BRIANWAVE COLUMN No 6: September 1994

Child's Play

Brian J Ford

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‘What a lovely baby,’ they coo. ‘Aren’t children wonderful?’ Leave it a few years and they will hate their guts. Our whole culture is based on rejection of children. School is nothing more than a nationalised baby-sitting service, and parents cannot wait to ditch their offspring and desert them in a school. If it isn’t state school it is a nursery. With luck the children can be discarded even earlier if there is an affordable crêche to hand.

Until that happy day when release is at hand, our modern vernacular reeks of child-hate. The woman who is a mother is ‘stuck’ at home with the children. She longs to resume a career, ‘I do not want to become a cabbage,’ she says. ‘All I have for company is the bloody kids,’ they say. ‘It saps the brain.’ On full-time mother was recently dropped from the panel of a TV programme designed to discuss women and their lives ... being a mother, you see, didn’t count. Truth to tell, it is that mother who is the most liberated person of all. She can invite her friends in for the afternoon, take up painting or poetry, explore a gallery or a castle, lie in the sun, embroider napkins or build walls, design an engine or make handicrafts. She can compose literature, make marvellous meals, broaden her brain and explore the world of knowledge.

It is the woman at work who is the slave. She has to turn up on the dot, obey the dictates of her boss, sit in an office or drive to order along the road. The slavery component is clear: she’s paid to work. People pay money as an inducement to do something essentially unpleasant. A job is prostitution, whereas parenthood is a delight. Once the infants become children the first thing they get is a television in their own room. A little later it is a computer. ‘Run along, dear,’ is the language of dismissal, of rejection. ‘They are so good at computers, aren’t they? They need to study them for school, you know.’ Rubbish. The flickering screen in the bedroom is a decoy to hold the attention so that the parents can retrieve some free moments of their separate lives.

Children are a delight. The moments of childhood are a wondrous experience it is such a pleasure to share. Working from a home laboratory gave me what every father would long for - a chance to be with the children every moment that one can. Modern campaigns seek to rid women of their babies and hasten them back to work. I would sooner see the opposite: a chance for the fathers to lose their chains and regain the lost joys of parenting.

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