Every so often there is an article in some newspaper or magazine that “reveals” the challenges of being a father who is involved with raising his kids. Every time I come across one of these the little voice in my head asks “why are we still having this conversation? Isn’t it obvious yet?” I find it so difficult to understand, now having raised my children, that we have not yet changed the premise of this debate. It is crazy to believe that being an involved parent and moulding those we bring into this word is not a time consuming activity; one that can leave you energetically and sometimes also emotionally drained at the end of the day; one that is financially costly both to the family, and especially if one parent reduces their paid work hours to do so. There is no doubt that on some level we are more aware of this now that ever before. Yet, what continues to be missing from this debate is the critical point that, regardless of how much education you and your spouse may have, how well you are paid, or the varying needs of your child(ren), someone must always raise the children. The question that we should be asking is who should this someone be and what should this look like?
True, this is a more difficult and controversial question. But, simply documenting (over and over again) that raising children is tougher than we were once led to believe- like when it was women’s work- leaves us no closer to improving this situation or creating a model that supports both parents, children and, dare I say, society in the long run. To answer this question requires that we examine our values, our ‘live and let live’ approach to childcare and that we consider building a well-supported childcare system that includes varying approaches.
If we continue to get bogged down in the debate that says that raising children should be a parent’s responsibility that, in itself, puts us into the fray between stay-at- home parents and the dual income family, which for many is a necessity for survival. If we say grandparents should help we cross the line between “I’ve raised my kids and now it’s my time” and the belief held by those that this is the role of the extended family. When we claim a nanny or daycare is the way to go we are not only, legitimizing that a third party should play a role in how are children are raised, but we must also acknowledge there are huge discrepancies between affordable available daycare programs and private ones. In the end we get caught up in these details and are no closer to creating a system that works better- one that supports parents as well as children regardless of their chosen approach. After all, doesn’t every child deserve the best start possible, whatever his/her parent(s) deems that to be? And should we not as a society be open to equally supporting all of these options if we are to figure out which ones will help us build the communities we desire? My guess is that if we did this and I hope that we do, we will discover (document) that each of these approaches is a good one offering different benefits and that this helps to strengthen the diversity essential to building a country that thrives. Isn’t it time we changed the conversation? Surely, we and our children deserve this.