When I recently wrote an article about products replacing parents I failed to mention this is just the tip of the ice-berg.
Today, as a culture we are outsourcing more and more of our parenting responsibilities not only to products but to other people in the form of childcare and even the government.
I recently read an article in the media about whether or not all schools should offer a breakfast program. What? Parents can’t even feed their own kids breakfast now? Since when is it the governments responsibility to make sure my child is adequately fed before they go to school?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about disadvantaged communities. It’s where I work and what I love and there are many families that require these services. But generally speaking, whose responsibility is it to make sure my child is fed, clothed and educated? Our cultural attitude would say it’s everyone else’s problem except mine and the more programs the better.
Say What? 24 hr a day childcare?
There was an article recently suggesting that parents were frustrated by the lack of flexibility that childcare offers. Apparently caring for children between the hours of 6am and 6pm isn’t good enough. I wonder if we could leave them there all week? And just pick them up on the weekend? It would certainly be more convenient. Shift workers and those who work a few irregular hours (like me) would benefit from this idea so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But the general idea raises alarm bells for me. What is happening in our culture that we have a need for someone else to watch our children 24hrs a day?
I want to be clear that this isn’t about the choice of parents to use childcare. Each person is individual in their needs and situations. I’ve used childcare in the past and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again. This is about what is culturally becoming an increasingly normal way of life for most parents. I think this cultural norm needs to be carefully considered and examined.
As a culture, we are constantly looking for ways to justify our over-use of childcare by clinging to stories in the media that tell us the latest research is that childcare is good for kids. Deep down, we know it’s not. It’s not bad of course, but it’s hardly ideal. Mother guilt isn’t always something that is derived from personal insecurity or popular culture – it’s something that is unfortunately, often founded in truth. I know from experience that my choice to work partime and be separated from my kids made me feel guilty. For me, guilt was a perfectly normal response to something that wasn’t right for me and required change.
“What? I have to do readers with my kids? Isn’t that what they’re supposed to learn at school?”
Yes, that’s a direct quote. And no, this isn’t the part where I preach about the benefits of homeschooling.
I had the privilege to sit on the governing council of our local school for over a year. It never ceased to amaze me how quick parents were to blame everyone else for their child’s learning difficulties, bullying behavior or social issues. Not only was it never their fault, it was always the school (or teacher’s) responsibility to fix the problem.
If my son behaved badly at school – I took responsibility. If he was having trouble learning a concept – then we worked on it together at home. Why is it that suddenly it’s the schools responsibility to teach our children everything? Not only did I hear parents complaining they had to help their kids with readers but one mother even publicly accused a teacher of not doing her job because her child had a bad attitude.
Schools don’t exist so we can relinquish all responsibility to educate our children. It is there to provide a framework for building contributing members of society. Ultimately, it is OUR responsibility to build their character and support their learning. Schools were never intended to teach EVERYTHING or to replace us as parents.
I stumbled across this letter to the editor entitled “Leave parenting to the parents” after an article implied the government was set to offer a screening process for childhood mental health. This mother questioned why a normal loving parent was inept to act on concerns for her child. I agree. Most parents are more than capable of recognising and acting on concerns they see in their children. In fact, I even heard a parent complain about (in some states) compulsory maternal and childhood clinic stating that she knew her child was healthy and was more than capable of seeking help if she needed it.
The more the government interferes in our parenting responsibilities the more we begin to feel that we have none. This means that we can easily get confused about what being a parent involves. My concern is that we are outsourcing too many of our responsibilites because it is culturally normal to do rather than stop to ask the tough questions.
No one loves our children or cares about their well being more than we do. It only makes sense that we start to question cultural and social norms (or expectations) that try to dictate how we raise them.
What do you think? Harsh but fair…or just plain harsh?