posted Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 11:56 pm
I was just reflecting on the unpaid, unsung, unrecognised care and cajoling parents do every day. Unlike the 1950s movies and sitcoms, many children DO NOT eat their meals without a fuss, get dressed without some resistance, like sharing, enjoy brushing their teeth or having their hair washed. Many, often quite well-parented children DO NOT want to be told it’s bedtime, enjoy being strapped in to their booster car seats, or want get out of the door at the set time even if it is to go to a birthday party. And I guess having sunscreen applied was not such an issue in the 50′s, but it certainly is in certain households. There’s a lot of persuading, convincing, and yes sometimes bribing that has to go on in daily parenting, even for parents that are Triple P certified. OK, I fess up, I’m talking about my life, not all you far more competent parents out there. I admit, now that my daughter Possum is 5, I have been guilty of saying ‘ if you don’t do xxx you won’t play with xxx after school’ (this often happens when we’re still trying to get out the door to that said school, and I’m starting to panic).
It made me think that there should be an Olympic medal for parents…or perhaps a trophy of some kind, to reward and recognise the hard work, dedication, patience, the coaching and Olympic effort put into parenting. I know, research shows that even if there is no reward, no recognition, many parents continue to devote loads of unconditional time to their offspring because its a matter of love…but sometimes it’s not enough. Some parents just fall off the rails, buckle under the relentless pressure, or experience burnout from trying to be the ever-available ‘supermum’ or in the case of Looky Daddy ‘superdad’.
But is this fair? A parent friend of mine, admitted a while back, that her job as a nurse in a busy hospital emergency department was much easier and relaxing that looking after her two (I thought adorable) children. I was a bit gobsmacked, until I realised that she is paid for the care she gives her patients, and she has a support network of staff around her at all times, despite the high stress nature of her work. At home, she is the primary carer, while hubby works long hours and often weekends. Most of her family live overseas…so the responsibility of her children lies mostly on her shoulders. I feel blessed to have a very supportive equally shared parenting situation (see our real life story here) but even so, there are days when being a parent is just plain hard work. (I’ll blog another day about all the upsides – and believe me there are many!)
So it made me think this issue of valueing care and putting money where our mouth is, and paying parents a decent wage to care is really a critical issue… A post on paid parental leave by Penguin Unearthed really explores the ins and outs of this issue. So what are your thoughts, as a parent, or non-parent? How much paid parental leave is fair? Is it fair, the value we place on unpaid care? Do parents deserve Olympic medals?