It strikes me that we may have a problem and I’m not talking in trivial or trifling terms.
This is an issue so fundamental to the existence of the human race that the universe as we know it may be in fear of complete breakdown if we don’t make changes now.
Please do not be alarmed, I’m not referring to imminent nuclear threat, the current avocado supply/demand dilemma or the fact there is a complete idiot in The Whitehouse (although these are obviously pertinent and pressing issues). The concern of which I am speaking is one slightly closer to home.
We have produced a generation of individuals who have been ‘mothered‘ to within an inch of their lives.
Where once upon a time folk in caves whittled bowls and spoons out of wood and others managed to erect stone circles with rudimentary tools and brute strength, the average teenager today struggles to brush his or her own teeth without help.
Don’t get me wrong, we can’t all afford to provide our children with a Montessori education but the one thing we can do is insist that our children do things themselves, to build the skills needed to live a willing and independent life.
I was listening to the radio yesterday where a university graduate happily regaled tales of his mother cleaning his grimy, mouldy student accommodation whilst he looked on, incapable of contributing. He sounded a little like Goofy and he’ll probably be working in city banking come September. He’ll be highly successful and ‘future rich’ but he will still be wearing velcro because he never learnt to tie his shoelaces.
I work in Children’s Occupational Therapy when I’m not winging my way through a second stint of Maternity Leave and so I have seen first hand the state of the nations functional skills. Please don’t get me wrong, this is not the case for all children. Some find the achievement of developmental milestones difficult for a variety of valid reasons, both physical and behavioural. These children need and deserve a high level of support.
Mothering is however, not a valid reason!
I use the word ‘mothering’ not because I am being in anyway sexist or derogatory.
To illustrate my point, I have friends who take ironing home to ‘Mum’ and others who love nothing better than ‘Mum’s’ Sunday roast (often to the chagrin of their significant others). My own husband had to learn to use the iron when we moved in together because I flatly refused to ‘mother’ him. Judging by the state of the bathroom, he also clearly thinks this is my domain (for which I am currently standing firm, as is the limescale).
I appreciate that this post may have a high level of gender bias but as I’ve always suspected, rightly or wrongly stereotyping exists because of distinct social groups and moral ideals often forged across generations. Breaking these cycles is one of the greatest challenges facing us today.
Let’s be honest, ‘mothering’ even has its own day. It’s a condition so ingrained in the social psyche that we are only now beginning to unpick it to return to the beginning.
Women and in particular mothers have been greatly under valued throughout history. Mothers were often significant only for their domestic contribution, yet ironically it is this role, the role of ‘house wife’ that has single handedly disempowered a generation of (mostly) males, many of whom are now unable to cook, use simple appliances or to fully contribute to tasks essential to child rearing. There may be a gender pay gap within industry and business but it is the essential gender skill gap that poses the greatest threat.
We have a duty not only to our children but to society as a whole to ensure that they are not just happy and healthy but also capable human beings. Children will need to be able to live independently with the skills necessary to attend to all aspects of living.
So next time your children ask you to dress them, feed them or generally wait upon them, insist they have a go first. Don’t allow them to struggle, it’s ok to help. Just remember, that one day many years from now, you won’t be there to wipe their bottoms so it’s important they learn to do it now.