work and responsibility

I have been reflecting on raising children to be responsible adults. This actually started due to my own family. You see, we, the women in our family, seem to have a habit of attracting — and being attracted to men who aren’t very responsible.
Yes, I come from a divorced family. My parents divorced when I was six years old. My older sister was eight and my younger sister was 2. While my father always had a job, he always bulked at paying child support. The excuse was: “your mother makes more money than i do. She just wants to drain me dry.” Now, of course, he involved himself in various marriages with women who also had kids with deadbeat (or at least, nonsupportive) dads So, he had the burden of raising their children. But, he was usually behind on support payments, etc. Yet, I have to admit that he always had time to go down to the pub on Friday nights — whether it was “his weekend” or not. Also, many times, he would call us and tell us that he did not have the money to see us on the weekend. He, of course, does not remember this particular situation in the same light. He says that our mother purposefully encouraged us to involve ourselves in extra curricular activities so that we would not be available on the weekends. …. …. Normal divorced parent battles!!! And, I must redeem him by saying that he has kind of matured in the last ten years and seems to take his role as a grandpa much more seriously than he did his role as a father. (Hmmm, food for thought).
Anyway, My older sister, T., has been married twice. this is her second marriage and both husbands could not hold a job for a long period of time. Education is not a factor because her first husband had no degree, he could, (should he choose to) be employed in a factory. Her second husband has a degree in business management and a certificate in managing a nursing home. he, too, does not care to work. Luckily, my sister is a workhorse. she is getting her Masters in nursing and already makes a substantial sum of money to support her family. She has four children living at home: ages 13, 11, 9 and 7. Her first son is grown with a daughter of his own. My mother takes care of his daughter while he nourtures his addictions.
My younger sister is also on her second marriage. Neither of them like to work, either. They find it perfectly acceptable to sit in front of the X-box all day and play video games. My younger sister, N also has four children: ages 18, 16, 5 and 3. the last two are her second husbands. I realize that N’s second husband does not even have his High School diploma; which means that the job market for him is quite thin. But, it is not just the “not working.” It is the “not fixing up the house,” “Not caring for the children,” “Not cleaning the house,” “Not volunteering any time to the community.” In effect, these men just sit and widdle away the day.
This is also my second marriage and My ex never paid support or took responsibility for his children who are now old enough to take care of themselves.
I don’t subscribe to all of Oprah’s theories and ideas and I am not necessarily a big fan. I don’t watch TV and have not seen a show in years. But, I was casually reading a piece that she had in her magazine about guys who were unemployed. Basically, the article stressed that these guys felt emasculated and just needed support and “something to do,” to prove their status as providers and men. Obviously, Oprah’s experts are out of touch with a large segment of the population of men who “want” to sit at home and do nothing all day long. I don’t know how many women that I have met who have able-bodied lazy men as partners. And, It is not just Able Bodied men, I need to admit that the 70% unemployment rate for blind people is not just due to discrimination from potential employers. It is also due to the blind men and women who don’t want to get a job because they will lose their government check and Medicaid insurance. DH found this out firsthand when he went to a Blind convention (Ahem, in Orlando, for anyone who knows which exact “convention” that was), and found that many blind people gave this exact excuse (without a bit of shame) as to “why” they did not want to interview with our company who was offering Contact Center positions (training included) which would give them a salary of about $15 per hour. (this is also for a later rant about annoying blind people and government benefits).
Anyway, It is strange, both of my sisters’ husbands have the same first name. I feel like we should be in a television show: (fictitious names) “Jim, Jim and Jamal.” My DH is the foreigner, the nonwhite husband, the one who does not drink alcohol or eat pork, the new father, the nonsmoker, the Muslim in a see of atheists, the more passive/reserved/shy (which makes it a bit hard to know/converse with him), the one who would not lose his temper in public, the one who can not drive nor cares much for vehicle discussions, the blindman and the responsible moneymaker. this last characteristic commands him respect from my family. His commitment and determination for a man to provide for his family garners him favor with my mother, especially since he is the youngest son-in-law. It kind of softens the “Muslim / Pakistani” stereotypes. He is also working on an assistive technology certificate to go with his BS in computer Science and networking. yes, there are times and situations when i find him to be quite lazy! But, I think I have already covered that subject (smile). and this characteristic certainly does not apply to his job or money handling skills. .
You ask about my own grown children. it is hard to tell. Each chooses their own path: which at this time, has not always included college. But, currently, all of them work or attend college or military and no one has any familial responsibilities. Yet, I have one child who is lax about paying his cell phone bill. My daughter dated many guys who were comfortable with her working and paying their bills — even their past ones. Although, her current potential fiance is a worker and pays his own bills.
I disclose all of this to ponder on the upbringing of children. (isn’t it obvious that I would get around to the topic of “children?”) On the one hand, we shuttle them from activity to activity so that they can receive maximum opportunities. We push them to learn as much as possible. Not only does society seem to place a high value on progress, competition and education, but becoming as independent as quickly as possible. Think about it: from the moment a child is born, parents will say: “I want him to learn to comfort himself, so he cries himself to sleep every night.” We revel when our child is the first one in their playgroup to walk or be potty trained or speak or learn his ABCs. We say that we want our children to understand reality and “how the real world works” so we allow them to watch movies with “some grown-up content” and even, sometimes, a bit of violence. We want our children to be responsible, so we buy them a cell phone, leave them at home to care for themselves for a bit of time and allow them to make decisions that our parents would “never” allow us to make at that age. I am not saying that we should not be proud. i am not saying that we should not encourage learning and education. But, then, when we look at adults who go through their lives enjoying many opportunities, become “mature for their age” then grow up to be quite irresponsible, we have to ask ourselves if our approach is correct. Sometimes, I wonder if we aren’t growing our children up too fast, then, allowing them to vacilate between childhood and adulthood and not teaching them how to move forward. Maybe we are forgetting to teach the link between decisions and responsibilities. We are responsible for each decision that we make and the consequences of that decision. But, we want so desperately to teach childhood independence that we forget to show how this skill might relate to adulthood. Then, we come to the discussion of “culture.” If DH’s parents practiced their parenting skills in America, I am almost sure that other parents would ridicule them for “molly coddling,” (Whoops, I think that is a British expression and not an American one) or being much too over-protective.
Whatever it is, I am glad that I have a working husband (or better yet, a husband that wants to work) – because I know that there are people who want a job, but can’t find it. And, I wonder how to raise this boy to have the same type of values, especially in a sea of ambivalent adults. Of course, I don’t want him to be a work horse who neglects his family. But, a little ambition and pride in one’s accomplishments (other than mastering a video game) doesn’t hurt.

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One Response to “work and responsibility”

  1. Neo Says:

    Wow. Very well written. Loved this post.

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