any more sue-happy than any other period.

    As far as dangerous neighborhoods… I think it depends on where you live. But I think even this gets blown out of proportion by the 5 o’clock news. I am fairly certain that the culture of fear in America is far more detrimental to us than American child molesters.

  47. I asked my wife about this last night.

    At one point she had a 4 year old, 20 month old and a set of newborn twins,

    In a nutshell here is what she said…

    1. Go places
    2. get a new hobby
    3. Make the bed and make sure you shower dress and put on makeup
    4. Find friends
    5. Find non-member friends who are SAHM. The non member SAHM friends will not view you thru a pressure filled LDS prism. You will also feel less pressure cause the non member friends will not think you are being a slacker in a variety of ways that only other LDS people could possibly come up with.
    6. Work out a lot
    7. Get unlimited long distance and call your lifelong friends
    8. Make sure you get lots of intimate time on a regular basis with hubby.
    9. And finally buck up. You current situation will change eventually.

    I want to echo Seth above. Crime rates have fallen quite a bit since the 1980’s. I am hearing a lot of unjustified fears about kids out playing and getting kidnapped or molested. These types of cases are rare. Crimes against children are almost always committed by friends or family.

    Us parents need to relax the fears a bit. I almost feel like some in society want kids to where a suit of armor, be fitted with a GPS, and be protected with a armed guard 24-7

  48. There are many, Many things that one can do to alleviate depression and loneliness that are more effective than a part-time job. Some of these you can do with a child around, some you need to make arrangements, whether it be trading with a friend, dovetailing schedules with a spouse, or daycare.

    Get involved in a hobby–painting, scrapbooking, writing, etc.

    Meet people with similar interests–whether it be online, or in the community

    Take your child on many field trips, doing things you enjoy–museums, splash park, concerts, etc.

    Take a class at the local university

    Start a book group, play group, etc.

    Volunteer at a school or civic organization

    The key is finding something interesting and stimulating for you. Although a part-time job has the potential to do this, it certainly is not the most effective way! There are many advantages to finding activities which have flexibility so you can concentrate on the needs of your child. Some weeks they will need you more than others.

  49. I asked my wife about this last night. Here is what she said. She at one point had a 4 year old, 20 month old and a set of newborn twins at home. All of my sister-in laws are also SAHM and below this is how they handle it.

    1. Shower, dress and put on makeup. Being slobby is not going to help your mental state
    2. get other SAHM friends including non LDS SAHM friends. The non LDS SAHM friends will be guilt free friends who will not see you thru a pressure filled LDS SAHM prism. You will be able to relax a bit in their presence
    3. have lots of sex with hubby
    4. Make the bed in the morning
    5. Clean the house. Do not have a messy house it will kill you mentally
    6. Work out. Get a jogging stroller and go every day
    7. Get unlimited long distance and call lifelong friends regularly
    8. Do not use food to help you feel better. Getting fat will not help you feel better
    9. Date night on the weekend
    10. New hobbies
    11. Buck up
    12. Make your husband cook, clean, laundry, dishes etc. at night Never go to bed with a messy house. Its a horrible feeling to wake up to a mess

    I largely agree with Seth’s take above. Parents need to chill a bit. Stranger crime against children is really quite rare. I would look out for coaches, babysitters, cousins etc rather then random perves in old Buicks

  50. I believe you, bbell, that these are your wife’s suggestions. But somehow, I wish she had commented herself. I don’t know why, but it makes me MORE depressed to hear a man tell me that the way to cure my depression is to have lots of sex with my hubby, don’t get fat, don’t look slobby, and clean the house. These are all probably good ideas, but they seem kind of self-serving from the husband’s point of view.

  51. I used to think that women were made to be SAHMs and that it would be fulfilling, if they loved their children and were righteous. Then I got older and now believe that every woman who makes the huge sacrifice to stay at home with children should have a million outs in order to deal with it. I believe that many SAHM tasks are boring, mindless, depressing (not always but generally) so the couple should build in as many possible ways to alleviate stress or depression that it can lead to. Staying home with your kids is great but if it crushes the woman that seems just as or more damaging than putting the kid in a bad daycare all the time.
    Same goes for you SAHDs out there. I never mean to leave you out. It must be harder for you because even if there are other SAHMs around they probably don’t like to hang out with the dads too much, which is unfortunate.

