I’m baaa-aack. After more than a week off from blogging, I have returned. In the interim, although it may have seemed like I was vacationing to you, I have actually been working more than ever. So much so, in fact, that I have literally been too tired to make my brain function in a literary or even a cogent manner. And it’s gotten me thinking… (perhaps deliriously)…
Most of us work too hard and too much to be the most conscious and conscientious parents that we can be. For a select few, this may be a certain variety of choice — either to suit one’s ambitions, or to salve one’s self-esteem, or even with an eye to add more cushion to the proverbial nest. For the vast majority of us, however, we work so much, and to the detriment of our ability to be our best parenting selves, just to get by. And that just stinks.
Don’t worry, I won’t spend much of your time on this particular whine — but I’ve been feeling it the last two weeks, and I just wanted to share some empathy with my parenting peers out there who feel forced to spend so much of their time working that they are too tired to (ever really) enjoy being with their kids. What a road we travel — balancing financial constraints that weigh the same as chains and shackles against being physically present (if not also mentally and emotionally…) for the act of raising our children. It has become an increasingly slanted proposition for the modern family.
Here’s a couple of cultural problems I see staring us in the face (at least those of us who are “modern industrial societies” or trying to be):
- We have systematically disassociated ourselves from the process of giving birth and raising children. We are more and more “in the dark” about how this stuff is naturally done, and we are also as a subspecies becoming less tolerant of the normal processes of such. We have forgotten the natural ways of childbirth and parenting, and are thus set up to have a more difficult time, and are therefore persuaded to rely increasingly on external measures which make the whole process even more difficult — both for us as parents, and for our children when they become parents.
- The majority of us parents are single and barely making it, or couples who both have to work in order for the family to live with any comfort whatsoever. This was not true two generations ago when a single earner could support the entire family’s complete living expenses. When one compares wages with the cost of living, we now earn a little more than 2/3 of what our parents were earning for the same kinds of work when they were our age. Financial pressure (and if in the U.S., resultant poor health care) is difficult to parent through with any effectiveness, let alone presence.
- The above and the proceeding are both particularly nasty in the U.S., but I think generally true in capitalist-leaning democracies the world over — we are all working our children’s childhood’s away. We aren’t getting what we are supposed to get from the experience, and our children damn sure aren’t getting all that they should be getting — either from the experience of growing up or from us as their parents, guides, and guardians in this life. We are giving away our only opportunities to help them have access to everything they need to form their whole outlook on everything that will occur in their lives. (Yes, it’s that important.)
- In addition, we have gotten the wrong idea about education. We think — earlier, earlier, earlier — when we should be thinking — now hold on a minute, I’m bonding here, first things first… Test scores in the U.S., in particular, are plummeting in exact relation to how much earlier we force education on our little ones. Perhaps you’ve heard of the various IQ building paraphernalia currently available for infants. Modern humans have forgotten that kids need the basics first, in order to be able to put anything on top of that. You shove a building in before you are finished with the foundation and — well, you got nothin’.
- Because we are inexperienced, and less tolerant, and because we are forced or lured by commerce to “earn a living”, and because we are hell bent on making our progeny so much smarter than everyone else, we wind up sending them away as much as possible. We do it in modern birthing techniques, we do it in modern feeding methods, we do it in modern behavioral training of our children (see any guide to “self-soothing”), and we do it by literally handing over our little ones to someone else to raise. We call it, “daycare” until around age 3 or 4 when it becomes “preschool” which blends seamlessly into “kindergarten” and onward and upward into the heights of the educational machine from there. All the while, we pass on the important work of raising our children to someone else. We regularly couch this practice in the notion that we are incapable of giving/teaching our own children what they need for growing up in the modern world. And while they will have much to learn after they leave our homes and enter the world, we ruin their abilities to freely interact and integrate with all that they may learn by rushing them into it — and, more to the point, away from us. The foundation is the foundation for a reason.
- The preceding issues culminate in troubling conditions for the majority of children being raised in today’s modern world. (Right?) Whether it is being drugged during birth, or denied adequate bonding and nutrition, or sequestered in an infant carrier, or sent off to daycare at 6 weeks or 3 months or 2 years, or even sent away for the day to school anytime before the age of 7 — a modern kid’s life is perilous and lonely and everywhere fraught with dysfunction. In fact, rereading over the list, it sounds like a prison camp experience, not a youth lived in health. Today’s kids are lucky if they grow up at all.
- Because a lot of us were already raised this way, by parents raised in a similar way, we are culturally sliding off the proverbial cliff of our skewed foundations. The further we get from our natural selves, the more difficult it becomes to access the part of us that knows what to do for (and with) our children. As a culture, and a species, I don’t think this will prove beneficial in either the short or long run.
See why I said, up there, that it stinks?
Well, anyway — here’s a shout out to all of you doing your best to give your kids everything you can. Maybe you didn’t know much about what to do in giving birth, or with a newborn. Maybe you had to be back to work right after giving birth. Maybe you don’t get to be with your kids enough on any day because you have to work so much. Maybe you are so tired, that you can barely stay focused long enough to be with them the few short moments you have each day between everything else and sleep. Keep keeping on, dear friends. Keep giving those wonderful gems all the love you can fit into every single one of those moments.
(Ever wish you could start a parenting revolution?)