Anger and anxiety. Doubts and despair. Fears and frustrations. Stresses and strains. Has life become too complicated for today’s parents? If what I get to see in my day-to-day practice as a paediatrician is any indication of a social trend, then the answer has to be a very disturbing -‘Yes’!
Parenting in today’s jet-set world is presenting problems that are quite unique and although their solutions are not easy to find, it is important to identify these problem areas in order to devise a strategy to tackle them. What I am going to discuss here is not based on some fancy social study reports but rather it is just a reflection of today’s parental life as seen through my eyes!
The ‘Time’ factor:
The traditional roles of parents – father being the ‘provider’ and mother being the ‘care taker’- have become obsolete. ‘Both parents working outside’ is a situation that has now become a rule rather than an exception in an urban household. Although this has made for more economic freedom for the family, the ‘time together’ has been a casualty in the process.
Television has already made heavy inroads into the family time and now computers, mobile phones and faxes have brought the office work even inside homes, further limiting family interaction.
This time constraint is so severe that parents often find themselves juggling to balance career and child-rearing and this uphill struggle provides little or no time for pursuing their own interests and hobbies that are so important for a positive self-development.
Lack of family support:
Disintegration of the joint family structure has taken away the role of elder relatives -like grandfather or grandmother- in child-care and development. Young, inexperienced parents find themselves un-supported and ‘lonely’ in this respect. Even handling minor illnesses or other problems in the family often induces a panic situation.
Relying on housemaids or unqualified day-care providers (‘baby sitters’) for child-care while the parents are working away has become an accepted norm. Practically none of them are capable enough to offer quality care and usually time spent with these caregivers proves unproductive developmentally as emotional attachment is often lacking.
House-rents, utility bills, school fees, medical care costs … the amount of money required nowadays just for subsistence of a family is a lot and I am excluding the part required for savings and for occasional indulgences!
Meeting these demands often means working more and devoting lesser time to self and family. It also means that ‘both parents working’ situation is going to stay!
Just one look at the number of textbooks and notebooks or better still one tug at the heavy school bag is enough to tell the woeful tale of today’s education system. The seemingly impossible load of information today’s school kids are expected to cram up in their brains provides another headache for their parents.
Teaching unfamiliar subjects to kids, taking their homework and preparing them for exams are testing tasks for any parent.
Faulty health concepts:
Somehow I perceive most of today’s parents as obsessively health conscious as regards their kids’ health. Maybe it is a direct result of the ‘small family’ phenomenon! They are bothered by slightest variation of normal routine and often worry about non-existent health problems. Even in this age of information-explosion, the level of their medical knowledge is not up to the mark. Most of their medical concepts are well and truly half-baked amalgamations of their own ideas and those of their as ill-informed kith and kin.
Most of them expect medicines for every possible complaint and are skeptical about the importance of preventive measures.
Day by day, more and more importance is being placed on the materialistic aspect of life. ‘Success at any cost’ and ‘Wealth is health’ seems to be the agenda of new age. Parents are pushing their kids to go faster, higher and longer right from the word ‘go’. Improbable goals are set and immeasurable pressures are put on self and the kid.
Looking at the lighter side of life has almost become a thing of the past. Too serious outlook at life has become commonplace. The very fact that people need ‘laughter clubs’ to laugh is an indication of this unhealthy outlook.
Is there a solution?:
Life has become a one big pressure-cooker with a dysfunctional safety valve for all but more so for parents who have to think not only of their own but also of their kids’ future. I don’t really think I have the authority or the experience to offer a solution to such a complex and global social problem. But as a socially conscious individual in the medical field I am seeing the stress taking its toll -mentally as well as physically- on families and feel it is my duty to at least point out the grey areas. Each family will have its own set of problems that will have to be dealt judiciously through a concerted and concentrated effort of all family members. What kind of role model we want to become for our children today will decide the shape of things to come tomorrow!