I listened to an interview on a local radio station this morning. It was with Reverend Rolf Preus of Mayville, North Dakota who unleashed a real Hornets’ Nest last week (November 17) with his letter to the editor in the FORUM. Ever since that day, enraged letter writers have written in, attacking Rev. Preus for a lot of things…even things he did not say. The topic of the Preus letter was daycare centers and he took a firm stand on the side of parents taking care of their own children when they are young , thus giving up the second job that most young parents insist they cannot live without. I could identify with Preus’s view; I am forever grateful that as a young mother in the mid 1960′s all the way to 1980 when I took a job as a teacher/librarian, I stayed at home and was a full- time caregiver to my 3 sons and a full- time homemaker….a "career" I thought was highly honorable and worth everything I put into it. This was not all that uncommon in that era of child rearing; there were many other families who did it this way…Mom taking charge of things in the home and Dad providing the income needed to maintain the family.
We had to do without a lot of things that young couples nowadays would not do without. We lived in a very small, old farmhouse for almost a decade and before that we had lived in 2 rented homes and school apartments while my husband was a graduate student. We had a very small income that did not allow us to buy new cars or other vehicles. I did not buy many clothes for myself but got along on just what I needed; not working outside of the home, my needs for clothing were very minimal. We clothed our children with reasonable sale clothing from Sears and Wards sale catalogs. My husband had a small wardrobe that his job required. We did not "eat out" hardly ever; I cooked meals at home mostly "from scratch". In the spring, summer and fall, I was a busy gardener raising vegetables and fruits that I could freeze or can for winter use, saving us a lot of money at the grocery store. We lived on a farm and once during a year when we raised cattle for a brother, we even had a milk cow that kept us in cream and milk. I was not all that happy with our small, old house… but we "made do" with two bedrooms for many years….the 3 boys in one and my husband and I in the other. We had to make some closet space because that old house did not have ANY closets and our neighbors (from our parents’generation) explained why there were no closets: people in the age the home was built had 2 sets of clothing….one for work and one for church. No need for closets—just hooks on the walls here and there! We lived this way for about 20 years and did not miss the luxuries we gave up in order for me to stay home with our children. We were still able to take a summer vacation on one salary…they were simple and not expensive although I do remember traveling to Arizona and California once. We lived simply and were very happy. Our activities and recreation centered on our children and our parents and siblings and close friends….mostly we visited each other and shared meals or evening coffee times. We did not go to movies or concerts that cost a bundle. Our sons did not take part in any sports or activities other than what they got in school.
How times have changed, as Rev Preus’s letter pointed out. Now, young parents or single parents (another huge cultural change that did not exist all that much in decades past) seem unable to function without two jobs necessitating a need for day care for the children they have. If, as happened lately on more than one occasion, a daycare suddenly closes with no advance warning, the parents are in a panic and cannot go to their job.. it is a major crisis since most of this generation of young marrieds with children are "living on the edge"….they cannot miss a paycheck nor do they have savings stashed away. Many are slaves to credit card debt. It is an entirely different way of life from a short time ago (two or three decades).
Another factor that has changed in our culture is the notion that a woman MUST have a career other than being a stay-at-home mother or she feels like her life is pretty worthless. The idea that raising your own children is somehow demeaning and that you ought to be working outside of your home is a new idea that grew up in the decades of the later 60′s and on into , the present decades of the 2000′s. The change of having many more single parents due to divorce or separatation or abandonment is another major cultural change from decades back. I know full well that there are many single moms and even single dads raising children alone due to the factors I previously mentioned and these parents definitely NEED somebody else to help with caring for children who are too young to go to school or young children who are already in school. This is daycare necessity and reality for single parents.
I guess where I agree with Rev. Preus is the on the premise that many two-parent families with children are not satisfied to sacrifice or just "get by" on one salary because their "wants" have become their "needs". The want for a huge home that many of them cannot afford, the want of new vehicles—usually multiple vehicles…..their want for expensive recreation (campers, boats, big vacations more than once a year at expensive resorts or tropical settings) and their want to enroll their children in expensive lessons, sports teams other than school teams, and other expensive recreational "needs" for themselves and their children. Easy credit at banks and the explosion of credit card use made it easy for young parents to get themselves in far over their heads so they are spending more each month than they take in, even with two jobs. The high cost of daycare is also a huge expense. The need for clothing for their two careers and the want for clothing for their kids that is considered "cool" at school is terribly expensive. Because both parents are working, both are often too tired out to cook an evening meal or after-school or evening activities keep them from eating with their children at home—–going out to eat constantly with a 4-5-6- people in a family is a tremendous monthly expense even if you live on fast food. Families get to spend very little time together as a family because the "wants" have taken over their lives.
The letter writers who blasted Rev. Preus have taken his opinions and thoughts very personally and are probably feeling guilty about letting day care providers raise their children. This morning in the interview I heard with Preus, he said, as a pastor, he has had a great deal to do with people who are weighed down with guilt feelings, many of them related to the two-job family and the lack of being able to stay home with young children as the primary care givers to their own offspring. There is simply too much to handle for one or two people. It is like getting into an impossible maze from which they cannot escape… (bills, bills, bills, endless bills).
I do not in any way condemn anyone who needs daycare ; good daycare workers provide a lot of the needs of young children—–but they are NOT the parents and that bothers me, personally. I am also disturbed by the "wants" versus "needs" in which so many younger parents are caught. I would welcome opinions of readers who understand the dilemma that young families are in. Would our culture be better with one parent staying at home to raise the young children, at least to school age? Can the present generation of young parents ever make the sacrifices it takes to do this? Rev Preus’s letter, indeed, stirred up a Hornets’ Nest of conflicts, hurts, and deep- seated feelings in those who read his letter.