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This post is written by Lucille, a staff writer for My Broken Coin.
The recent post “I’d Rather Have New Shoes Than Kids” and the subsequent comments made me realize the great social divide between the US and the rest of the world. Comments posted were from like-minded US citizens so I thought it’d be interesting to provide a view from across the pond.
I live in Europe and we consider ourselves a child-friendly society. We have no beef with little people who come to change, uplift, confuse and frustrate us. Parenthood is a tumultuous and often thankless task but it’s no less challenging than many other life situations we find ourselves in…like racking up a ton of debt. Spending money is an equally energetic and time-consuming past-time.
Across the Atlantic, we like children but the birth rate is falling amongst the indigenous populace. Falling birth rates are just not healthy. A youthful society is good for the economy otherwise who will pay for our pensions?
Age versus beauty? I say let’s fill the world with more of the smooth skinned and supple limbed hedonist quotient than be burdened with the care of wrinklies descending into dementia. Young people not only have a future, they ARE the future and a country can consider itself asset rich when birth rates are healthy.
Governments across Europe are committed to supporting the procreation and the nurturing of offspring. In Southern Europe, the family is celebrated. Young and old gather in their extended families in homes, street-side cafes, restaurants and parks. There’s a lot of flesh pressing as continental kisses are smothered over bambinos and toddlers. If you’re ever in that part of the world, expect a warm welcome.
The Northern Hemisphere is different and the emotional thermostat is lower. People don’t go overboard about family but they know that to value children is to be in sync with the circle of life. Families tend to be smaller but no less close.
European governments promote parenting through a series of monetary benefits. Parents receive maternity leave (12 months) and paternity leave (2 weeks). Every child born in the UK receives a weekly sum paid to their parents until they reach the age of 18. This is a little incentive to keep the creative juices flowing! Pre-schoolers receive subsidies that enable their parents to pay for day care. All medical treatment for under 18’s are free. Employers are encouraged to offer flexible working patterns to parents of school age children.
Parenting is grueling yet filled with blessings. If every man-woman relationship has its ups and downs then so does the parent-child. Conflict is part of life’s rich experience.
I work in a school. I find children joyful, idealistic, naive and engaging. They are hopelessly disorganized, irresponsible, foul-mouthed and untidy. They are on the brink of life and their thinking is fresh and clear. I’m thankful not to work in a regular office with a bunch of stuffy oldies who’ve grown cynical and bemoan the state of the world.
So what does it cost to raise a child? A lot; but it’s, the emotional cost that proves the greatest strain. It’s hard to lose sleep; it’s tough to be a disciplinarian, it’s back breaking to be a nurse and cook whilst earning a living. Believe it or not, humans have enormous resilience much more than shoes! Those of you who think you don’t have it have not tested yourselves out!
Children get a bad rap as they are, too often, brought up my adults who were on the receiving end of poor parenting themselves (and they refuse to do better). That’s the saddest part of parenting; when a parent is too stubborn to make changes. Being a parent is the deepest human sharing you can experience. This means being disappointed and delighted all at once. It’s also a chance to let your reproductive parts get an outing!
I know legions of hard-boiled workaholics who are disillusioned with the world of business but think a child won’t fit into their schedules. They’re wrong and, many who become parents later in life, wish they’d done it sooner.
Yes, there are bad parents as there are bad drivers, teachers, bank tellers, shop assistants and even thinkers! Don’t judge people on their children or their shoes! Kindness and compassion is a far better approach. Ask people who’ve lost children through miscarriage or tragedy the indelible emptiness they feel.
Children cry, scream, dribble, poop their pants, stamp their feet, disrupt sleep, argue the hind leg of a donkey, waste money, have attitude, , enjoy squalor, borrow your money and car and a whole heap of negative behaviors that would try the patience of saints
But they also:
smile, laugh, chatter, show love, bring pets into your life, inspire you to be a better person, remind you that you were a child, make you aware of pollution, help you appreciate the education that you weren’t interested in before, help you to forgive your parents, hone your debating skills and powers of observation (you’ve got to watch ‘em like hawks), improve your diction as you read them bedtime stories, exercise your lungs (when you shout at them), be your best critic, teach you all about the latest gadgets and gizmo’s, encourage creativity as you get messy with them, make Christmas magical, show you the need for re-decorating, be a counsellor and offer advice (even if they don’t take it), challenge you to be more imaginative in every aspect of your life. Not even designer shoes do that for me!
There are very few parents who regret having their children – no matter how they turned out – though opinions will differ! This is not a call to recklessly enter into parenting when you’d much rather have shoes. New life is a miracle and you don’t have to win a Noble Prize to prove it. You were a child once and that should spur you on to feel a little kindly towards them.
I know my soul is happier for having some of my own and it never was for having some plain, old soles!