Starbucks child care center

Coffee shop / Pexels

Spending two hours at Starbucks I saw a child care center – a vivid illustration that a more functional approach to child care and housing could benefit parents and children.

I was hypnotized by the six-year old hypnotically watching the Disney cartoon on her computer tablet. An hour early for my appointment, I settled into to charge my phone and indulge my Internet addiction to email/news/humor/gossip/outrage/horror.

Her mother sat across from her glued to her laptop. Since my goal is to be less judgmental and more compassionate, I made up a scenario: she’s a single mother who can’t afford child care and may not have internet access at home but needs it for homework. Maybe she was applying for jobs.

While her mom grooved to the relentless beat of Starbucks’ music, her daughter, wearing unicorn earbuds, stared at the screen, her brow furrowed like she was trying hard to understand. During the two hours I was there, their positions were unchanged and she didn’t make a peep or cause a minute of trouble. What six-year-old does that?

I made up a scenario: she’s a single mother who can’t afford child care and may not have internet access at home but needs it for homework

This child, as far as I could see, does not have an enriched childhood. Her mom seemed to have other priorities. Maybe she had scant parental involvement and doesn’t have the experience to offer anything else. Maybe she’s deeply engaged with her child at home.

We glorify motherhood – “as American as motherhood and apple pie” – while offering only platitudes and lip service. The unvarnished truth is that there are all kinds of mothers. The maternal instinct is baked into some women and quite foreign to others.

The Goddess Within eloquently analyzes and describes the various female archetypes and goes a long way to dispel many myths about women. Mothering and nurturing comes naturally to Demeter women. Athena women are built for business and can become unhappy and resentful if confined to homemaking. In an environment that supports, rather than stifles, their gifts and interests they could be terrific moms.

I am reminded of a study I heard of years ago that compared how children fared with stay-at-home mothers versus child care. The bottom line: provided that the child care was high quality, whatever was best for the mother was best for the child. A woman working outside the home is happier because she is validated at her job and at home. The stay-at-home mom is validated at home or not at all.

Stay at home dads are a growing trend and many have high satisfaction levels. The Forbes’ article The Stay-At-Home Dad Syndrome cites the National At-Home Dad Network estimates that 7 million fathers are primary caregivers.

Child care – what it costs / who pays describes the dilemma many parents face and how the high cost of child care keeps many women from high paying, satisfying careers.

Which brings me to my main premise: It is possible to create suitable living environments in which people flourish. Given today’s housing crisis, there is considerable pressure to shift our dominant housing model from nuclear family and solo living to more sustainable alternatives such as co-housing, co-living, communal living, intentional communities, tiny houses, home sharing, and much more. Our goal is to make finding housing alternatives transparent, easy and–dare I say it?–even fun.

New Community Vision seeks to partner with congregations and community groups to organize frequent occasions to socialize and meet others. Eventually, relationships will form, some may be close, while others may be respectful and functional - which is a blessing in itself.

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