3 May 2011

Do We Give Ourselves Enough Parenting Time?

     Ever noticed that if you focus on a strong desire something relevant almost always happens? (Time-saving tip – be clear on your objectives and you’re more likely to get them!)

     On a professional trip to Singapore I’d woken up in the beautiful Grand Waterfront Copthorne hotel thinking, ‘I want to learn something new so I can share it with my family of 10,000 ezine readers.‘ The next person I spoke to, over breakfast, shared something that really excites me.

     But let me back up. I’d just attended the first Global Summit for the International Federation for Professional Speakers (IFFPS). Being in Singapore had been a wonderful opportunity to learn from and share with 300 people from many nations and nationalities and my breakfast buddy was no exception – Patricia Zakian Tith from Washington DC and a specialist in helping people work with global cultures. www.globalworkplace.com

     We all know trends go round in seemingly everlasting circles, even in such profoundly basic areas as parenting. When I raised my six children the women who chose to work outside the home were the exception. Today, as those now-adult children raise their children, the women who work inside the home as full-time mothers are the exception.

     I was fascinated as Patricia described a new take on that trend; in Washington DC it has been noticed that an increasing number of highly educated professional women are choosing to leave work to raise their children. They’re making proactive decisions to reduce to a single income. However, they still want the intellectual stimulation they enjoyed in the workplace so, as their kids play together they’ve formed small informal groups to discuss ideas, new information and any other matters of academic, cultural, business or intellectual interest to themselves.

     You might read this and think, ‘Well, that’s fine for them. They probably have husbands earning really good money.’ And that’s most likely so. However, it’s still a question of priorities.

     I don’t want to turn this into a long discussion on either economics or child-raising, but if there’s one partner at home think about how much more inexpensive living can be and how much less time pressure there is at the end of each day. Just take food. When both parents work they’re too tired to find the less expensive ways to do things – for example, delicious inexpensive meals and cheap cuts of meat simmered for hours; fruit bought at bargain prices and then preserved; or growing their own fresh vegetables (and that can be done even in small apartments). Consider the proliferation of fast food outlets and the frightening deterioration of health in western societies. Much of that has come because people are too busy to even think about healthy meals (or they haven’t been educated to it).

     You might also think, ‘What about a solo parent?‘ Depending on the country, there is often some kind of welfare as a backstop and I’ve been there too! The beneficiary lifestyle wasn’t one I particularly enjoyed but it was a fantastic crutch when I needed it and certainly gave me time to enjoy my kids. The discomfort of the situation also became a great motivator to rise above my circumstances as soon as the children were a bit older! (The youngest one was about four when I began part-time work, which was a nice lead-in to longer hours once he was at school.)

Bottom line – the big questions are:

  • What is your vision for your children?
  • What are your values around child-raising?
  • Do you want to give them your quality time,or do you believe you can engage good enough staff to fill the gaps?
  • If you’re a working mother, are you enjoying your life?
  • If not, is there another way?

     None of this is a value-judgement either way. All I would love you to is consider that there are alternatives if you want them. Your brain doesn’t have to turn to mush because you’re home with your little children – and the women of Washington DC are proving it. As a grandmother now, I look back over those incredibly busy years of raising my kids and realise just how quickly they grew up and left. I’m so glad I didn’t miss the day- to-day delights of their early years.


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