The responsibility of bringing up children
A few weeks ago all Hungarian news were screaming about a thirtysomething-year-old mother, who in a blast of anger murdered her own one-year-old child.
She hit the head of the baby against the floor so hard that even the urgently arriving emergency personnel could not save his life. The horrible story was published on television and in the newspapers. Obviously, the public mood was furious and people demanded the murderer to go to jail and suffer for her sins. But no-one ever, not even once asked the question, why the mother was alone at home with the two children.
This story made me think about how the responsibility of bringing up children is shared in an average family.
Unfortunately, it is not an unusual situation that a parent has to raise the children alone, and in those cases, the parent doesn’t have any other choice but shouldering all the duties and responsibilities on her/his own. As a child of divorced parents I have the deepest appreciation towards them, but in this article now I would like to write about the families where there is a two parents structure.
In these days it is still quite conventional that a mother should stay at home with the newborn while the father is at work.
But why is that so obvious?
Nowadays it is more and more common that fathers also have longer periods off from work after taking the baby home from the hospital – which of course can be a different length in different countries, for example in Finland it is up to one month. Furthermore, it is becoming more and more socially accepted to be a “househusband”. But for some reason, people still tend to think that raising children is the responsibility of women and men should provide the wherewithal for that.
I know that bringing up this topic would open a sidetrack in this article, but I can not stop myself from mentioning here that I honestly believe the wage gap between male and female is what keeps this consideration alive. It is an obvious and perfectly adequate argument that the one who has the higher salary should go (back) to work, and the other with a lower income should give up the job and stay at home with the children. I assume if women earn the same amount of money for the same amount of job, it would not be so obvious in every situation that she is the one who has to stay at home.
In my opinion women and men should take an equal part in the responsibility.
If for example one parent is at home with the children and the other is at work for the day, in the afternoon the one who has been out for work should take care of the kids, check their homework, make the dinner, lull them to sleep, or whatever needs to be done.
On the other hand, the parent who spent the whole day around the children deserves some time to do “adult things” too. Being home and doing the job around kids and the house is still not considered as a proper job by society, even though it may be even more hard work physically and mentally than sitting in an office for eight hours a day. So the need for a break or some “me-time” is underestimated and not taken seriously enough either. Having to constantly stay alert, every day and every hour is a tiring job, and everyone deserves some relaxation, even the one who is “not working”.
To approach the question from another perspective,
let’s talk about the interpersonal relationships. If parents do not share equally their time, duties and responsibilities, one parent will spend less time with the children. One will miss the first word, the first steps, the first day at school, the argument when the teenager comes home too late, the graduation, the wedding. Being there, being together is bonding. One never can give a bigger present to someone else but her/his time. Time is the most precious thing in a finite human life and it should be a well-thought decision, where, how and with whom people spend it.
Children know and also feel, how much they are appreciated by their parents through how much attention they get. And not only do they feel, but also learn. Consciously or unconsciously they will act as they saw it at home from their own parents in their own micro-community.
If they learn the lesson that parenting is a one-person job and not a common duty, this is what they will pass along to the future generations. This is how the future will be poisoned.
And here are some stock phrases to conclude with: