[First let me extend apologies for erratic communication with those of you kind enough to leave comments. I am dancing a nightmare fandango with my broadband and my landline and not even I am brave enough to attempt blogging from a mobile. So I am scribbling this and scurrying off to the nearest coffee emporium. If you are reading this it meant I figured out the process J

Morag is currently working on a project about the proposed changes to our benefit system that would see parents on benefits being made to return to work when their children reach the age of 12. Needless to say there is a huge outcry from the ‘I have made this choice to stay home and take care of my child why should I be penalized for it’ contingent. Followed by the ‘What is the world coming to that society doesn’t care about our children’.

Where do I begin on this one……..

First of all I would suspect that the overwhelming majority of us would like to stay home and raise our children but unfortunately that is not possible for many of us. I happen to be one of those people who believe that you should stay home as long as is humanly possible. Do without the holidays, do without the fancy clothes, and do without whatever you need to do without to provide your child with that love and care that only you can provide in their formative years. I stayed at home until my son was in Year One. It was really difficult and an incredible sacrifice financially – but that is what having children is about – maximum reward for which all sacrifice should be considered minimum. Yes I do realise that many people do not have that choice but I will always argue the point that many parents nowadays just are not willing to give up their luxuries and sometimes that is what needs to happen.

People I have been speaking with in conjunction to this project are trotting the well-worn ‘It’s not worth my while to go to work’. When people say that I feel that proverbial red mist settling over me. Have people totally forgotten the concept of ‘an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay’? Have we become so numbed by Big Brother contestants making millions for fumbling under duvets and footballers being paid £40,000 a week that we lose sight of a normal pay-packet. And living within the means provided by what is in that pay-packet. Can you imagine our grandparents saying ‘Well I can’t live on this so I’ll just stay home’. The shame that would be associated with that kind of behaviour would far outweigh any other consideration. Nowadays our idea of shame is not being able to send our child to school with the latest trainers on their feet and the latest gaming gadget in their pocket. On the weekends they must be in the newest football strip of their club or up at the high street shopping for England.

How did we become a society where so many feel the need to shower our offspring with ‘stuff’ to make up for the really important elements missing from many of their lives such as fathers and self-respect. And for heaven sake let’s not start blaming Maggie Thatcher again………not should we blame the current government. Kids are not in trouble because the government hasn’t given them enough youth centres (see my last posting) – a lot of kids are in trouble because we’re not giving them enough attention. Not the government – it is not their responsibility – us. When you speak with a lot of these parents who complain that they don’t want to go to work so they can spend time with their children you find that they may be present but they are certainly not accounted for. In other words they may be in the house when the child is there but the quality of the time spent is non-existent because they aren’t focussing on the child in the way that most working parents make an effort to because we know our time is limited.

Then there is the matter of setting an example. What does it teach your child when they hear you saying ‘It doesn’t really make sense for me to go to work I’d make more money staying home’. How do they develop a work ethic if that is the sort of example you are setting?

Yes people need help and support. But they also need to learn to help themselves. One of the people I am ‘conversing’ with is an unemployed mother of 4 who is horrified at the thought that she might be made to go to work. ‘I have made the choice to stay home and raise my children and it is society’s responsibility to help me do it’…………then she continued with the logic that she is ‘raising better individuals to strengthen society’ well I’m afraid that’s not what the figures are saying. I have yet to see evidence that single mothers with multiple children who stay home and collect benefits are raising an uber-class of citizens.

And I am saddened by this. I am not totally without heart. But I think it is time for us to insist as a society that if people don’t want to participate in the process of a productive life then they will have to deal with the consequences. Of course we do not want to see children suffering so we have to come up with a way to see that does not happy. And yes there will be help for those really need it but not for those who just want it – heck when I drag myself out of bed in the mornings and go off to do an honest day’s I think how badly I would want it. But then I remember my how disappointed my grandmother would be if I held out my palm, without needing to and my feet hit the floor.



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13 responses to “OUR GRANDPARENTS’ SHAME

  1. Liz

    “I happen to be one of those people who believe that you should stay home as long as is humanly possible. Do without the holidays, do without the fancy clothes, and do without whatever you need to do without to provide your child with that love and care that only you can provide in their formative years. ”

    I completely agree with you, Morag. It makes me mad when people say they can’t afford do it but then take expensive holidays. Why have children? Having said that I am in the fortunate position of not having had to work. Husband is able and willing to be the breadwinner. And he works hard.

    I’m not keen on a society that says, ‘let’s provide the nurseries, get women back to work,’ because I believe the most important job is mothering and that seems to undermine that, take us back to the situation when working mothers looked down on the stay-at-homes.

    However I also agree that society doesn’t have a responsibility to help that mother you mentioned and others who see benefits as an easy way of getting money without working. One of my husband’s cousins boasted about the fact that he’d never had to do a day’s work (apart from the odd cash-in-hand jobs) being able to not just survive but live well on his family’s various benefits.

    Good luck with your project. I hope you find an answer!

  2. Crushed by Ingsoc

    I’m impressed by the mixture of compassion and common sense you show, Morag. There are tough issues here, but your comment about needing not wanting said it all.
    Fact is the good things in life aren’t free, much as we might like them to be. It would be lovely if they were, but it is wrong to make others work for your benefits.
    Unfortunatley, most people only see things their way.

  3. Bel

    Morag, I agree with you throughout except where you absolve the Government of all blame.

    The Government is not wholly to blame, but over the years, we have seen policies the effect of which has been to undermine the family, and wrest responsibility away from parents. For example, we live in a society in which an underage girl can get an abortion without needing to inform her mother. A State-appointed social worker will fill the mother’s role very nicely, thank you.

