My husband had a rare afternoon off of his busy schedule, so we decided to take our one-year-old to the zoo. While there, we had an interaction with a father and his 18-month-old girl that I thought very significant.
We were playing with our daughter at one of the zoo's activities. The 18-month-old came up to where my daughter was playing and pushed her out of the way. My daughter stepped back without a fuss and the dad apologized to us, saying his daughter is a "brute" and "knows how to get what she wants." A grandmother nearby watched both little girls play for a moment before turning to me and asking "Does she go to day care?"
I answered, "No."
She turned to the other father and asked the same question. He said "Most definitely yes."
She then commented that you could tell by how the girls behaved that one went to day care because she was so pushy and knew she needed to push other kids out of the way to get something. The dad laughed and said, "Yeah. She pretty much knows it's eat or be eaten at her day care."
Eat. Or be eaten.
After he walked away, the grandmother turned to me and said quietly "You're doing the right thing. I know most people have to work, but you're very lucky you can be at home with your baby. It's a luxury."
The truth is, I AM very lucky. But what she doesn't know is that by almost everyone's standards I "need to work" too. My husband is in his last year of school and doesn't make a living wage. When we had our daughter, we both agreed that I would leave my job (then our main source of income) and stay at home with her. Our income dropped almost fifty thousand dollars annually.
But we bought a modest house in a modest neighborhood while our friends bought houses twice the price. We don't eat out often anymore. We don't buy new things. We budget. I work evenings from home. We make it work. And we're very, very happy.
And I know by doing so my sweet, innocent one-year-old daughter will grow up in a loving home where she never has to worry about choosing between "eating" or "being eaten." And my husband can come home at the end of his long day to a peaceful household. That is worth way more than 50 thousand dollars a year to me.
Thank you, Dr. Laura, for encouraging young families to do the right thing and to choose wisely and treat kindly. I know that I chose very wisely in my husband. And we both treat each other very kindly.