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Time for Parenting...

...because raising children is a full-time job

March 2003 Newsletter

Equal, not identical; new members write; "Your Dad's a teacher"; What the papers say; What is work?

What the Papers Say

We start this section with a cracker of a broadside form Minette Marrin writing in THE SUNDAY TIMES soon after Cherie Blair tearfully admitted, after her disastrous Bristol property debacle, that in juggling her busy life 'sometimes some of the balls get dropped'. Entitled Children are the victims of juggling mother syndrome, Marrin writes:

"I'd just like to point out that I am a very, very busy person and have lots of balls in the air: I am deeply devoted to my children. my family, my husband, my many trips abroad, my charities, my beauty treatments, my gym and my hectic social life, quite apart from my work, and if I write anything misleading in this column, then all I can say is I'm sorry. Obviously all this isn't good enough for some people.
Actually it isn't. The people it isn't good enough for are children. Cherie Blair's notorious apology made blindingly, glaringly obvious something that most people don't say, or won't say. You cannot do all these things and be a good mother.

I hate to say this, but I have learnt it the hard way, and I do believe it: women's opportunities have led to the serious neglect of children.
I don't want to attack those women who are forced by necessity to work long hours, and who long to be able to spend more time with their children; I have every sympathy with them. What interests me are those many women who can choose.They are not forced to take on all that they do but they choose to. The well-to-do are neglecting their children just as much as those struggling to make ends meet. This is not a cause for self-congratulation.

Britain's increase in illiteracy, innumeracy, truancy, street violence, unmanageable schools, teenage mental illness and suicide (especially among boys) and the explosion of drug and alcohol abuse among school children rich and poor has coincided with what? With working mothers and child neglect.

I don't want to think this. I always wanted to have the same chances as any man to succeed. I don't underestimate the sacrifices involved for an ambitious woman. But experience has convinced me that even if you have two people to bring up children together, you cannot have two demanding full-time careers.

Children at risk from stressed parents

Children at risk from stressed parents the OBSERVER reported on a four-year study at Harvard Medical School which found that children of parents who rated their stress levels as high when their children were 12 months old were likely to show behavioural problems by the age of four. Unsurprisingly, parental stress was closely linked to the breakdown of the traditional extended family support network.
Karen Sullivan interviewed British children for her book Kids Under Pressure and said the damage caused to children by stress was immeasurable and only just beginning to be fully understood. 'We have created a potential timebomb'.

Starting school too young can be bad for children's education
said THE INDEPENDENT citing research by the respected National Foundation of Educational Research who claim there is no education rationale for a compulsory school starting age of five or for the practice of admitting four year-olds to infant classes.

The NEFR suggests starting school at six could mean children staying longer in formal education later. Most countries in Europe start at six, and several not until seven. The study claimed that early formal schooling could "increase anxiety and have a negative effect of children's self-esteem and motivation to learn." Most European countries have a strong kindergarten or nursery system where children from three to five can begin their learning and socialisation in a more informal atmosphere of play.

Since 1997 there has been a massive expansion of nursery education. The NFER list several pitfalls to early schooling, saying that unlike in pre-school settings,reception class teachers allow children to spend proportionately less time on tasks of their own chosing; they are physically less active and spend less time exploring their environment. Drink problems?

Drink problems?

Scientists who studied 302 twelve and thirteen year-olds from affluent backgrounds, reported the MAIL, under the heading Pushy parents drive middle class pupils into drink found that lack of parental contact where both parents go out to work is one factor in middle-class children turning to drink and drugs. Pressures of schoolwork and fears of not meeting parental expectations also made them more susceptible to depression. The presence of adults at home was found to be a key factor in happiness at home and success at school.
Sarah Douglas Pennant