Saturday, 25 September 2021

"Time poor" parents

are in the news again. This time it is for not giving their children enough time to develop the necessary skills for going to day-care and on to kindergarten and school.

How can a parent working full time spend the sort of time needed with their child? The answer has to be "they can't". 

When I was a mere kitten - a long time ago now - most mothers stayed at home. They worked at home. The supposed "labour saving" devices, if they even had them, were not as efficient. My mother washed clothes in a "copper" and used a mangle before hanging them on the line. She scrubbed the floor on her hands and knees. She cooked on a wood burning stove - for which the Senior Cat chopped the wood. Our meals were made from the raw ingredients even though we were fortunate enough to have a tiny refrigerator. There was no "labour saving" freezer. 

Now mothers are expected to go back to work. They are expected to fit in all the child care and all the domestic duties around the "need" to go back to work. If they don't go back to work then "their careers will suffer", they "don't get the stimulation of being with other adults", and "all that training is wasted".  And yes, there is some truth in these arguments. We don't want a doctor to cease work forever when the baby is born.

But there is a problem with all this, the problem of the effect all this has on the children. Day care is not a substitute for good parenting. It doesn't matter how good the day care centre is it is not the same as having good parenting over an extended period of the day. 

A long time ago now I was on a committee looking at "job-sharing". The idea was to try and find ways of allowing people with disabilities to share jobs with each other or with able bodied people so that both could effectively work part-time. It is an idea with some merit but there are many practical problems involved. In the end it went into the "too hard" basket and a change of government ended the whole idea. (The change of government was a sharp lean to the left and the union movement was strongly opposed to the idea. Added to the practical problems it was inevitable that the idea was not going anywhere.)

There have also been suggestions that (a) mothers should not go back to work until the youngest child is in school and (b) they should be able to work just during school hours. Neither idea works for everyone for a number of reasons. And there are still issues with the time involved.

I could read long before I went to school - really read. The Senior Cat read my bed time stories to me but if I wanted a word my mother would print it in her best "infant school print" and label the object or put it on a kitchen cupboard. It would stay there until I recognised it without hesitation if it was put in front of me out of context. I cannot ever remember labouring through dull pages of "this is Fluff" and "this is Nip" in the Schonell readers. I knew my nursery rhymes and my fairy stories and other books. I could add "double figures" and more. It was far more than most children but I know that other children knew their nursery rhymes, the stories and much more because their mothers, who were "stay-at-home" mothers instinctively taught them what they knew. They were almost certainly did this unconsciously. They sang to their children. They talked to them. They read to them at night  because there was no television, no screen of any sort to entertain them and because, as mothers, they made time in the simple belief that this is what mothers do. 

I know it has all changed. Apparently the very young children in this state are falling behind what is expected of them. That should come as no surprise. Some of it may have something to do with the amount of time their parents do not spend with them. 



Hilde said...

All the discussions about child day care are about the needs of the parents or of the families. You never hear the sentence "The children need".

Beryl Kingston said...

I'm with you all the way on this one Cat. You were describing the way I brought up my children. I had three and spent ten years looking after them and enjoyed it a lot although it was very hard work. I only discovered the snags when I went back to work. I was given a beginner's pay and my childless contemporaries, having had yearly increments to their salaries, were earning a lot more than I was. Bringing up children was not considered 'gainful employment'.

Jodiebodie said...

Even pre-pandemic I heard reports about the growing numbers of people suffering from depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses. Also the prevalence of bullying and other antisocial behaviours. I often wonder how many of these are 'fuelled' by emotional needs not met during formative years of life. I question the wisdom of governments coercing and forcing parents of under-10s to return to work regardless of the emotional ans physical needs of young children and babies and their parents.

catdownunder said...

"The children need..." seems to have moved to "making sure" they know "all the right things" before they start school Hilde. They have nursery schools in Japan which are designed to get the child into the "right" school. Are we going in the same direction? Bringing up children should be considered gainful employment. It is very hard work. It is also emotionally demanding.