It's raining stories on parenting in the newspaper - reams and reams are printed critiquing lifestyles of parents, analyzing their career choices that leave them time-starved for their kids, studies that expose the insensitive side as many put their children in boarding schools within cities. The debate is just endless and choices umpteen - stay-at-home mom, work-from-home dad, part-time, daycare facilities, grannies-as-nannies and a flexible (read: less demanding and no promotion) job. Yet nothing substantial comes out of these discussions. It's personal to every family. They know their circumstances, commitments, aspirations and temperaments best to make the right choice for themselves and their kids. Sure, they might be wrong at times.

What good is it to publish some meaningless study all the time on the front page of the dailies just to multiply the guilt factor by a thousand times. Already working parents live day in day out with the guilt of not being able to attend every PTA meeting, worried as hell when their kid is sick back home but still got to clock in the hours at work to meet the deadline or over burdening their parents with the responsibility of staying home to take care of their food while they get food on the table and keep the family wheels running. All statistics as this one sound good for research but how much of truth do they really convey?

NEW DELHI: Working parents have more reason to feel guilty about their kids.

A recent survey says that couples, if both partners are working, spend not more than 30 minutes a day with their children. Even more alarming is the finding that fathers may not even get that half an hour to interact with their kids.

Not surprisingly, the surveyed parents come down hard on themselves, with a staggering 60% of women wishing for a part-time job so that they can concentrate on their offspring along with their career.

Of course, gender bias still makes a strong statement in the survey. Most working dads felt that a homemaker mom was the ideal situation. But the idea was not as popular among working mothers.

The survey, carried out on a sample 3,000 working couples in various companies across cities by Assocham’s Social Development Foundation, found that couples spent a majority of the time in office.

"A working woman spends nearly 10 hours in office, over 2.5 hours travelling, 6-7 hours sleeping and three hours doing household chores. This leaves her with barely 30 minutes in a day for her kids," says Venugopal N Dhoot, chairman, Assocham.

With little supervision from parents, children are turning to other options, says Dhoot. "TV, computer games, DVD and junk food are popular with kids, instead of outdoor activities," he says.

"Parents who work long or irregular hours are not available for children after school, especially to help with the homework, not able to attend school functions or sports days and not even able to do things together on weekends," the survey points out.

3000 families is not even a handful to conduct a research on to come out with a report to pass a blanket statement that working parents do not have even 30 mins for their kids. If these are urban families then they are also more than likely to have maids and a cook to help them with the household chores. So take some out of the three hours.

There is a disturbing thing that I've been observing of late - lesser involvement of fathers in the upbringing of their child. It is a common practice for most gentlemen in IT to come late from work and let their wives know they were busy. Having worked in this field if not too long atleast long enough to know how busy their days could possibly have been. Seriously. Ok there are days when you would be lucky to take a minute to breathe. But all days? Some folks spend on an average 2 hours every day to reply at length creatively to every forward they receive or spend 2 hours playing TT to de-stress while the wife back home shuttles between the doctor and home tending to the child and getting the chores done. For some weird reason if the wife stays home, she doesn't have the privilege of hiring a cook, why? Is she a glorified maid now that she stays home or is that your idea of cost cutting?

There is yet another breed of parents who are so busy chasing the next thing in life that they don't have the time their kids require. So much so that they are putting them in boarding schools next door and claiming that their kids are actually happy. Happiness is so goddamn relative. Obviously they would be happy being in the company of some other human beings than staying alone at home. The whole thing i beyond my comprehension. What are you really working for - personal satisfaction, good life for yourself/kids- if you don't have the time for your own selves or your kids?
These are the very folks that keep the self-help industry in motion - when they turn 50 they will rush to find meaning in their lives and when they have the time for their kids but the kids are too busy to stop and take notice.

On a closing note, it is time India Inc. stops harping about work-life balance all the time and wasting reaps of paper and start doing something about it. Just a bunch of companies with a conducive environment for working mothers does not make the entire industry friendly for this section of the workforce. And you know what, you give them some, they will give it back to you more than what's due - that's the commitment you'll get.


Vivek Nath said...

"These are the very folks that keep the self-help industry in motion - when they turn 50 they will rush to find meaning in their lives and when they have the time for their kids but the kids are too busy to stop and take notice."

Just look for the lyrics of "Cats in the Cradle ".. you sure will see the similarities :))