|More to Life|
Money is a poor babysitter for busy parents
Money can never compensate for the absence of a parent’s love in a child’s life.
The pressures that come with growing a career are increasing all the time. Not only are there the pressures that come from operating in a fast paced workplace, but there is also the pressure that is put on our family lives as more and more things clamour for our time and attention.
Those parents who can afford to do so are often tempted to give in to pressures at home by using some of their hard earned money as a babysitter. To compensate for the hours, days and weeks that slip by without their being able to spend time with their children, they revert to the age old, but long since discredited strategy of “throwing money at
Parents who view their children as little more than sophisticated pets (yes, there are such parents) consider their children to be a nuisance when they want to relax or go out on the town and do their own thing.
Some parents in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg drop their teenaged children off at Nelson Mandela Square at Sandton City early on a Saturday morning with enough money to buy themselves food for lunch, an afternoon snack, supper, bed and breakfast at a nearby hotel, and Sunday lunch as well. They then drive off comfortable in the knowledge that they have taken care of their little darlings who will be able to hang out for a whole two days with their friends. The children are then collected at about 17:00 on Sunday afternoon and the family returns home to prepare for the week ahead.
What these parents don’t know is that their children use the (substantial) money they are given to acquire alcohol and other substances, get into fights with other teenagers, don’t buy any food and don’t book into the hotel, but instead collapse late on Saturday night, inebriated/high, under the tables of the restaurants on the square and sleep their hangovers off until they are roused by the security guards early on Sunday morning.
These children’s fathers and/or mothers, many of whom are high achievers in the workplace, are blissfully unaware of the fact that the family ship has already struck an iceberg and is taking on water at a frightening rate. It’s only a question of time as to when the ship goes down.
This is so tragic – but unnecessary. These parents are putting tremendous effort into managing employees at work and keeping them focused and engaged. They’re motivating, managing and measuring. But when they get home, they are on-the-job-absentees – physically present but not playing any role of significance in their children’s lives.
One day, they realise with deep regret that their children have grown up to be teens or adults of whom they are embarrassed. It’s too late to do something then.
It’s not realistic to expect parents to be able to spend hours with their children – they simply don’t have that kind of time. If you don’t have too much quantity when it comes to time, you’ve got to go for quality. This is achieved in the small things that we do with our children, like bathing them, dressing them, helping them put on their pyjamas, brushing teeth and hair, washing faces and so on for smaller children, and finding something to help an older child with, to create opportunities to talk to them in a “by the way” way. Doing those things enables you to interact with your child at a deeper level. When you simply ask your child, “What happened at school today?” you’ll get the universal answer, “Nothing.” But when you casually chat while you’re brushing their hair or tucking them into bed, you’re more likely to get information out of them.
Don’t feel the need to over compensate for lack of time with your children by throwing money at them. They will accept it with glee, but it is not what they really want. They want you. So ensure that you give them something of yourself as and when you can.
In fact, a good yardstick to use is: spend twice the time and half the money on your children and you’ll be surprised at how nice they turn out!
Alan Hosking is one of South Africa’s leading authorities on parenting, with a special focus on first-time and working parents. He is the author of the best seller for first-time dads What nobody tells a new father, and is the presenter of an Executive Parenting Programme.