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Can You Have Too Much Childcare?

At The Wall Street Journal’s “The Juggle” blog, writer Jennifer Merritt confesses that her children are in other people’s care for up to 57 hours a week. She writes that she is “hesitant to admit” the figure — perhaps because she fears she’ll be criticized for “letting someone else raise her kids.”

I put that in quotations because it’s a phrase I’ve heard often — usually referring to a mom with a demanding, time-consuming job. I’ve yet to hear a man accused of letting someone else raise his kids, so clearly, there’s still a gender bias when it comes to parenting.

But it’s also clear that Merritt feels guilty abut the fact that she’s away from her kids so much. Merritt says that some of her friends have worked out ways to spend more time with their children by waking up early or forgoing date nights and weekend activities.

“All of the parents I polled said they wished they could figure out how to reduce the amount of child care they use but that work pressures make it difficult,” writes Merritt.

Like many parents, I bemoan the fact that corporate America doesn’t encourage a healthy work-life balance. Sure, there are some jobs that allow for flextime or telecommuting, but especially during a recession, most people are reluctant to push their luck when it comes to special privileges.

Of course, everyone has their own comfort level. I’m sure some parents couldn’t imagine being away from their young kids for over a week at a time as I was when I went on a book tour. But I personally can’t imagine having the kind of job where I left for work before my kids woke up and returned after they went to bed. The issue isn’t that I think they’d suffer so much without me. It’s more about the fact that I’d feel lost without them.

One woman commented on Merritt’s blog saying that she “cracked” around the time her daughter turned one and was in daycare 50 hours a week. “I reduced my schedule and we now have Friday’s together,” she wrote. “I had to do something in my juggle to create more balance. If my employer objected to my schedule request I probably would have eventually found a new job.”

Is there such a thing as too much childcare for your family? How many hours are your kids taken care of by someone else?

Photo: flickr/NCBrian

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