Back from the Frontlines

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?)

*

Be well.

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About Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

I am a full-time parent of three, Writer, Life Coach, Lecturer, Parenting Mentor, and Shamanic Practitioner. In all of the above, I am seeking to assist my fellow humans in their processes of claiming and unleashing their highest potentials.
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7 Responses to Back from the Frontlines

  1. kloppenmum says:

    I thought we already had started the revolution, Nathan. And welcome back, I’ve missed you thought provoking blogs. This is no different, and sadly I can see the same trends happening here. Perhaps not so intensely, as yet. People have stopped a little with the recession: more vege gardens; fewer junk toys; more bikes on the street. But I think you have this right on so many levels. Parents are tired. Many are wired to disengage from others, including their children, by their own upbringing. And sadly, once wired, it’s very difficult to fight that wiring = especially when parenting experts, television families and friends are doing or encouraging the same. I am totally on board with the earlier is NOT better for academics. We have very bright children, and people cannot understand why we have them at Stiener (integrated with state system here, lucky for us) and not starting school until seven, and full-on academic lessons until nine. But they are whole people, not shells. And no-one is going to ask them what age they started to read when they are 25! I have lots more to say, so will blog it – rather than take over! Have a good day.

    • You are right, Karyn, and it is encouraging to me to be reminded — the revolution has already begun; I am just anxious for it’s fruit to ripen, I guess.

      I am tired of feeling like I am trying to raise my dear ones in spite of our culture — I’d rather feel in harmony with “my people” (but only if they are being sensible!…).

      Thanks for being out there!

  2. kloppenmum says:

    And I feel the same. I am completely out of step with mainstream Kiwis, and it is difficult to always be swimming against the tide. I can feel a net of like minded people beginning to form, though…albeit, widely scattered throughout the world. Best wishes.

  3. Erin says:

    I am another one who agrees with so much in this post. We chose to have me (mama) stay home and nourish, comfort, play with, read to, support, nurture, laugh with, run with, day dream with, offer empathy to, do my own growth work alongside, and fascilitate the learning of our two boys at home. (We unschool) So we don’t have a home that we own, we don’t fly around for vacations or have a house full of stuff purchased on credit cards. Most of my clothing has a few holes and many stains, but my boys have what they need to get outdoors each day, breathe in fresh air and move their limbs for long periods of time every day. Their Dad work long hours at times, and it is sometimes a grind. The kids miss him, but on the off time they have a blast swimming, skating or rock climbing. Or out in the garden, or bike riding along rural roads near home. We work it out. We share the household responsibilities and our boys learn about balance and teamwork. I love our life!!! I wouldn’t trade it for stuff or the loss of connection!!!

    If it were important to me to have a house, and other material things we wouldn’t have this. But I am satisfied with our choices and with the life my boys live, on a farm surrounded by nature and playing with chickens and riding bikes and engossed in play together (TV and video-game-free life). We eat the food we learn to grow and learn how to communicate, support each other and work on the difficult stuff. Tonight we a have a hen in our laundry room who is ill and we are (not rushing around to and fro and ) able to monitor her. We love her and it’s what we want to do.
    I like to describe our life as a “slow life” even though that may sound a little cliche.

    But really I just weanted to say that I loved this, and for you as well, to please keep being the voice of a parenting revolution alongside your sweet partner. (I read her blog too and find such goodness there). We need you!!

    ~Erin

    • Thanks Erin,

      I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. We have made our way(s) much like you, keeping what matters most to us in the forefront of our minds and lives. And we will continue to do this. But I still yearn for the day when raising our children is seen as more important than status or career accomplishment, and when we then, therefore, also garner the support and cooperation of our culture(s) — rather than having to remain resistant to what our peers are doing with their kids/lives.

      I guess what I am saying is that, at present, I am wishing I came after the revolution rather than at the early stages of this particular battle… But, c’est la vie, non?

      Be well, my fellow revolutionaries!

  4. kloppenmum says:

    Hi Nathan,
    I’ve just changed my profile to include an invitation to join the revloution…I too want the snowball to accelerate!

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