    Gradually, the State has taken to itself many of the responsibilities that belong to parents. The State has been acting in loco parentis to the nation’s children for long enough. And as for their parents, they too are being ‘looked after’ and infantilised by the ever-growing nannying welfare State. Such policies have consequences, and we are beginning to see them now. It is therefore a bit much for the Government to turn around now and start expecting parents to exercise responsibility.

    Parental responsibility is a good thing. But it will take a lot more than pep talks from the Government for people to take up responsibilities that they, with the prompting of the Government, surrendered a long time ago.

  4. Ian

    Morag, this is another typically forthright and thought-provoking piece, thanks for posting it. I tend to agree with what you say here on the importance of parents making sacrifices in order to spend as much time as possible with their children, and my partner and I have done just that. You’ll doubtless be pleased to hear we have done so without recourse to state benefits…

    However, we know plenty of parents who are reliant on state benefits, but who are, nonetheless, devoting their time and energy to bringing up their children responsibly. You do your argument no favours by appearing to lump together all parents on benefits as feckless scroungers. To force all parents back to work at an arbitrary stage because a proportion are irresponsible seems to me to be the stuff of authoritarianism, rather than minimal state intervention.

    You ask how we became a society where ‘stuff’ replaces parental affection. Well, I won’t point the finger specifically, but society has changed radically in the post-war years: the heavy industries that provided employment for (mainly) the menfolk, and thus stability and meaning for those communities have been allowed to decline, while no meaningful alternatives were offered. A temporary job in a call-centre is an insult to a skilled worker. North Nottinghamshire, to give just one example,is now blighted by heroin addiction. It seems wilfully blind to change working conditions so radically without expecting a knock-on effect, perhaps in unexpected areas.

    And that’s without considering the effect of our nakedly consumerist culture: people are told to measure themselves through the possessions they have? Why? Well, if we stop consuming, that’s bad for business… House prices, also, are becoming ridiculous. Little wonder that in many households both parents have to work,and the children are left to whatever childcare is available. How can we square this circle? Should we instead be looking at creating better conditions for working parents, or – and I know I’ve used this line before – should a flexible workforce only bend one way?

    It’s such a difficult area, and I wish I had some answers to go with all my questions.

  5. I’m not a great thinker but I have pondered about this sort of thing before.

    I know a Councillor from a single parent family (I don’t know why) who tells me that he would rather have gone home from school hungry (and frequently did) rather than everyone knowing he was on free school meals.

    This is an interesting combination of shame and pride- things that far too many claimants are beyond caring about for either of them.

  6. dolbyn

    contrary view… partly because im in a contrary mood and partly because i think every coin has 2 sides, am undecided as to which i subscribe to but consider….

    in the old days before technology , before the internet, before tv, before radio, maybe even before newspapers, consider life. children were born and from an early age would follow in the family craft, be it farming, or soldiering, or service, or butcher or tailor. Everyone had to pull their weight, and to slack would not be considered. There was duty and responsabilty to help support your family, your comunity and your country. Choice didnt really come into it – people didnt dream of being pop stars, or footballers or of owning the latest fassions, yes people tried to better themselves but by and large your life was laid out from an early early age.

    Now children have opertunity, they have choices, they have dreams and aspirations. We tell them that they can achieve anything if they put thier minds to it. Even if in reality thats not true, in reality not everyone can be famous, not everyone can win. And when people realize that they feel cheated, because they have learned to believe that life owes them.

    So while i agree with you morag that parents need to spend more time imparting love and guidence to their children and that they need to set a good example, i think that parents also have a duty to teach the next generation duty, obligation and reality.

    Maybe the people we really should blame are the grandparents , after all they started it with their hippy clothes, individualism and free love.


  7. …How did we become a society where so many feel the need to shower our offspring with ‘stuff’ to make up for the really important elements missing from many of their lives such as fathers and self-respect…

    You always get straight to the heart of the matter, Morag.

  8. Thanks for this post.

    A few sound thoughts are such a breath of fresh air.

  9. I had to give up my job on becoming pregnant with my third child – because I just could not do everything and had to prioritise. I then found that I totally missed the boat when trying to return to work after my fourth become of an age to make it feasible.

    People sneered at my CV as the work experience was not relevant, childcare was near impossible to obtain at any price, let alone reasonable.

    Still not be daunted I got stuck in, did relevant voluntary work to gain current skills etc.etc. yet still the childcare was a stinking point. So my partner took early retirement to give me the chance to get back out there.

    Now 10 years on, I am dealing daily with the HR issues that arise from women returner’s to the work place. The rights that we now have – in my case I can take four unpaid weeks off this year – are just not practical for me to ask for, because if someone else could do my job, then they would be !! As it is my role keeps being “re-written” with my “emotional baggage” in mind – so I am no longer doing a job I love, just doing a job my boss hates and wants to divert to me.

    So the whole point of my diatribe is – work is good, needed, wholesome and a good image for our children – but until we get the balance right and have adequate childcare available and affordable – with employers of the mindset to assist – it just isn’t going to be practical for many.

    Best wishes and thanks for such a thought-provoking blog.

  10. I want to thank all of you for the most amazing comments. I have been away and just read them en masse. Much food for thought here and I thank you for taking the time. I am also grateful to be reading them now with a more clear head than I may have had when they first were posted. Thank you.

  11. My wife and I split our kids early years and although the kids are now at school, I think that it was a very worthwhile thing to do.

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