You Said It: If It’s Not My Kid, It’s Not My Business

ParentsCanada national survey finds that 78 percent of parents believe mothers should choose for themselves whether to stay-at-home with young children or work outside the home.

Canadian parents respect a mother’s right to choose what’s best for her and her family when it comes to career, according to a survey of over 1,600 parents in our ParentsCanada focus group. The group, all active parents with young and/or school-aged children, represents a cross-section of parents from every province who currently stay-at-home, work part-time or full-time. While the group includes all education levels, 68 percent hold college or university degrees.

“Mothers should do whatever they need to do to help support the family and their own mental health!’ wrote one mom. Some acknowledged that not all women have the temperament to be home with small children all day. Others had career concerns about staying viable if they stepped away from the work force too long or just loved their work. A teacher from Ontario said, “I missed the students when I was off so much. I felt like I was missing a part of me.’

Many parents who had to work for financial reasons felt cheated out of having a choice and expressed a desire for more options. Several felt that parents should be given the financial support to stay-at-home until their children were in school full-time or at least have maternity leave extended for the first 18 months to two years. Others suggested greater tax breaks or credits for stay-at-home parents.

“Our Canadian unemployment system makes it impossible for moms who really want to stay-at-home,’ wrote one angry mother. “No money!’

While 80 percent of parents thought professional daycare was a good option for children over one and under five, that approval rating dropped to 30 percent when applied to children under one, perhaps reflecting that 49 percent of parents in our focus group stayed-at-home for their child’s first year. Also, the scarcity and cost of affordable daycare for children under 18 months, especially in smaller communities, were recurrent complaints affecting moms anxious to return to jobs.

A small percentage didn’t approve of moms working at all. One parent responded that none of our suggested reasons were valid for a mom returning to work since, “sacrifice is necessary for the purpose of raising our children.’ Another pointed out that the primary caregiver, whether mother or father, should only work two days a week maximum. One mother wrote, “You had a child. You are the parent and should be the one to raise, teach and nurture the child.’ Another simply said, “Babies should be with their mommies!’

Many parents polled were creative in their own choices, often working part-time or from home, or finding jobs where they could take their kids to work.

While our survey results suggest a healthy attitude in general towards a diversity of women’s choices, it’s clear that real choice is only reserved for the financially privileged. It’s also clear that many Canadian parents want more support in finding solutions to the parenting/work dilemma. PC

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