Thought for the Day - Akhandadhi Das
Good morning. Four years ago, Unicef placed Britain last in a league of twenty-one developed nations when it comes to child well-being. Now, it’s published a report to explain why children in Britain are worse off compared to those in Sweden and Spain – ranked 2nd and 5th respectively. The report suggests we’ve got our priorities wrong. We make up for a lack of quality time by indulging our children with toys, gadgets and clothes – when the kids themselves say that they’re happier spending time with their families.
This doesn’t mean we don’t love our kids or want to be good parents, but Unicef believes how we use our time is different to other nations. In a period of tough economics and squeezed household budgets, rebalancing work and home life seems harder than ever. But, perhaps especially in these circumstances, it’s helpful to be reminded of what our children actually want from us and to make the best of what we do have. There’s an old Sanskrit text often quoted as Hindu parenting advice: Until your children are five, it says, just play with them. From six to fifteen years, guide them with discipline. But, at sixteen, become their friend.
Unicef suggests a few political actions to strengthen family life, but it’s the choices parents make how to use their time that’s most crucial. This report has left me lamenting all the time I lost instead of being with my kids – missed chances for games, outings, conversations. They really do grow up so quickly. Many days I worked late or away from home on things that seemed important, but, in the bigger picture, weren’t really that vital. I’d have been better off having fun with the family.
Mahatma Gandhi calculated that when you add up all the time you need to look after yourself, your family, social affairs and spiritual life, there’s no more than five hours left to fit in work. And, whilst re-evaluating our priorities of work and family, we might also ask ourselves if it’s not we adults - rather than our children - who’re caught in what Unicef call the “materialistic trap” of “compulsive consumerism”. Bhaktivinoda Thakur, a 19th century Bengali poet wrote of his life: “Traveling from place to place, proud of my education, I gained wealth and lavished my family. Now I see that I cheated myself by neglecting to serve the divine Lord of my heart?”
It’s not only our children we’re pampering with misplaced priorities. Instead of spending quality time with our supreme father, we’ve bought off ourselves with gadgets, gizmos and gifts. Perhaps, the issue isn’t just the work/life balance and juggling busy schedules; it may be a material/spiritual imbalance which more affects what we pass on to our children.
Available since: Thu 15 Sep 2011
Reflections from a faith perspective on issues and people in the news.
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