Everyone is in a flap about Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans’ remark that only way to “properly” raise children is for one parent to stay home and one to go to work. But everyone is ignoring the central problem.
Parenting is a job – a crucial job to the survival of humanity and the development of society. However, in today’s industrial context, parenting is not a career option.
It’s work that’s not paid for; yet, it is assumed that moms or dads can toss a few gnawed bones of attention to their children after grueling days at the office or on the commute or in the isolated oilpatch camp, and somehow with a dose of Nintendo Wii, a DS, a few cans of pop and a family pizza night, the kids will be alright.
Well, they won’t!
Recently the Advocate reported on gangs of youth roaming and pestering the folks in Parkdale.
In Calgary, two young women allegedly mugged a 92-year-old woman, leaving her with a broken hip.
In Edmonton, two 14 year olds murdered two innocent people recently and a gang of teens mugged a man on a bus.
Obesity is on the rise. There is a direct correlation between the absence of a parent at home who knows how to cook and manage the household stores and limit access to junk food. Today many kids don’t even know how to cook – a skill they once learned, absorbed, while hanging around the kitchen with Mom.
I don’t have statistics, but I suspect the healthiest, happiest and most grounded kids exist in our rural farm households. This is a place where the kids spend a great deal of time alongside Mom and Dad, modeling and learning a huge variety of skills, all of them relevant to survival.
How to grow food. How to process it. How to save seed (i.e. money) for investment in next year’s crop. How to be in touch with nature and to appreciate what you have without pining for what you don’t have. How to make things with your own hands.
Compare this to urban kids who are diligently ferried by their parents to and from daycare, to ballet, soccer, movies, and the mall – all to be dropped off and left to their own devices while being “enriched” by strangers with skills that may provide amusement, entertainment or physical fitness, but no life skills, and often enticed into danger.
Evans suggested that less parented and less educated kids often end up in trouble with the law or with mental health issues. I support her in this – latch-key kids have no one to turn to when tempted into trouble; kids who live on chocolate bars, pop and poor nutrition will be negatively affected emotionally and mentally by their diets.
Just ask Margot Kidder why she became mentally ill, and how she became well.
There’s a definite diet correlation.
Consistent parental guidance is the missing link in the chaotic chain of events we see unfolding in this society of obesity, microwaved diets of prepared foods, and poor choices.
So why can’t we make parenting a career option?
Why can’t we change the tax structure dramatically to recognize and reward the mom or dad who makes the hard choice of doing the relentless and mind-numbing tasks of child rearing and household management, but who dedicates their life and energy to guiding the next generation with love, life skills and who makes a point of just “being there.” All the time.
Iris Evans spoke the truth.
Being a woman, a mother and a career professional, she knows of what she speaks. And since her business is finance, let us hope her colleagues will take her words seriously.
The Alberta government is trying to stem the tide of youth drug and alcohol abuse by paying thousands of dollars to run radio ads, sponsored by AADAC, encouraging us to “Listen to a child . . . You’ll never know the difference it can make.”
Isn’t that what Mom or Dad used to do?
Make parenting a valid career choice. With equivalent pay or tax incentives.
Restore the status of being Mom or Dad as more than “Oh, you’re just a housewife/husband?”
No. I’m not. I am the general manager of the next generation.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.