This is a question we have been asking for months now and the following article sparked us into thinking again:
We don't want to be helicopter parents because I know independent play is vital to a child's development. Equally leaving him for too long is wrong,modern society puts way too much pressure on modern parents! My mother used to give us an hour in the morning and two in the afternoon, the rest of the time we played on our own, this was just how life ran, no Cebeebies,Nickelodeon ,just toys to entertain us.
I then started to consider what a modern parent was in the UK in 2013.Womens roles have vastly changed since the fifties and sixties. Women now are all things to all people, we are expected to be bread winners, primary care givers, the maker of lunch boxes,the entertainer, the school and play co ordinator, the educator to our child,the dutiful wife, the caring wife who nods ones head in sympathy to various household members and friends woes whilst juggling shopping lists and diaries of appointments. Men ,meanwhile ,do not know what their role is anymore,women have taken it all on and expected to do so by our bra burning predecessors! Men feel de-masculinated, modern women expect men to do things that frankly they struggle with and which they would not have been expected to do when a woman stayed at home. Men entertaining a toddler is not always the easiest combination,men doing grocery shopping come back with an arm full of beef jerky and cakes rather than milk and nappies. Modern weekends appear to comprise of household arguments ,world over,all available to view on Facebook!Status updates of "feeling exasperated" from both men and women.
What happened to it being ok for mothers to stay at home !?! The sixties generation happened, a movement of women thinking the grass would be greener if they could be out the home and working,sit coms like "Butterflies" showing a bored and frustrated housewife (see the show below) reflecting the new mood.The same generation of women who had no idea what pressures their actions and protests were about to invite onto their daughters and sons. The same generation who had time to teach their children to read prior to school and who scoff at their working daughters not able to teach their Pre school child to read, a generation who didn't have to be skint paying out money on nursery care because few children went to nursery.
Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how sucked in by the Tory machine you are, I am rather ill and need a lot of surgery.I am at home with my son and not a day goes by where I do not feel grateful on one hand to have the luxury of time with him yet I also feel hated by other envious,healthy,working women. Although I am not sure any of them would want to have to say goodbye to their child whilst they left for specialist major surgery,located hours away from home and potentially not seeing their child for a month each time.Serious illness, childhood disability has meant this is a lot of my life, I make the most of it when I am home! I make the most of it when I can work, I was always first in the office and being thrown out last, I loved work, the buzz of helping others into employment, listening and supporting the "difficult to reach groups" of disengaged youngsters into training and a positive career. I try hard to not begrudge any one in any situation,work,life,education and parenthood has taught me this lesson.
How much time is too much time with a toddler? It goes on parents instinct. I do not need to read articles written by those who write to condone actions of not being around their child much, who make it easier for two working parents to swallow the tough pill that their child going into nursery every day is a good thing and having to ask their child to get on whilst washing, ironing and shopping is caught up with at weekends is ok too. Modern women and men have no choice but to both work full working hours,this is really sad and I society has failed modern parents and their children. With housing costs sky high no one can afford to not work, dear reader it is a horrendous struggle when one is not working, no one should feel bad but equally don't turn grief of personal situation into envy towards parents who can not work unless you have actual knowledge of their difficulties. I often wonder if workers feel that if they didn't have to be employed they could live it up? Perhaps they think they could go to the spa,the gym, engage in retail therapy,learn a new hobby. they could have hundreds of activities planned a day for their child, they would feel looked after and be looking after, life would he sweet. This view is misguided, in todays society you are likely to not be working if you are redundant,very ill or very disabled. If ill and disabled you have to leave your child for months whilst having major surgery, you have to drag your child and husband to hospital appointments every week, you have a far smaller amount of money than those who are on basic minimal wage and hence the nice side of life does not exist. Money is used to keep a roof over your head,pay bills and eat, which is fair, we are not working and money should be tighter but there are no trips to the spa!
I have felt so angry during spells of working,having jammed in umpteen morphine liquid cups to get through a busy day, sat in meetings feeling flu like then coming home going straight to bed,switching on the news to find people claiming Disability benefits who are dancing on tables, playing golf or rugby! These people are rare in the UK though, thank god. Most people with disability are genuine and we can not go anywhere because one is so physically disabled and one needs a lot of help to get out. Therefore it is up to me as a parent to provide a whole day of entertainment at home for my son,day in,day out, with the only reprieve coming from a friend, family member or hospital appointment to get us out. This is the reality experienced by many physically disabled parents in 2013 which is why a healthy parent will rarely see a disabled parent out shopping, you will hardly think about disabled parents and their children as a group because you won't come across us at baby and parent groups either. Disabled children have become the new buzz word to inclusion, if a child in a chair wants to rock climb there is a resource for that but able bodied children to disabled parents are a forgotten group.
Then there are those with disabilities that are not obvious. Disabilities such as cancer, mental health difficulties which actually I think are the worst kind of disability. People in the UK still have some understanding of a struggle that physical disability must be especially for a parent but for mentally ill people, they feel even more isolated,hated and misunderstood. They have no useful visual aid, no wonky body, no sticks, no assistant dog just a terribly sad time going on for them, perhaps in the form of clinical depression, Post Natal depression, perhaps OCD etc. I can not imagine how it must feel in this political climate to have a mental illness, at least I can think "meh you berks" but people who already feel frightened and judged are now actually being judged by a hostile UK. Their children will be as left out as those children with physically disabled parents. Who wants to go ,feeling absolutely rotten about themselves, to a group where normality is expected?
Modern world of parenthood, in the UK ,is a tough world. There is no group who has it easier, well unless you are Mrs Glaxo Kline Smith, maybe she does quite well,equally maybe she is sick of Mr Smith coming home and moaning about the new NICE drug laws when she has had a dispiriting day of her washing machine giving up mid cycle,their child has drawn on the walls with crayons again, who knows! We all have our own struggles however they look to the observer. I still put single parents on a pedestal, I do not know how you guys do it and as for a disabled single parent.....wow.... they are the X Men of parenthood! Rather than hitting out at one another maybe we can listen and learn and take what inspires us from different parents and apply it to our lives. All parents are doing their best in these hard times and although parenting is exhausting and often intense it is also the best thing in life, the happiest and the luckiest thing to happen to us :) x
I shall go now and play bathing toys, a task I can do easily sat at the table with a plastic ice cream tub of water, bubbles , lots of toys and one happy child. Followed by playing bubbles in our dining room whilst my assistant dog and he run around popping the bubbles, all can be done sat in a wheelchair or chair and all entails laughter and fun especially watching the dogs face as she eats the bubbles! Then I shall read to my son, my husband will come and cook a meal for us and then we will all eat, child will sleep and it will all start again in the afternoon and the next day,the day after that,day after that with hospital appointments making up our time out of the house. My little boy has played on his own for a good hour. Time to be with him now, cuddle him, laugh with him and chat over life, Mr Tumble, 64 Zoo Lane and Peter and Janes "Pat the dog".