January 10, 2003
Making the decision to stay home with your kids or join the workforce can be a difficult process. There is no right answer. Dr. Phil encourages each woman to make the choice that brings her closest to fulfilling her hopes and dreams.
“It is damaging for parents to be away for more than a few hours a day,” says Heidi Brennan, a stay-at-home mom, public policy advisor, and member of the Board of Directors for the Family and Home Network. “Research has demonstrated that the early relationship between infants and preschoolers is the foundation of all subsequent personality development.”
“There is really no evidence to support that statement,” Dr. Phil argues. “Children who are in quality day care have increases in cognitive skills, intellect, social skills and social comfort,” he says.
Heidi is unfazed by Dr. Phil’s comment. “Children do not do well with large separations of time,” she says.
Joan K. Peters, a working mother and author of When Mothers Work, points to another issue. “One of the aspects of mothering that’s terribly important is making sure that you can provide for your children financially,” she says. She notes that many women work to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances like a husband’s unemployment, a divorce, or illness.
Responding to stay-at-home moms who boast that they have never missed a milestone in their children’s lives, Peters says: “If you don’t see the first step, you’ll see the second and the third. Nobody wants to be working 10 hours a day and missing your family life. The real problem is making sure that we have family friendly workplaces.”
In support of mothers who choose to work, Dr. Phil says that many women hope to be a parent and pursue a career and they often become depressed when they are stuck solely in a parenting capacity. “If the child is mothered by a parent who is feeling frustrated, and depressed and empty, that is not a good thing,” he says.
“No it’s not,” says Brennan who thinks that there are enormous stereotypes about mothers. “Mothers who are at home are not 50s throwbacks,” she says. “We tend to portray at-home mothers as unmotivated, depressed, uneducated and all wealthy. It’s not true.”
“You can nurture your child and still work,” says Sonja, a mom who also works full-time.
After listening to the discussion, Kasey, who is torn between a job she loves and the children she adores, says, “My husband and I have sat down and said, ‘What do we want our kids to remember and tell their kids about us?'” Turning to her mom who accompanied her to the show, Kasey says, “I get to say that I got to watch my mom get her doctoral degree, and I got to say, ‘I’m so proud of you for what you’ve done.'”