You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

One of the depressing things about getting older is that you see governments making the same policy mistakes at roughly twenty year intervals, and other problems which governments seem to assume will go away if they don’t acknowledge them! Policies that fall into the first category are the regularly revised school league tables and the cost to the community of people who are unemployed. The second category includes the problem of mothers in the workforce with its associated paid maternity leave argument.

The mother/worker role conflict is far too important to pretend it will go away or solve itself. It’s at least a couple of decades since we recognised it but have never really tackled it, probably because it is seen as women’s business. Providing full-time child care was seen as the answer but there doesn’t seem to have been many studies on the effects of this. One study (Guensberg 2001) focussed on 1200 children in the US in childcare from birth to kindergarten, although the summary I read did not say whether this was full or partial day care. They found these childcare children less cooperative and tended to fight more. They were also more likely to talk back to teachers and be disruptive. On the positive side they scored better on language tests.

If we add to this picture the false idea that most parents have adopted that ‘more material goods are better and will make us happier’ and are working long hours to achieve this, we are bringing our kids up in a world that is full of material goods but short on the more important issues such as parental care and love and interest associated with this, and which children need for their development. Parents may think that their kids know that they love and care about them but what their kids tell their teachers is often very different. Parents think that working long hours to earn more to shower their kids with more possessions shows their kids that they love them but unfortunately this is not what their kids need. The only way to express love for ones children is the opposite,  to spend time with them and take an interest in them.

Unless we stress how important it is for parents to spend time with their children throughout their lives into adulthood we will create a generation that we are disappointed in and which won’t meet the country’s needs. If children associate work with taking their parents away from them they won’t be impressed with it. Nor will they be inspired to achieve at school if there is nobody really interested in their achievements.

So this brings us back to the situation of the working Mum. Young women today are faced with the dilemma of staying home and bringing their children up as they would like, whilst their male colleagues move up the career ladder, or keeping their careers intact and putting their children in child care, or not having children at all. The increasing age of women having their first child is an attempt to establish their careers before starting their families but this is only a partial solution.

Some fathers are seeking their own solutions by taking time out, either fully or partially, to help bring up their children. Unfortunately they often get mocked for having a ‘mummy’ role. What society should do is the opposite and cold shoulder those fathers who don’t take time out to do their share of the parenting. We should be asking what is wrong with them that they aren’t sharing the most important role they will ever have in their lives, a role which puts their so-called ‘work career’ in the shade. This is the only way we will solve the discrepancy between men and women in the workplace, both in terms of numbers and earnings, and do the right thing by the next generation.

The problem is that if we adopted this approach most of our decision makers would be among those found to be lacking.  We all know of parents who have taken a leading role in society but whose children have gone off the rails. Dad (usually) achieved his success at a huge cost to his child. We need to create a society which regards both parents as equally important.

By elevating parenting to the same status as a career both parents have the opportunity to achieve twice, once as a parent and once in their careers. The current situation means that women can underachieve in the workplace and successfully parent, or the opposite. As a society can we risk missing out on the skills of half the population or of endangering the next generation? Let’s move to a win/win situation for everybody by giving parenting the same status as a career.