Before the sun rose over their Florida home, Debbie Wasserman Schultz pulled the thermometer from the mouth of her 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca, and checked the mercury: 103 degrees.
Stay home? Or go to work? It's a dilemma familiar to millions of working mothers. But her situation is complex: The job is 1,037 miles away, in Washington.
She got on the plane and flew to a New York fundraiser and then on to Washington for her workweek as a Democratic congresswoman. She knew her husband could handle Rebecca's fever.
Still, the guilt traveled with her. "It feels like someone's ripping my heart out," she said. "No matter how good your spouse is, kids want their mom when they're sick."
With the exception of the fact that the job is a thousand miles away, this same scene could be found in nearly any household across America. Throughout the nation mothers are leaving their children in order to go to work…to the detriment of the little ones they leave behind. Granted some mothers (particularly single moms) obviously must work to support their families; but many of the mothers in today’s workforce form the other half of dual-income households and work merely to attain a higher standard of living.
There are negative issues involved any time a mother works outside the home. One is the odd schedules that the children are typically subjected to. Ms. Layton tells of one congresswoman’s 5-year old daughter: “She attends preschool and a babysitter cares for her during the week….” She continues, stating that, “she often goes to sleep at midnight and eats just one huge meal a day, around 8 p.m.” What’s wrong with this picture? This is not a health lifestyle for a 5-year old child! Admittedly, most children with working moms do not have such extreme hours. Yet they still are awakened earlier than they should be in order to get to day-care on mom’s way to work. They eat at odd hours, according to mom’s schedule and many are too-well acquainted with the fast-food drive-up window. Then, in order to spend more time with mom, they are up later than they should be considering how early they have to get up the next day to start it all over again.
A second detrimental effect on these children is the loneliness. Children crave the love and affection of their mother. Not a babysitter, not a day-care worker and not a nanny. Even fathers cannot replace the kind of time kids need with their mothers. This point is well-made in the beginning of the article where Layton relates, “At Wasserman Schultz's home in Florida, Mondays can be the cruelest day. It's hard to watch her mother walk out the door, Rebecca said. "Sometimes, I regret that," the 8-year-old said quietly.” Nothing can replace a mother in the life of a child.
Lastly, children pick up on their place in their mother’s hierarchy of priorities. Again, there are some mothers that must work, but a child can tell when mom’s working just to “be more connected” with herself, or just so the family can have a bigger house, second (or third) car, or (worst of all) to be “more fulfilled.” All of these ideas are internalized by these young children and the interpretation they come up with is, “’I’m not as important as that new car, bigger house or next piece of legislation.”
Many times women say, “Let the father stay home with the kids, then!” But congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz said it best: "No matter how good your spouse is, kids want their mom when they're sick." And that's not the only time. Too bad, kid...mom's at work.