  52. A few more…

    She does not allow me to leave the house to work until she has showered and got ready for the day.

    She says the husbands attitude towards housework really matters. A helper husband who can cook clean laundry and handle the kids with no issues when she is out really helps.

    She says baysitter husbands are a big no no. Defined as a husband who watches the kids when the wife is gone with a remote in his hand and the kids wreck the place. No progress on bed time, baths, laundry, clean up etc.

    Lots of time away from the kids. Church callings, girls night out, shopping alone etc.

  53. “buck up” is quite possibly the worst advice i’ve ever heard. ever.

  54. I wish that were the worst advice I’ve ever heard.

  55. perves in old Buicks?

    Buck up?

    Dude, your wife did not say that!

  56. She did in fact say “buck up” along with the other 15 or so items. Staying strong and working thru the hard times is for sure part of a good coping strategy. She would know she had 4 kids in 4 years including a multiple birth of two preemie twins at 2lbs and 3 lbs at 29-30 weeks.

    The “perves in old Buicks” was me commenting about the fear in the US of stranger child abusers. The fear is overblown

  57. Amri, I just read your opening post and haven’t even read the comments but I just have to say that listening to someone wax poetic about the rewards and stimulation and joy that oozes out of every fiber of working America is kind of like listening to a 13 year old boy wax poetic about how cool it is going to be when he has to shave every day.

  58. Melinda says:

    I don’t think bbell’s list would help someone who is already depressed. Those items take a lot of energy and ambition. When I had depression, I’d make lists like that too. Then I’d stare at them and cry. Maybe if we were talking about depression prevention that list would be useful.

    Quitting my job helped my depression. Getting away from a high-pressure environment at least gave me the time to unwind and figure out the issues underlying my depression. Just getting more busy may distract her for a while, but if it’s real depression and not just a blue mood, then the distraction will eventually wear out and the depression will break through again. It’s like getting a makeover to make yourself feel beautiful. Eventually you have to wash your face and all that beautiful comes off.

  59. Veritas says:

    That list looks like exactly the thing that creates that guilt-inducing pressure that mormon women suffer from. You will only be happy if you wear makeup everyday, your house is clean, you work out, aren’t fat, and have a great sex life. I mean, duh, I think every woman wants her life to be that. But isn’t the point that you get bored, deppressed, and often overwhelmed? Has is adding tasks to the day going to make someone less overwhelmed? How is telling a woman unfufilled wither life as a SAHM that if she would be happy if she were just, you know, skinny and cute and sexy every day, going to help her? yeesh.

  60. Veritas: Well, exactly.

  61. It’s not really problematic to state that a person will likely be happier in a clean house. Like you said, “no duh.”

    What’s problematic is the reaction that some people have to this statement:

    “WHAT?!!! Like, you expect me to keep this house clean? What are you thinking, how am I supposed to do that?!!! I’m overworked! I’m unsupported! I’m chronically depressed! And I’ve got migraines! Impossible! Horrors! I can’t handle the pressure you’re putting on me! AAAUGH!!!!”

    Well… gee…

    It was just an observation…

    Didn’t mean to ruin your life. Hope you feel better soon.

  62. #46–This is a woman who has never been depressed. One who has never forced herself out of bed in the morning because she knows she must care for her child. One who, if she didn’t have that child would pull the covers over her head and cry the rest of the day. One who makes a valiant effort to nurse the baby, feed the toddlers, and clean the toilet just enough so her family will not get a disease.

    Have lots of sex??? After nursing a baby all day long and having toddlers pull on her and lay all over her? And knowing she will be up again in 2 hours with a crying child?

    Make the bed? When it will stay that way for 2 minutes until the kids use it for a trampoline?

    Put on makeup? When it will drip down the face as she cries and cries?

    Work out? Does summoning up the energy to walk up the stairs with a full basket of laundry count?

    Date night on the weekend? Not if it equals hubby taking you to a movie where he doesn’t talk to you, and you fall asleep because you’re so tired, and then you come home to a big mess that the babysitter left and crying children who have not been bathed.

    Buck up, ladies, Buck up.

  63. 59
    If she is that depressed, she might need some professional or medicinal help, no? Depression is such a word that has way too many faces to make any kinds of generalizations. And each person can only know for herself what will ultimately work. There is no one cure-all for a depressed person, SAHM or otherwise.

    Amri, hasn’t anyone ever talked to you about the positives of being a parent? It’s not all mindless, boring, tedious work. Really. Housework is often, yes, but not parenthood. There are so many plusses that really help make the sacrifice worth it. And for me at least, they have become more plentiful as my children have moved past the irrational baby/toddler stage.

  64. Julie M. Smith says:

    I did a post on PPD awhile back; it may not be entirely germane to this post but I mention it because of the contrast between my list of ways to cope and bbell’s.

  65. Starfoxy says:

    Seth, the point isn’t that we’re offended at the idea that cleaing our houses will help us feel less depressed. We all know that being surrounded by mess and filth isn’t good for us at all.

    Saying “well if you just cleaned your house you’d feel better about yourself” to a depressed woman is very much like saying to a failing student “well if you just got perfect scores on your tests then you wouldn’t be failing.” They know perfectly well that the bad test scores or dirty dishes are cramping their style and telling them that is patronizing and unhelpful. The student would be getting perfect scores on their tests if they knew how, and the depressed mother would be cleaning her house if she knew how to make herself do it.

    That’s depression; it takes a practically herculean effort to do the simplest things, and the advice a person in depression needs is advice on reducing the effort required to get started or keep going. If you can’t understand that then you should feel lucky that depression is such a mystery to you.

  66. Seth,
    When I talk of the problem of litigation, I think parents are more at risk than they used to be. If something goes wrong on your watch, and you are doing anything remotely out of line (like turning your back for a moment), you could be prosecuted to “send a message to other parents.”

  67. m&m: Please back that up with a citation to a conviction or prosecution, cuz I think you’re overstating things in a big way. No need to add imaginary burdens to the already depressed.

  68. Look, I know Starfoxy.

    I had just a mild case of depression once or twice before, and that was bad enough.

  69. MCQ,
    I’m sharing what burdens ME but my intention is not to burden someone else. Sorry for saying anything. Maybe it is more perception than reality. I dunno.

  70. In my personal experience, it was the 61st hour of work that made me a bad mother (seriously). Prior to that, things go pretty well. Of course I am not able to control my children’s lives to the same extent that some of the other mothers in my community control theirs, and my children have to be more independent.

    One thing I’ve noticed in talking to and observing other working and non-working moms: it is a rare family indeed that can make all of this work by just juggling and not having any formal child care. I’m not sure it is always the answer for the parents not to have any time together, for everyone to be stressed out all of the time, for every day to have a moment when things may or may not come together, and to always have someone whose work is “lesser” than the other.

    I really think we’ve been better parents when we were better spouses.

  71. I stayed home against my will 20 years ago this summer–because of President Benson’s To Mothers in Zion talk. It made me angry and crazy and resentful, since I had planned since I was 13 to get a master’s degree and work outside the home. I quit my job, had a baby, and graduated from college (in that order) within three weeks). Then I went home “to be miserable.” I had a serious transition learning to love being home.

    To me, this is about the kids–not about the parents or their feelings or their mental health. The prophets have been pretty explicit about what we should do for our children. And we should follow that counsel. It’s our job to figure out how to follow prophetic counsel with regard to our children, not their job to deal with the fact that we won’t do it because it makes us “stir-crazy” or depressed or uncomfortable or unfulfilled. If any of the latter are true, it’s our responsibility–as the adult–to figure out how to alleviate the craziness or depression or discomfort–in a way that still follows the counsel we are given and still provides for our children as God counseled.

    As others have said so well, there are innumerable ways to approach this. What I don’t understand is the idea that we can simply discard counsel if it isn’t relatively easy or a natural fit. “Well, it’s fine for YOU, but *I* NEED to work to maintain my sanity.”

    The assumption that women who stay home and remain sane, must be of an utterly different breed is erroneous. Some of them just work (no pun intended) really hard to find a way to do it.

    amri: I believe it is boring, mindless, depressing…

    Amri, I nearly choked on my Fresca. Why in the world would you make such a judgment of motherhood without any experience as a mother? I can’t imagine making a similar judgment about ANY job that I hadn’t held, no matter how meaningless. But to describe the job of helping to bring human souls back to God in this way is stunning.

  72. Allison:

    If you told my wife that her bad feelings about taking care of children all day without an end in sight were because she wasn’t working hard enough, or the exploration of options was a betrayal of her faith and she needed to suck it up and sort it out, I would poke you in the eye. OK, not really, but I would really want to.

    It’s our job to figure out how to follow prophetic counsel with regard to our children, not their job to deal with the fact that we won’t do it because it makes us “stir-crazy” or depressed or uncomfortable or unfulfilled.

    To see ‘stir-crazy,’ ‘depressed,’ ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘unfulfilled’ as synonymous is an insulting oversimplification.

    My own mother should have worked outside the home. Her depression made our home a difficult place to be a child. When she did start her own business, Which required her to place my little brother in child care from time to time, things got much, much better.

  73. Sorry, Alison, that I mispelled your name.

    I should also add that my amazing wife (whose English is stellar, btw) is in great shape. Her ‘bad feelings’ were hypothetical.

  74. I wanted to respond to bbell’s wife’s list (or bbell’s concerns internalized by his wife?) via Julie Smith’s post-partum depression article (which I highly recommend!):

    A note to husbands and others who might be in a position to help…(1) do what you can to give mother time away from the baby and (2) do whatever you can to minimize instead of adding to feelings of guilt. You might find it hard to believe that someone home all day couldn’t find time to make the bed. If you have ever been home all day with small child(ren), you know that getting the bed made can sometimes fall somewhere between writing a dissertation and converting the pope on the scale of difficulty.

    Julie’s post addresses severe depression in ways that aren’t touched on here. I don’t see any serious attempt in the conversation here to distinguish between different kinds of depression–(PPD, clinical, ‘milder’ forms, etc.).

  75. Alison:

    I really don’t know what to say to you. Your narrow point of view seems to me to fail to take into account the legitimate and obvious differences between individuals.

    Let me ask you this question: are you following the precise counsel of the bretheren on every single point that they have spoken about? Because if not, you’re a real hypocrite.

    You need to understand that counsel is just that: counsel. It is a “best practice.” We all would love to be in a situation where one parent would be fulfilled, happy and secure, financially and otherwise, in staying home full time with children. Unfortunately, that is just not the world that some people live in, for a myriad of reasons. Telling them that they should just do it anyway is the height of arrogance. Please, wake up. Your way of “helping to bring human souls back to God” is not the only way.

  76. I don’t think working or not working is the answer to depression. Of course she should be evaluated by her health care provider first. But any human being needs some activity that feeds your soul and hey, if you can do that and get paid, more power to ya. Most people will find something, often creative,writing/painting/gardening/playing the flute etc and it fills some part of who they really are. It is easy to not find time/money for it, but you absolutely must find a way to encourage your soul to bloom. Otherwise, you will find yourself being whittled away by the daily mechanics of just life.

  77. I think it’s just as simplistic to expect depression to simply “go away” via getting a job as it is to expect it to leave via cleaning your house.

    The job isn’t a solution anyway, because you’ve still got the kids to deal with after work.

  78. To me, this is about the kids–not about the parents or their feelings or their mental health.

    I think this is such an important point. Of course, sometimes mental health will be a consideration about what is best for the kids, but I think too often our culture looks for the satisfaction of the parents FIRST.

    MCQ, it’s not hypocritical to underscore what the prophets teach. I think you need to at least consider what she is saying in principle…that she has learned to love being a mom (probably not every second, but I can tell she does and is a good one) and that only came in her taking a huge leap of faith. That should be acknowledged and respected, not criticized. Of course there is room for receiving inspiration in personal situations, and the counsel she upholds recognizes that not all situations are created equal. But considering that counsel won’t always be comfortable or easy is an important point, an important one to consider in questions like this.

  79. Jo: Amen. That’s good advice for everyone.

    Seth: Of course you still have the kids after work. And thank goodness! The point isn’t to make the kids go away, it’s to carve out some time for the stay at home Mom or Dad to do something different. Not better, and not all the time. Just different, for a while. If that ends up being a job, then great, IMO.

    m&m: Why is it I feel I know what you’re going to say before you even say it? And why is it you always seem to be arguing agaist straw men?

    For example: Of course it’s not hypocritical to underscore what the prophets teach, but then that’s not what I said, was it? I am not criticizing her choice. I accept it and applaud it. what makes her a hypocrite is that she fails to extend that same courtesy to others, and quotes the prophets as her justification. Unless your own choices match up exactly with the counsel of the prophets on every point, that is a hypocritical stance.

    Of course there is room for receiving inspiration in personal situations, and the counsel she upholds recognizes that not all situations are created equal.

    Nothing Alison said allows for this. I’m glad to hear that you do.

  80. makakona says:

    i think i agree with almost everything m&m, naismith, rosalynde, and alison have said. (alison, did you just win some scrapbooking stuff? i think i saw that elsewhere.) amri, i think your friend is right: “you just don’t understand.” you seem woefully unequipped to help her or to even understand what is “wrong” with her. i wish you lived in closer proximity to her, at least!

    i have, in the past, felt a bit stir crazy. the last thing in the world that would have helped was a job. and there was never a chance in hell that my kids were going into daycare. that said, i think i’ve built up a lot of resources from those past days of craziness. girls’ nights out/in (even if i have to take my kids along and have them sleep in another room), adult ed rec classes while my husband was home with them for an hour or two (foreign language, music, cooking, whatever), co-op preschool with trusted friends where we traded teaching days so that we could have alone time a few hours a week, playgroups where the kids could entertain each other under our supervision while we gabbed, the internet, and so on.

    i have to defend bbell, i guess… i could have come up with that list. is it ideal or always practical? nope. but after having dealt with depression for a long time, everything on his list is something that helps trudge me out of a funk, even if i resent doing it. it’s hard to feel great when you’re buried under the covers and refusing to leave the house. take a shower, actually get dressed, do some dishes, get outside, and the funk just HAS to wear off. take baby steps, for sure, but if i’m sticking to my version of that list, it’s hard for me to feel too blue. it has nothing to do with any imposed ideas of perfection and everything to do with leading a healthier life.

  81. I’ve just got to chime in a few thoughts on this subject.
    1. Life is supposed to be challenging. If it were easy and everybody was happy and blowing sunshine at us, there would be no personal growth. That’s how we grow, by approaching those challenges and figuring out what the Lord wants us to learn. He knows what will bring us the required experience in order for us to prepare for Eternal Life.

    2. Judging whether daycare is good or bad for a kid based on whether or not they like it is like asking me if I would like to eat chocolate for breakfast . . . Of course I would! Sign me up! I love chocolate, but that doesn’t make it good for me. When looking at the “empirical” evidence supporting or knocking daycare, one should always remember the Lord knows best. The opinions of the “experts” continually change based on the evidence presented from the most current “study”. Besides, do the “experts” have our eternal benefit in mind when designing or carrying out their study? Come to think of it, who could be more expert on joy and happiness than our Father in Heaven?

    What works for one, obviously will not work for all, but some serious self reflection could yield a lot of insight. Situational depression is a difficult challenge. I’ve been to the depths of despair. What was I thinking about most while hanging out in my depressed state? Myself. I’m not making a snap judgment on your friend or anyone with depression. All I know is that I was too concerned with myself while I was depressed and not enough about others . . . let alone my relationship with the Lord.

    There are fewer and fewer “traditional” families these days. Satan has had his way with our society. The pressures of modern America convince many that they need this or that to be happy, when in truth some of the most destitute people living with next to nothing are the happiest people on earth.

    Anyway . . . I’ll exit my soapbox stage left.

  82. Wait, wait. So you’re telling me that because life is hard David that I should let it be that way just because it’s supposed to be hard so I can learn from it? I’m not supposed to look for ways to help myself or make myself happier because it’s part of the plan to help me learn? That’s unacceptable to me.
    Depression is not just selfishness. I am sorry that your experience has felt that way but my friend and any other SAHM that feels depressed is not selfishness.
    Also, implying that a woman being out of the home for 20 hours a week is one of the ways that Satan is ruining “traditional” families doesn’t make any sense to me. First of all, I’m saying she would still be predominantly in the home, still traditional. Secondly, that means that Satan has a hold? Wha? Satan? Seriously. If Satan has a hold on families, it’s through abuse, desertion, disloyalty. They are problems that sometimes surround people in poverty that you claim are so happy.
    Call me Satan, but I just cannot agree with any of this.

  83. David: I think you are Satan.

  84. Getting a part-time job is exactly what some mothers need, but it wouldn’t fit the bill for all depressed mothers, even the ones who have historically enjoyed working and agree that they could use a break from their kid(s). Just as some women *need* to work, some women *need* to be at home. I am one of those women. Don’t get me wrong. My kids drive me nuts, and I enjoy being away from them on a regular basis, but when I’m away from them too much (about 10-15 hours total this week, due to various non-work obligations), it feels weird. I don’t feel guilty. I just don’t feel on top of my game. I have been a depressed mother. I have also been a depressed worker. I’ve also been a happy mother and a happy worker, so I know it isn’t about striking a balance between work and home so much as making peace with what I’m doing when I’m doing it. Perhaps your friend has some screwy ideas about day care, but even so, if having her son in day care is something she doesn’t want, getting a job is not the thing that will make her happy.

    It’s a rather condescending thing to say, but it’s unfortunately true that people without children don’t understand what it’s like to have children. At the same time, however, people with their own children don’t understand what it’s like to have other people’s children. That’ll be a good thing to remember when you do have kids. Help you it will.

  85. . . . I’m not supposed to look for ways to help myself or make myself happier because it’s part of the plan to help me learn?

    Not quite what I was saying. Now, I’m going to risk being called hypocritical by MCQ for quoting an Apostle, but this is why I made the comment about challenges.

    To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.

    This was a talk given by Elder Scott in the October 1995 General Conference. The entire talk centers around difficulty, trials, etc, (a very good read!). I never said trying to make oneself happier is wrong, but trying to do so should be done while striving to follow the Lord’s counsel, as your friend is doing.

    Depression is not just selfishness. I am sorry that your experience has felt that way but my friend and any other SAHM that feels depressed is not selfishness.

    I never stated causality for depression . . . I was simply observing a correlation. There are so many different factors that contribute to depression. Many people, not all, suffering from depression brought on by psychosocial stressors, when coupled with the appropriate support and guidance, can lift themselves out of depression. I do take exception to your statement about “any other SAHM”. There is no way you can make a blanket statement like that . . . well I guess you can, but I think it’s both irresponsible and naive.

    Also, implying that a woman being out of the home for 20 hours a week is one of the ways that Satan is ruining “traditional” families doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I’m going to risk being called a hypocrite again and refer to the Proclamation.

    By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

    Now I know not every situation fits the mold. I know there are many deadbeat fathers out there who are either lazy, irresponsible, or have flat out left their families. My heart aches for those righteous sisters who struggle to nurture and provide for their children. In no way am I diminishing their situation.

    . . . that means that Satan has a hold? Wha? Satan? Seriously. If Satan has a hold on families, it’s through abuse, desertion, disloyalty. They are problems that sometimes surround people in poverty that you claim are so happy.
    Call me Satan, but I just cannot agree with any of this.

    He most certainly has had an influence on our society. If you were trying to destroy the basic unit of eternity, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have it nearly financially impossible to support a family on one income? To narrowly limit satan’s influence on the family to abuse, desertion, disloyalty, (which I happen to agree that he does use those tools), is again, somewhat naive.

