Thursday, September 25, 2008

Busy Parents

We were eating at Boloco and a friend of ours whom we haven't seen in months, if not a year, stopped and talked to us. I'm sorry to say that I didn't recognize her for even a moment, but it was a striking conversation. She is a younger woman married to an older man (much older) who is going to school where he teaches. They have a young daughter, about five, who they are scrambling to farm out. They can't find a place where they can park her for the eight or nine hours that it takes her to go to school, and I'm guessing he's a traditional dad who is absent from his kids lives, locked in career, and perhaps too old to have the stamina.

It really struck me how little time they must spend with their kid, and how when they do, they probably have trouble connecting since they spend so much time apart. Two things she said made a huge impression on me. First, that the mom's education took precedence over her time spent with her daughter, and second, that she justified her time away from her child by ensuring a solid financial future for her when she got older, even inserting the idea that they couldn't afford to send her to a good private school once she got older unless she became a lawyer.

Well, to all of this, I have a few thoughts, of course. First off, and I think very few people embrace this or even acknowledge it, but I would argue that any and every child, at least when they are young, would value time spent with mom or dad over any material object, especially money. It's ridiculous to think that you can compensate for your absence by buying your kid off, but many people take this approach.

Secondly, the idea that things will get easier is ludicrous. School is the easy part, once you become a professional, especially a lawyer, you'll have even less time. It's really an exercise in self-absorption when you work to further your career. How much is enough? It's never enough, so you keep working harder and harder, neglecting your family even more, spending more time apart.

Our friend even commented on the difficulty of finding a place to put their kid for a long enough duration so they could get what they needed to get done. This is where she placed the phrase, "Mommy's education is priority." I guess in the end I found the whole discourse sad and depressing, mainly for the child. Here's a kid who never gets to see her parents, and when she does, I'm guessing they're too busy to spend quality time with her. Law school has a way of doing that.

Children, in the end, are the victims of our selfish and mindless pursuits. They need a family, and when you get down to it, we all need our families, but of course we take them for granted in the pursuit of the American Dream. Not that my words would, or should, change the way people do things. I don't expect people to agree with me, but I am struck by the state of the world. Family really has been relegated to the backseat of the car of life.

Our friend also mentioned another of our friends, whom we haven't seen in ages, and there seemed to be more bad news. Apparently they're going through a rough period because mom is going to law school and dad is too self-absorbed to be responsible at home, making mom's job all that much harder. I can see it, I know him well enough, he's the archetype male, self-absorbed and unable to cope with hardship in a mature manner. It's one thing to whine, but not dealing with life and making your wife deal with it, on top of all her hardships with school and all, is going a bit too far. Maybe it comes from being a spoiled kid growing up, but as a father, you really need to step up and deal with your duties. You owe it to your family. Not that she's such a saint in all this, she's a bit wrapped up in her own future, as well, and once she becomes a lawyer, her time with her kids will more than likely dwindle down to zero.

Family, what's become of it? It makes me sad, though even more resolved to be there for mine. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

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