Apparently we neglect our children, making them the most unhappy, unhealthy and underachieving in Europe. And yet if you are a single parent who needs to stay home with them (or just can’t find suitably flexible work), then the latest proposal is that you will have your benefit stopped if your children are 12 or older.
Lots of parents, single or otherwise, manage to work and look after over-12s, but circumstances differ, and sometimes it’s just not possible without a good support system. Many who do work rely on tax credits, and what a minefield that can be.
It’s the old dilemma about what’s more important – time or money? If you are out earning the money you don’t have the time to enjoy it or, more importantly, to enjoy it with your children.
Have you ever had a sleepless night with the baby, then had to get the kids up, washed, dressed, fed and watered? Get one bus to nursery complete with baby in buggy and a five-year-old in tow, another bus to school and a third one to work? Do this in reverse after work, get home, cook tea, let them watch television for an hour while you cook, clean and do the washing. Parents get blamed for letting them watch TV because they’ll get obese. Oh and here’s the latest, it might make them autistic (takes you back 25 years when “cold” parents were blamed for autism, instead of accepting it for the physical condition it was later shown to be.)
And on some days we don’t quite manage the five portions of fruit and veg for our kids because the local greengrocer has shut down and become a takeaway. Welcome to the real world of parenting.
My kids are grown up now, but I can sympathise with parents of children today. Give them a break I say. Yes, most parents work to pay the bills, and many would work more flexibly if they could, but this tends to be a middle-class perk, particularly for men.
And people split up. Perhaps our long hours culture contributes to this. But most parents continue to put their children first, even when this happens.
Parents aren’t to blame for the constant pressure in schools, or for the fact that their children may be bullied or become victims of gun crime. Parents should be supported, not vilified.
Jennifer Harvey is a carer and works with people with learning difficulties
This article appeared in the 23 March issue of the magazine under the headline “The pressures of parenting”