Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pattycake Test for Mothers?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pattycake Test for Mothers?

Article excerpt

Why in the world am I sitting here trying to recall how many hours my children spent playing with blocks when they were small? Why am I trying to tote up the time I spent reading "Pat the Bunny" versus the time I spent wheeling them around supermarket aisles talking to myself?

Because I am looking at the study just released from the Families and Work Institute, that's why, a study that shows some day care is not as good as we might have imagined.

The assessment of family day care by the research group shows that informal care for a few children in the home of a paid provider or a family member, the most prevalent kind of child care for the small children of working mothers, is significantly flawed.

Nine percent of the caregivers were rated as good quality, 56 percent adequate and 35 percent inadequate.

Has anyone ever done a similar assessment of mothers?

That's the question we're never to ask, much less subject to prolonged scrutiny.

The reason child care is such a loaded issue is that when we talk about it, we are always tacitly talking about motherhood. And when we're talking about motherhood we're always tacitly assuming that child care must be a very dim second to full-time mother care.

Which is why I'm comparing my own mothering skills with those of people who get paid for caring for kids. Do they spend more time using crayons and books than I did?

Is it time to finally admit that while child care is all over the map, from stellar to deplorable, the quality of mothering can be various, too?

How well I remember, some years ago, the frisson of fear when I read that part of the evidence against Mary Beth Whitehead, in her battle to keep the child she'd conceived in a surrogate arrangement, was the testimony of a psychiatrist that she had played pattycake incorrectly.

The mother of two young children at the time, I wondered: Am I playing right?

While the Families and Work Institute study quantified the time spent in family day care in artwork, stories, puzzles and the like, I can scarcely remember doing many of those things. But no matter; there is a clear double standard for mothers and caregivers.

One mother at the park laced into a departing sitter, complaining that she'd spent all her time at the park talking to her friends while the children played nearby, oblivious to the fact that she and I were doing the same. …

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