This post is for all parents who have found themselves swallowed up in the giant whirlwind that seems to be parenting. Whether you are working full-time, part-time or at home full-time, the fact remains that there never seems to be enough time in the day. Somehow work, socialization, school schedules (Lord help you if you have kids in different schools with different drop off and pick up times), extra-curriculars, homework, to-do lists, housework, meal preparation, social obligations, family functions and squeezing in that "quality" family time all add up to the fact that we all seem to be in a race to get to....well, to what exactly? Where ARE we going?
Everyone says, "Oh it just goes so fast. You just blink and it's gone." But, why? I totally get the saying, "the days are long but the years are short," but they don't have to be. We need to find ways to give that true quality time back to families. It is important. Time does go by fast, and each season of your life only has so many chapters. We need to take the time to savor each one, but how, when our entire culture seems Hell-bent on destruction through over-scheduling? Everything about American society is fast. We have fast food, and fast cars, convenience foods and convenience stores, drive-through lanes and express roads. And where are we rushing to? The answer is usually, we are rushing to work. And then since we work so much, we are rushing to play as hard as we can in order to squeeze every drop of organized fun out of our too short weekends which are slowly and gradually being encroached upon by the working world.
Where do families find peace and space in the hectic rat race? Why is our entire society built to celebrate the income producing work, but shun the reproductive work of caring for the home and the family?
We relegate food preparation to companies and restaurants and now we face controversy over what is in our food. We relegate housecleaning and landscaping to poorly paid immigrant labor and then complain that they are taking our jobs. We farm out childcare to whomever can provide it most reliably for the cheapest amount of money possible, and then we demonize poorly run childcare centers and babysitters who are found to be guilty of various criminal behavior. When exactly did we lose sight of the family as the lynch pin of society? Suddenly a family is "a choice," and often one single people feel that they shouldn't have to "pay for." They feel they "work harder" or "work longer" and that families shouldn't be given special treatment.
My charge to them, as they complain about their co-worker heading home to care for a sick kid yet again, is WHO do you think is going to provide your social security when you retire? Who will be your future nurses, doctors, golf caddies, waitresses, teachers, grocers, farmers, insurance salesman and cab drivers? Imagine what the world would look like if we all stopped having children because our "choice" wasn't worth it. Now, keep that in mind next time the Mom or Dad in the cubicle next to you has to take a long lunch to pick up her kid's medicine or attend a parent-teacher conference. It is not "a choice" so much as a social necessity for the continuation of society and it is high time it was treated accordingly. It is not only an important job, but one that is literally necessary for the perpetuation of society as we know it today.
We need to get off the treadmill of fast-paced America and reconnect with our basic roots. Yes, our country was based on perseverance and hard-work, but I doubt that Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson envisioned an 80hr work week, a commuter marriage, or the subsuming of the family into the economic sphere when they proffered that wisdom. Somehow we have taken the idea that anyone can make it in America with a little hard work and perverted it into the idea of working ourselves to death in pursuit of success in a perceived competitive world.
I choose to see our world as collaborative rather than competitive. I think we all need work together to find the will and means to support each other in ways that help us all cut back on the "noise" of our lives and find the quiet spaces. We need to stop treating family as "a choice" that parents should carry the entire burden for. If we did I think less people would stress about squeezing in quality time. Instead they could simplify, knowing that family was valued, knowing that support for parents was there from ALL walks of life, not just other parents. In doing so I believe it would allow quality time to grow out of the moment in a very real and organic way. Knowing that you had the time to find those quiet moments and savor them might make those flying years a little more bearable, and maybe make them seem like they aren't going by quite so fast.