237 Days ’til 40: Raising Yourself

29 Jun

Today outside our apartment I saw a gorgeous stray cat on an old car.  This cat roams the neighborhood freely and does not appear to have an owner.  In the winters the cat sleeps on our car because the engine radiates heat… poor cat.  As I thought about our neighborhood stray, I began to wonder how many children, like this cat, raise themselves……

It seems to be a growing problem due to the economic reality we live in.  Most families must have two working parents in order to pay the bills.  Two working parents means lots of childcare costs and, eventually, latch key kids who raise themselves .  Latch key kids tend to be responsible for their own snack, homework and chores for anywhere from 30 minutes to hours after school.  They are waiting for one or both of their parents to get home.

When I was growing up I often felt sorry for my latch key friends.  There was a sadness when they headed home, knowing no one would be there.

I know there are more and more after school programs that keep latch key kids from needing to go home.  These programs offer critical and essential services to these families….. but what about families who cannot afford after care?  Their children spend hours at home alone with little to no input…. it is not a good thing.

While I don’t have the answers, I think it is important to ask the question of how we are going to help and reach out to these children who are forced to raise themselves (some in two parents homes, some in single parent homes)….. we owe it to these children, we owe it to our future.

Today, 237 days ’til 40, I will strive to remember to reach out to children who are raising themselves.




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29 responses to “237 Days ’til 40: Raising Yourself

  1. thetawny

    June 29, 2012 at 01:02

    I raised myself and did a fair job of it. I spent most of my 20’s undoing the mistakes I made in the process. I have learned so much about so much in the process and cannot imagine life any other way! Congratulations on day 237! p.s. I nominated you for three awards on my blog earlier this month, so if you run out of material perhaps you can make a blog for your acceptance of them! 😉

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 21:57

      Thank you so much… I raised myself off and on (did not necessarily do a great job….. my parents were around and tried their best, but just did not always manage to hit the target….

      • thetawny

        June 29, 2012 at 23:29

        I think even those parents who are skilled (emotionally stable and able to nurture) and present miss the mark, or at least it seems to be the case with most people I know and of the clients I have seen over the years. It can be sad, as many have commented on your post. I don’t view my situation as sad at all from my adult perspective. I spent my 20’s undoing my mistakes and learning how to nurture and care for myself better, some of my friends spent their 20’s repeating their parents’ mistakes, while others are just understanding in their 40’s and 50’s that they are the ones in charge of their lives and their self care.

  2. buckwheatsrisk

    June 29, 2012 at 01:12

    so sad

  3. sahbinahvioletflynn

    June 29, 2012 at 01:27

    Your point is well taken. But I think it depends on the circumstance. I was a latchkey kid (along with my sister and brother). We were only home “alone” for just a couple of hours before our dad got home from work as a high school teacher and mom came home shortly after that. During our “latchkey time” I think we learned how to be self-sufficient, how to manage our time with homework and chores (and goofing off), and how to resolve conflict without adult input (siblings argue). Back then this was the only option other than going to a neighbor’s home if they were available. Kids grow their self-esteem, feel empowered and a huge sense of trust and responsiblity in this. Obviously, there is an age at which this is appropriate for it to be positive and successful. But I don’t think it’s all negative.

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 21:59

      I agree with you – obviously my very short post in this issues was quite over-simplified and does not begin to touch on the complexities of the different realities. My girls are the age where they could be latch key kids, but I am convinced they would burn the house down…. so there are older kids who cannot manage and younger ones who can….

  4. ammiblog

    June 29, 2012 at 02:28

    “Love the children who come into your life. Even if it’s only for five minutes.” That’s my way.

  5. Benjamin Izzat

    June 29, 2012 at 04:25

    Your post address the sad truth about how these days children are getting the short end of the stick due to the pressures of life that a lot of parents struggle with. It also opens up the door to addressing children having children that need to raise themselves. I think it is a good start to ask the right questions … in hope to find solutions. Great post!

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 22:00

      Yes, it is so sad that youth today are missing out due to financial realities that are beyond the control of their parents… add to that the disappearing extended family and in many cases these families end up isolated from relatives and support systems by economic necessity (moving for a job).

  6. Louise Behiel

    June 29, 2012 at 05:43

    very good questions. i wish i had an answer

  7. leftoverrecipes

    June 29, 2012 at 10:31

    While I usually like your posts, I think you are exaggerating on this one. I was a latchkey kid, and I certainly didn’t “raise myself”. My parents talked to me, played with me, explained things to me, and were always there for me when I needed help or advice. I learned how to heat my own food, and take care of myself for the couple of hours until someone came home. I do not think that is a bad thing.
    Kids who “raise themselves” are kids in homes with alcoholic/drugged parents who have to also make dinner and take care of siblings; or children with parents who do not teach them or show them affection; or a host of other tragic cases. Not latchkey kids. Latchkey kids are loved and cherished, just like any other child.

