Guess what – the election isn’t over. But don’t panic – I’m not talking about the presidential election – I’m talking about the “parental” election. That’s right Mom and Dad, if your kids could vote in this race, would they give you “four more years?”
First, as the incumbent, you’ll have to run on your record. So have you kept your campaign promises? You know the ones I’m talking about. You probably made them the first time you held your newborn in your arms. You looked down and whispered, “I’ll always be here for you son. You can always count on me little girl. I will put you before everything else in my life.” How about it? Have these words been dictating the policies of your “administration” – or were they just the beginning of years of empty rhetoric?
If they were just rhetoric, you had better keep an eye on your poll numbers, because your constituents – your children – have been taking notice. A study by the Families and Work Institute found that almost half of the children they interviewed feel that the time they spend with their moms is rushed. And fathers might have to explain their time record as well. An Edinburgh University researcher reports that dads are only spending an average of 15 minutes a day with their children.
Yet even in the face of those findings, many moms and dads will stubbornly stand on their chosen platform, quoting one of the great lines of parenting rhetoric, “It’s quality time not quantity.” Besides, as office-holders soon learn, time siphoned from the family can be a valuable leveraging tool with the special interests, “If I’m going to get that raise, the boss wants me to work late – I’ll have to miss dinner again.” Or, “I’d love to spend Saturday with you and the kids, but this is the only weekend we could get a tee time.”
Well, voter – I mean child – advocates have been listening, and they’re stopping the spin-doctors in their tracks. In the new book, The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn and Flourish, the authors say they “…do not recommend full-time day care, 30 or more hours of care by non-parents, for infants and toddlers…” Of course some parents, for economic reasons, have to delegate care-taking duties to others. But those who have a choice need to put their family first.
If you don’t, how will your children answer the following familiar political query at the end of your term, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” What you are doing now will determine your children’s response. So every time you utter something like, “I’m busy, but I’ll play with you later.” Or, “I can’t help it if I get home late every night – I’m working hard so my kids can have the things I didn’t.” You are breaking your campaign promises – spoken or otherwise.
Remember Mom and Dad, you hold the highest job in the land. You are a parent. You have the power to shape the future by touching the young lives that have been entrusted to you. Recommit to serving your constituents – your children. Reach out to them and give them what they really need – your unconditional love, your gentle guidance, and the treasure of your time.