Background Parenting

My friend Kristin Slye wrote something on a parenting list we’re on that really got me thinking.  She said that she thinks of parenting duties as two distinct types.  There’s connection parenting that happens when you’re focused on your kids and interacting with them and then there’s “background parenting” which is all that parenting stuff we have to do that actually doesn’t have much to do with connecting with our children.  Kristin puts things like cooking, doing laundry, and dishes in the background parenting category and she shared that when her time is spent doing mostly background parenting and very little connection parenting she gets really frustrated.

As I pondered the idea of background parenting I couldn’t help thinking that working for a paycheck is probably the most time consuming form of background parenting that exists and sometimes one parent does considerably more of it than the other.  Single parents definitely spend a bunch of their parenting time doing this type of background parenting.

I’m bummed that we’re forced to take time away from our kids so that we can make money to pay for food, rent or a mortgage, and other items.  But the kicker is the money we end up paying for childcare professionals to take care of our kids!  Personally, I’d much rather be with my daughter than pay someone else to.  And I know LOTS of parents who feel the same way.   But sometimes there doesn’t seem to be much of a choice.

On the other hand, I’ve been a childcare professional and I know I took great care of the kids in my charge and I loved them all dearly.  I know some really great childcare professionals and they absolutely deserve to be paid well.  Childcare is a challenging job.

My husband and I are very blessed to have parents here in Bend (they moved here to be closer to our daughter…and us) so I know that when I’m working for a paycheck (from home, mind you), my daughter is busy bonding with her grandparents.  But I know that we’re in a very unique situation.  This is definitely not the norm.  Most people are forced to use some kind of daycare or preschool to cover child-care while they work.  And in some cases they end up taking home a ridiculously small amount once you factor in the cost of childcare.

A few years ago my mom and I went to France and a woman there told me about the French policies regarding maternity leave.  As I recall, parents got a full two years of leave from their jobs with a percentage of their pay and could split up the time any way they liked between mom and dad.  They were also provided in-home help in the first several months, all paid for by the French government.  Now I know we don’t live in France, and we probably don’t pay nearly as much in taxes, but the thing that strikes me about this is the huge difference between the perceived value of spending time with our young children.

In France the system was set up to SUPPORT parents getting to spend time with their children.  Here in the US, that is definitely not the case, at least not yet.  Instead, we’re encouraged to drop our kids off at daycare where the ratio of infants to adults is 3 or 4:1 and for preschoolers it’s as much as 12:1.

I’m frustrated about this and I also feel somewhat hopeless.  I have no idea what I can do to change things, but spending most of our time doing background parenting and only a little bit of it doing connection parenting just isn’t good for kids OR parents.  So, what can we do about it?

How have you come to terms with this in your family?  I would love to hear your story.  Please leave me a comment if you feel inspired to do so.

And have a wonderful week!  Warmly, Shelly

photography by Suzette Hibble


Good read.  Nice job.