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 22:02

      I appreciate your honesty (honestly, I would worry if someone liked everything and never disagreed with me!) Of course, I oversimplified here – I wrote in about three paragraphs on a topic that could fill textbooks… and you make a very good point… there are many other things far worse than latch key kids….hmmm… will have to write on that at some point…. but part of my point is the point you are making…. I did not blame the parents for the cause…. I just said we have to be aware of these poor kids who are left alone…….. it is not the parents fault… it is the reality of our economy….

  8. Missus Tribble

    June 29, 2012 at 12:39

    My parents are divorced, and my sister and I grew up counting ourselves lucky if our mother even came home for more than an hour. She’d come home to feed the cats (and us) and do laundry, but the older I became the less we saw of her. I was basically supposed to take the place of a mother for my younger sister (I was only 15 so that didn’t work!) and we more-or-less raised ourselves. Most of our communication with Mum was via Post-It note.

    Needless to say, my sister grew up to ensure that she is always there for her two children and goes above and beyond the call of duty to help her daughter with her two very young children. Neither her daughter nor her autistic son knows what it is to come home to a cold, empty, loveless house with only the cats to greet them.

    That really is a lovely cat there – such a sweet face. Is there a chance that he/she would allow you to adopt him/her?

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 22:04

      Wow, it is amazing how your sister really turned things around…. I was also thinking how some people can feel incredibly alone even in a house full of people if there is other dysfunction in their midst…… Yes, it is a gorgeous cat, but with three already with us in our ridiculously small apartment, pet adoption is closed (much to the dismay of my daughters).

  9. viveka

    June 29, 2012 at 14:25

    Love that last photo … stunning. There is so many street wise kids – it would be fantastic if we could help them, there should be after school program like they have in China .. it’s a school after school where the kids learn about all arts – theater, dancing, ballet, painting, music playing … writing – a fantastic set up. Not easy to be a single parent at times – not easy to be a parent and to be everywhere and have time and strength to do everything that should be done for the kids.

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 22:05

      Yes, you are so right. The after school program sounds amazing and I wish that we had more of those in the world…..

      • viveka

        June 29, 2012 at 23:19

        They have a special name … this was in 1978-79 and I can’t for me life remember what they where called. It will come me.

  10. writerwannabe763

    June 29, 2012 at 17:37

    While it is a sad thing ..sometimes there are not simple answers. I was a ‘latch key’ kid because my mother had to raise us on her own. She had to alternative and so we didn’t have someone waiting when we got home…We understood. And while it is not an optimum situation…it happens and we grew up and never held our mother responsible . She was a loving Mom doing what she had to do….Diane

    • 400daystil40

      June 29, 2012 at 22:07

      Yes, that is the hard part -the fact that there are no simple answers… sometimes you just have to do the best you can do. If I was a single mom I am sure I would be in a similar situation – I was once a single mom and it was very hard to balance everything and make ends meet…. I managed, but got very little sleep and had no energy for anything past work and caring for my daughter… I was glad when I was lucky enough to find a loving partner and no longer be a single mom.

  11. dpress211

    July 1, 2012 at 18:28

    As a latch-key kid, I learned how to vibrate the lock and open the kitchen window (grandmother’s house, due to being locked out and the outside temps were dropping. A lot of skills were self-developed in those periods of adult-free circumstances in the hours after school.

    I don’t discount you concerns for kids in these situations though. At 45 years of age, I still like coming home to people who are happy to greet me. We can’t ignore the value of bonding and just being there for our kids. Sometimes my son will want assistance with the most trivial things, simply because it’s it feels right to have that moment with Mom or Dad. We are after all social beings and always will be.

    Awesome blog by the way!

    David William Peace

    • 400daystil40

      July 1, 2012 at 22:17

      Wow, you bring up some very good points… for some children being home alone is a great time for skill development (I would personally worry that my girls would burn down our house!)

      • dpress211

        July 1, 2012 at 22:47

        Lol! Having to buy new stuff and getting a horrible phone call does come to mind for me also. Anything having to do with the insurance process and emergency room trips are much less welcome to me these days.

  12. Hawkruh

    July 3, 2012 at 04:34

    I was a latchkey kid. I used to thnk it was a good thing, teaching independence and such. Now, I don’t know


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