Years ago I walked into a minor emergency clinic on a cold Saturday morning to find out why I had been inexplicably tired for two weeks. When I left the clinic two hours later, a blanket of snow had quietly fallen over the streets and my windshield. The world had become quiet, and I was a different person, pondering the diagnosis of an unexpected pregnancy. I remember that day like no other. Later at home, as I stared out the window at the snow falling softly to the earth, I received a flower delivery from my mother for my birthday. The bouquet seemed to mark the death of who I had believed I was, and to celebrate the birth of a new mother. I knew instinctively then, as I know now, that my life was no longer my own.
I believe children are people who take time, energy and love, like no other beings on earth. I am vigilant about considering what message I am sending to my children with my job choices. There is a choice to minimize my work load and to maximize time spent with my children. I am passionate about spending time with my red-headed, ten-year-old daughter, and cotton-topped, six-year-old son. I prepare meals, nothing elaborate, and we sit down and eat as a family. We light a candle and talk about the day. We laugh at Max’s faces and dance moves, and we help Kate find spelling words in her despised word search homework. We keep the TV off. We take turns sparring with each other after supper and then die laughing while licking popsicles.
I believe there is no replacement for a parent’s attention to curious and developing children. “I’m busy,” or “I have to work,” or “I don’t have time” are choices we make, not absolutes. American culture, riddled with talk of Family Values from the Right, and No Child Left Behind from the Left, misses the mark by embracing materialistic and self-serving behaviors. Children are dropped off at daycare centers, schools, and every extracurricular sport, art, religious, and civic lesson offered, and are babysat by video games and TV sets, while the all-important Adults work forty to sixty-hour work weeks, to feed our failing self-esteem and to satiate our appetites for the latest consumer trend. Even our divorce laws condone this behavior with the expectation of a full-time working custodial parent in the calculation of child support.
I believe children deserve quality parent time during their brief childhood, which cannot happen reasonably, with a stressed out, fully-employed parent. I believe there are other choices. I believe I have a responsibility to my children, myself, and our society, to consider the time factor in my job and lifestyle decisions. I want to be there doing the dishes, as my children glue and tape paper creations together and argue about who lost the scissors. It is a conscious choice. It is an ongoing process to find the balance. This I believe.
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