My sister is a stay-at-home mom with an infant and a daughter in elementary school. I have a full-time job and my little girl spends her weekday afternoons at daycare. When we talked on Friday evening, both of us felt the same grief, the same fear, and the same heart-wrenching sadness over the Sandy Hook shooting. After Newtown’s tragedy, every parent in the country wanted to hug their children a little tighter and play with them a little longer. It didn’t matter whether they worked in an office, worked from home, or considered childrearing their full-time job.
That’s why I’m a little disgusted to see a Washington Post piece on how the killings in Newtown have become “a working parent’s tipping point.” Janice D’Arcy explains that after Sandy Hook, working parents are feeling especially guilty for leaving their kids alone. She contends that these often-absent parents have had a change of heart, and might just give up their successful careers to spend more time with their children. The fear of violence will re-prioritize the lives of working parents.
One of the few non-horrible aspects of these types of tragedies, (I cannot bring myself to say that they have “bright spots,”) is how communities and countries pull together to support one another. It’s how parents, as a collective group, put aside our differences and send our hearts out to these grieving families. I do not understand why anyone would want to use these murders as an opportunity to divide us into groups and highlight one side’s grief over another.
A similar approach to dealing with tragedy was taken after the terrible New York City Nanny murders, where the Krim family lost two children to their long-time nanny. Somehow, this tragedy became a way to guilt working parents who leave their children with paid caregivers. Now, children being murdered in their schools is being used to shame parents who spend too much time at the office?
This tragedy may have the emotional impact of causing a working parent to shift gears and consider staying home with the kids. It might make a strict father lessen his disciplinary action in favor of a more compassionate, laid-back approach. It might even make a person suffering with secondary infertility forget about their struggle and remember to feel blessed for the child they already have. Yes, tragedies have a way of making people re-evaluate.
But that is not a working parent experience. That is not a single parent experience. It’s not even unique to parents. Human beings process these emotional occurrences in their own way, and can often change their pattern of behavior because of one significant event.
Janice D’Arcy was attempting to use the Newtown shooting to jumpstart a conversation about work-life balance reform. She wanted to talk about the need to flexible schedules and companies that support parents. She had a commendable goal.
But the senseless murder of 26 human beings is not a “working parent” issue. It’s a human issue. We need to come together to process these murders and support the families and communities impacted. Now is not the time to separate us into teams and fight over who should be grieving more.