    Hope this helps clarify my first post.

  86. David: I’m not going to call you a hypocrite, and wouldn’t do so for quoting anyone, but the material you quote simply doesn’t mean what you say. The proclamation does not stand for the proposition that mothers cannot work outside the home, especially part time: Mothers are


    responsible for the nurture of their children.

    Primarily is a qualifyier. In addition, nurture does not equal provide for your children’s emotional needs every waking moment. If mothers are primarily responsible, then it’s ok for them to delegate their responsibility to fathers on occasion, or to a neighbor, or to a grandparent, sister or friend, and go somewhere else for a few hours each day or each week, even to a job, if that’s what they want.

  87. MCQ: I apologize if I’ve given the impression that a mother should be chained to her children during every moment of every day. This was not my intention. I do, however stand firm that it is the Lord’s counsel that when the husband is able to financially support the family, the wife should not work outside the home. I say outside the home because I have nothing but respect for the work mothers do inside the home. There is no earthly reward for what mothers do.

    In his address to the Relief Society during the October 1981 conference, President Benson stated,

    It is a fundamental truth that the responsibilities of motherhood cannot be successfully delegated. No, not to day-care centers, not to schools, not to nurseries, not to babysitters.

    We should all develop our talents etc. Everyone needs “me” time. However, this should not be done at the expense of the children/family. Call me archaic, but I just find too much literature from the Brethren guiding mothers to refrain from working outside the home where at all possible.

  88. David: Please note that that quote is over 25 years old. Note also that it doesn’t say how long that counsel holds true. Until the children are what age? five? ten? fifteen? twenty-five? There are a lot of “day-care” options not mentioned by the prophet in that quote: e.g. can the responsibilities of motherhood be successfully delegated to fathers? If not, there are a lot of single fathers in desperate trouble. Do other parents use schools, nurseries and babysitters on occasion? Universally. Are they under condemnation? Certainly not. Are the families whose successful children were raised by their loving parents who both worked full-time just kidding themselves? No. There are many examples of parents who have both worked part time or full time who have been very successful.

    I’m going to say it again: the prophet’s counsel is good counsel, but it’s just counsel, not a commandment, and it doesn’t work in every situation. Please don’t pretend otherwise.

  89. Naismith says:

    This was not my intention. I do, however stand firm that it is the Lord’s counsel that when the husband is able to financially support the family, the wife should not work outside the home.

    So now it is the LORD who has said this? And it is a matter of a WIFE and not a mother?

    Wow, if it comes from the Lord, that means it applies to women all over the world. In which case, at least one general conference talk in the time I’ve been a member might have said that. I do not recall a single conference talk about wives not working outside the home.

    Instead, they tend to focus on the positives, of how we should teach our children, care for their needs, protect them, be there at the crossroads, etc.

    In the April 2001 Young Women meeting, President Hinckley told the young women of the church, “I was in the hospital the other day for a few hours. I became acquainted with my very cheerful and expert nurse. She is the kind of woman of whom you girls could dream. When she was young she decided she wished to be a nurse. She received the necessary education to qualify for the highest rank in the field. She worked at her vocation and became expert at it. She decided she wanted to serve a mission and did so. She married. She has three children. She works now as little or as much as she wishes. There is such a demand for people with her skills that she can do almost anything she pleases. She serves in the Church. She has a good marriage. She has a good life. She is the kind of woman of whom you might dream as you look to the future.”

    So the prophet of the church was holding up an employed mother as an example for the young women of the church to follow.

    I think our church leaders understand the reality that in this day and age, with options for telecommuting and flextime, it is entirely possible to be a fulltime mother and also pursue a career. My children were never in daycare on a regular basis despite my paid job.

    Not to mention that in other countries, children start school at different ages than in the US. One country I lived in, it was age 3. So the season of being home with preschoolers is very short.

  90. I guess we view the Prophet’s counsel a little differently.

  91. Thank you Naismith, that is an excellent quote that I have never heard before.

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