Final thoughts before Election Day.

Last week I wrote a rather serious and emotional post about the deaths of migrant children at sea, and had planned to go for something rather more light hearted for the next post. However, with the general election only a couple of days away, it seemed churlish not to address it in some form or another, and, given I am not quite blessed with Armando Iannucci’s political wit and satirical skills (though even he would struggle to satirise some of the ridiculous antics of this campaign – cenotaph of pledges anyone?), I’ll have to go serious for just one more post. Apologies if you were looking for a scathing satire on picture books or a gigantic whinge about the crapness of buggies – check back next week.

With two days to go the politicians are out all guns blazing, and us ‘Hardworking families’ are one of their primary targets. 
It makes sense to target parents. I’ve heard so many people say that having a child has made them realise what’s important and put life into perspective (including me!). Yet I fear that perspective is somewhat skewed when we only consider our priorities in terms of our own pre and post parenthood life, rather than the true bigger picture that bringing a person into this world should give us.
If you are a fairly well off person (I.e. You always put food on the table, don’t generally have to worry about paying rent/mortgage and can afford the odd luxury), who has managed to put together a family in a way you chose (I.e. Not by accident, not in a way where life suddenly shifts and you find yourself without a support network), it’s incredibly easy to lose all perspective and find your vision blurred by your comfortable parenting bubble. All you know is your world and the very similar, comfortable worlds of so many other parents like you, and so gradually that’s the way you begin to view the world – that everyone is as lucky as you; that your problems are the problems everyone has, that spending two hours discussing the merits of a Bugaboo versus a City Mini really is a good use of your life.
That could so easily be me. Yet as a friend pointed out to me, I am lucky enough to see another perspective.
As a teacher and former youth worker in the inner city, I know that so many children and parents don’t live in that bubble and no matter how wrapped up I am in my own child, I can’t forget that. Every time a child arrives alone for a parents’ evening, or another tells me they’ve lost their book because they haven’t been home for weeks, or sheepishly explains they’re too tired to complete the work because they share a room with two siblings, one of whom is a toddler who still wakes up in the night, I remember how privileged I am, and that my problems are no real problems at all. These are the children who really need the state’s support, and yet sadly are so often ignored and neglected, because their parents are probably less likely to vote.
There is a widely reported statistic that the closer you are to deprivation yourself, the more proportionally you will give to charity. I often feel it’s the same with political views. The more comfortable you are, the more selfish you become in your choices, forgetting that the government isn’t a personal service to you, but a system to provide support to make our society better as a whole.
So back to the election and us, the ‘hardworking families’. Politicians will target us for the inherently selfish, inward looking people we naturally are, wooing us with offers of free childcare to help us work and education hours which support the parents. That’s no bad thing; many working parents truly struggle. But ask yourself before you choose a policy to support: are you supporting it because it’s best for you? Or best for everyone? Personally, I’d love to have 30 hours of free childcare next year – woohoo! But do I need it? Possibly not. We earn enough that we can get by on the 15 we are currently offered and make up the rest. And I don’t mind. If I can pay my way, I will. Personally, though it wouldn’t now benefit me in the slightest, I’d veer towards the Lib Dems and offer more hours to younger children, ensuring that those who may not get the kind of interaction which fosters the brain development needed at home, are not left behind when they start school. But that’s just me. You need to make up your own mind.
Still, before you do, remember that parenthood does put the world into perspective. But that perspective should be focussed on making the world your child grows up in a better place overall. Life for many of us might involve finding time to blow dry your hair or playing Hungry Hippos, but there’s a bigger picture facing us in that voting booth tomorrow.
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