Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Parent? Apparently Not

“I care about the children,” or “I only want what’s best for the children.” It seems that I hear those platitudes most often from people who, by choice, don’t have any children of their own. I also hear it sometimes from others who are parents but have only one child, as if they found out what a huge sacrifice it is to raise one child and they quickly closed the door on the possibility of having any more. There are quite a few such people in education and in other human services fields, more so than in the private sector it seems. I have taken no surveys, nor have I read any; it just seems that way in my experience.

Some childless people really do care about children, but they do it quietly and don’t feel the need to profess it. They simply perform kindnesses in a subdued way without seeking recognition. Others feel the need to trumpet their concern and when they do, it rings hollow somehow.

Often, teachers who have chosen not to become parents are the first to criticize parents whose children are sometimes unruly or challenging in school. They believe firmly that all children would work hard, submit to authority and behave well if only their parents had raised them properly. They cling to this belief even after teaching two or more children from the same family who are quite different from one another - one a model student and the other a certified pain in the butt. Obviously, each had the same parent(s) and presumably were raised about the same way, but they turned out quite differently. Certainly, many unruly students are very likely that way from lack of correction at home, but we humans are complicated organisms and there are many other causes than parenting.

Childless teachers tend to forget what it’s like to be a kid. When capable students slack off, they tend to overlook laziness as a likely cause, thinking that there must be some reason other than sloth for lack of performance. Parents can draw from vast experience in getting children to do chores - experience that childless teachers would obviously be lacking. Parents know that nine out of ten times, indolence and procrastination are the reasons kids don’t do what they’re supposed to, and cracking the whip is the most effective way to motivate them in such circumstances. They tend not to teach that in the education departments of our state colleges and universities where most teachers take the courses they need to become certified, however. Instead, they look for some syndrome or code to account for it, and extra personnel are hired to fix the problem.

Since teachers, social workers, and other human services professionals are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats and support similar policies on issues dear to that party, they tend to be strongly pro-choice. That so many remain childless should, therefore, be no surprise. Radical feminists are heavily represented in those occupations and their rhetoric has proclaimed for decades that the biggest obstacle to leading a fulfilling life as a woman is pregnancy. They tend to consider motherhood in a nuclear family as little better than servitude, so it is ironic whey they’re so often the first to profess how much they care about the kids other people raise.

Their concern is frequently voiced when an expensive program or policy is being proposed in a staff meeting or school board meeting or a budget meeting. Parents must operate within family budgets and they must be ready to say no to something their children want. Parents are also accustomed to going without for the sake of their children. Nearly every day, they have to sacrifice energy, time or money they could have spent indulging themselves to spend it instead on what the children need. Some things, however, just aren’t affordable and parents have to remind themselves and their children that it is possible to go without much and still lead a full and productive life. Parents also know that when kids have to work hard and save up for something they really want, they appreciate it a lot more when they finally get it. When liberals clamor for increased spending money on programs “for the children” however, it’s often other people’s money they want to spend.

Nearly everyone can recall feeling a profound skepticism when told by their parents something like: “Wait until you have children of your own; then you’ll understand,” or “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” or “When you’re a parent, you’ll know why I’m doing this and you’ll feel differently.” Everyone who becomes a parent overcomes that skepticism and learns how true those statements were. Do those who choose not to become parents ever learn this? Apparently not.

This column was first published in May, 2005

1 comment:

Ted Sares said...

Good stuff. Keep up the work, Tom.