“Obviously, you would give your life for your children, or give them the last biscuit on the plate. But to me, the trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbor, your village and beyond.”
Trending: Outsourcing Baby Care
While the term “outsourcing” may conjure up negative images of immigrants and low wages, outsourcing baby care is fast becoming the modern version of the village it takes to raise a child. In fact, there are a great many positive things to be said about employing the unique talents and abilities of multiple people in the interests of raising a child.
Nannies are among the child care professionals utilizes by families with working parents. Despite the fact that the increasing cost of child care can leave little profit from a second income, more women are choosing this option. Several popular television programs such as “Supernanny” have demonstrated the benefits of the intensive training they receive. Some say that they have also contributed to increasing the societal expectation that working mothers be superwomen as well. Working mothers have always been subjected to guilt for outsourcing baby care. They’ve even been subjected to public shaming when they admitted that they couldn’t do it all and sought help.
Many, if not all, new parents would probably prefer to remain at home with their babies, at least for several months. Mothers, both because they are able to breastfeed and because they usually earn less than men, have usually been the parent that opted to remain home to care for the baby. However, the economic consequences for doing so can be substantial and long-lasting. For example, one study concluded that women who left the workplace for a single year earned 20% less for the remainder of their careers. Those who took two to three years sacrificed an additional 10%. That 30% earning disparity remained even twenty years later.
The Resurgence of Wet-Nursing
Statistics like these have a great influence on mothers when deciding how soon to return to work. Whatever she chooses, she is almost sure to experience guilt, either for reducing the family income and becoming economically dependent, or for leaving her child. Studies that have shown the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding babies for six months to a year only contribute to that guilt.
Wet nursing is becoming a popular option for working mothers who want their children to receive the full benefit of the breast-feeding experience even if they cannot themselves provide it. In the U.S. only half of working mothers receive any paid maternity leave at all. Breast have been so sexualized in western culture that public breastfeeding was once unthinkable. However, it has recently begun gaining wider acceptance and women and babies are no longer relegated to dirty restrooms during babies’ mealtime. Many people are still uncomfortable with it, but more mothers are demanding the right not to be shamed or have to hide a natural process.
The act of breast feeding still retains an element of sacred mother-child bonding. Some believe that outsourcing baby care means outsourcing that bond as well. However, mothers report that rather than viewing them as emotional competition, they grew to consider the wet-nurse a member of the family. Some wet-nurses have continued to visit throughout the child’s lifetime, which contributes to their sense of the permanence of caring.
The loss of the extended supportive family due to increased mobility and economic necessity has resulted in more responsibility for parents. Evolving in tandem with technology, western societies are something of an experiment in which the responsibilities of raising children fall to the parents alone, rather than extended family or the community.
While it may be preferable for a child to be surrounded by a community of caring adults, our mobile society has made it more difficult to monitor our communities. Children once played alone or with other children outdoors, but constant supervision by a trusted adult has now become a necessary element of child safety.
New parents can be completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the responsibility in caring for a new baby—especially with little or no sleep. Even if it is just long enough to get a good night’s sleep, outsourcing baby care can provide new parents with some much-needed temporary relief. Child care professionals may never be able to replace the extended family, but children can and do benefit from all positive nurturing relationships. Although some view outsourcing baby care as an escape from personal responsibility, it can actually be an opportunity to expand our chosen families.