Being a parent

At the outset let's establish one thing, parenting is the toughest job on earth. The only people who think otherwise are those who've never done it. The myth of the 'little lady' sitting at home all day doing nothing, drinking tea and chatting with her mates while the man is out there doing real work and bringing home the bacon is an absurdity that requires some comment. 

Although there are men who are now house parents, they are a tiny minority, so the following unapologetically addresses women and children in the home. The multitude of jobs required to keep a home in good order is enormous and as a job it is largely unregarded, unpaid, taken for granted and relentless. Add to this childcare and all the same applies. Day after day the toilet gets magically cleaned, clothes get washed and dried, shopping is planned and bought, meals get made, general mess tidied, dust vanishes, carpets become mysteriously free of crumbs and fluff and what have you, dishes get washed, dried and put away, babies get fed, changed, entertained and comforted. A trip to the shops or friends requires a great bag of stuff to be prepared for every trip. The list is quite simply endless, on top of which, unlike most paid work, the ability to think on your feet is an absolute requirement. 

On top of all this there the constant process of socialisation. We are each born into a particular time, place and culture and children are constantly subject to the vast array of influences that describe for them their place in the world. This process of socialisation and enculturalization begins, naturally, in the home and is largely an invisible process, as much for parents (indeed everyone) as for children, because it's something that we carry in our subconscious mind. Our subconscious self is really just a vast storehouse of information that we constantly access as we navigate our way in the world of the senses, the physical world.

The writer recalls becoming a house parent while his wife went to university. Within a week or so he was beating the wall with a tightly rolled tea towel, yelling, 'I can't do this, I can't do this!' Nothing in his male raised and educated life had prepared him for such a situation, learning to plan the mountain (think Everest) of tasks required to run a home and care for a child was the greatest challenge he'd ever faced. At one stage, having dropped off wife and daughter to University and school respectively, he'd put the vacuum cleaner on, place a blanket over his head to bask in the white noise just to free up a couple of brain cells in order to face the day ahead. No job before or since has presented a fraction of such a challenge.

Given the enormity of the task of keeping a house and parenting and the contribution to the nation OBE's are given to quite the wrong people.


2011 Keith Lindsay-Cameron.