Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Student thinks some parents use crisis nursery too much

I am commenting on the discussion we had on child welfare as it relates to the issue of whether or not the government should limit the amount of children a woman should have.  When I first thought about this during our class discussion, I thought to myself that letting the government decide how many children people can have is infringing too much on people’s rights as American citizens.  I mean, that is why people come here from other countries so that they can live the “American dream” and have the things they want and live the life they want.  So why would the government start making people limit the number of children they have?

Then I began to think about the children that I work with at the Mini O’ Beirne Crisis Nursery.  Although most children are there because their parent(s) are experiencing some type of crisis, there are many cases where parents send their children to the nursery because they just “don’t feel like dealing with them”.  When we have cases like that the parent is usually a young, single mother that has one or more children and no help. In such cases I can understand that it can be difficult, but the thing is, the children belong to the mother and are the mother’s responsibility.  It used to be that parents took care of their children, no matter what.  There were no “stress breaks” for parents.  If the mother needed a break, she either left the child with another family member or the father looked after the child(ren) while she went somewhere and relaxed.  Now that women are either single mothers or divorcees things have changed.

I said all of that to simply say this, although I do not think the government should regulate how many children women have, I do think that the single mothers that are having a hard time taking care of the children they have and who feel that they need “stress breaks” because they don’t know how to handle their children (because children will be children, regardless), should stop having more children if they cannot handle the ones they have.  Or, they should learn how to parent the ones they have so that if they do plan to have more they will know how to care for them.  Crisis nursery staff should not have to raise other people’s children; the children deserve to be with the most important people in their little lives, their parents.

Some of my comments on my student's paper follow in this purple font:

I wonder if you have considered that in our natural human environments (before modernity, and certainly before the invention of agriculture) we tended to live in bands of 20-200 closely related life-long friends and family members, and child-rearing was a shared duty, with parents taking primary responsibilities, but with significant assistance from aunts, uncles, old friends, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and so forth.  That’s changed now, and we do not live in clans, roaming over the land hunting and gathering. But that’s what our minds are best suited to doing, and as adaptable as we are, it’s difficult for some of us to adjust to modern life. 

Then there is another point. You’ve written this essay to make a point that is easy to make and entirely uncontroversial. Should single parents who are having significant trouble with their parenting duties have more children?  No.  Should they stop having sex? Traditional morality says if they are single they should practice chastity. If they are having sex, should they practice contraception or perhaps get abortions or put up children for adoption? Traditionally these would have been acceptable solutions in some circumstances. 

But, what is the policy you can suggest to address this situation?  Should the crisis nursery refuse to serve parents who have given birth to a second child out-of-wedlock when they were already having trouble with a first child?  No, you wouldn’t suggest that, and of course you wouldn’t want that.  Maybe you would just like persons who deliver social welfare services including crisis nursery services to be able to influence parents to control their fertility if they are having trouble rearing their children.  I’m a person who is concerned about overpopulation, and so I always endorse policies that encourage everyone to limit their fertility, so I won’t argue with you about that. Perhaps you are merely saying that some clients who use crisis nursery services are relying too much on those services, and using them for reasons that are too trivial. That is, the crisis nursery is a place where parents can bring their children so that they (the parents) can have a break and reduce their stresses, and this may help prevent child maltreatment, or improve parenting skills by those parents.  But, the service is not designed to be a babysitting service for lazy parents who want lots of breaks when they are in fact not having much stress.  Nor is it supposed to be used by parents to enable them to avoid learning how to practice good parenting.  That is, parents who want to deal with problems by turning to others to help them out instead of learning how to solve their own problems (with child rearing, discipline, stresses, etc.) should be encouraged to become more self-reliant, and crisis nursery services should not enable such parents to continue being helpless and needy in their parenting styles.

No comments: