Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Age of Aquarius my arse

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revalation
And the mind's true liberation

From Hair the Musical .... and from the Forty Year Old Virgin (of course).

Back in the sixties, when hippies were tuning in and dropping out, and women were burning their bras, the belief was that people could free themselves from existing hierarchies. There was going to be equality for all.

Thirty years on, the acid trip has long ended, Timothy Leary has kicked the bucket and the promised Age of Aquarius still hasn't dawned.

Of course, nowadays certain freedoms have been achieved - for the rich.

I know this guy - I'll call him Jeff - who works four days a week, and consequently has to watch his two pre-schoolers all day Friday (one of the days his wife works). He moved here from New York, and still keeps in touch with a lot of his filthy rich friends there. He informed me today that for the 'elite' female Manhattanite, the ultimate status symbol is no longer the megabucks career. In fact, it is the two fingers to the career thank you very much stance that is gaining in popularity for those lucky few whose spouses have hugely swollen bank accounts. The ultimate lifestyle is to not work and to have one, two or even more nannies working round the clock to look after your kids, freeing you up to live a life of fun and frivolity.

Now, these are not society women, just ones that were career high flyers before popping out the sprogs and who now fritter away their days having their hair done, buying Gucci loafers, playing tennis and having long $300 lunches (the lucky bitches!).

All well and good you might say, but my point is this: In the first place, isn't there a bit of an ethical issue here in that, as a woman, you are paying other women (less well educated than yourself and often illegal so you don't have to give them health benefits or a decent wage), to look after your kids/clean your house etc. Aren't such rich women often exploiting poorer women the same way men used to exploit women by tying them to hearth and home?

Secondly, have you ever been to New York on a weekend, and seen all those preppy kids being wheeled about in their strollers by their nannies, without a parent in sight? It's a very sad sight, I can tell you.

So Jeff tells me, without a trace of irony, that it's quite a chaotic nightmare, this one day of looking after the kids. He said, "I simply don't think that with rushing around and buying groceries and cleaning that I'm giving them a good level of attention. I think it would be so much better if I hired a nanny for the day and then had one hour of quality time with each of the kids."

"Two hours a week quality time?" I asked, thinking I'd misheard him.

"Yeah, I feel I would be able to give so much more to them in a concentrated period of time."

Now don't get me wrong, I find kids as irritating as the next person. (In fact, I have long wondered if I could patent a soundproof glass screen like they have in cabs, that I could put between myself and the screaming kids in the back, thereby guaranteeing a nice quiet drive. If suffocation occurs a light could go off or something?) But even though they often drive me nuts, everyone sane knows that what kids need more than anything is your time, quality or otherwise. You have to give it to them. Why? Just because.

And if you're rich and can buy huge blocks of time away from them, I don't know, there's something kind of sick about it. Like they're a commodity that you can pay someone to keep at arm's length, thus preventing them from getting their messy fingers on your designer gown.

Yes, I'd love to have nannies around the clock and go to clubs and sleep off hangovers and have kids I see for fifteen minutes a day. But if that is the greatest thing this upper echelon of women have achieved, I wonder if that is progress? Well, I just wonder.

What do you say?


Pilar said...

I say, if you're not willing to sacrifice your time and your life, then why in the world would you have kids? Deep down, these rich bitches must feel some qualms when their kids call the nanny "mommy", don't you think?

- Girl and Dog

Midnight said...

I don't have any kids myself (that I know about anyway, although there could be little Midnights all over Germany) but if I had kids I'd want to be there to spend quality time with them as much as possible.

Why have kids if you're not prepared to accept the responsibility that goes with the territory?

I know a child minder who is closer to some of her kids than her parents are and that can't be healthy, although I appreciate that is because the parents have to work. These mohers have that choice and choose to party.

A Liquid Blue said...

I agree with you, Emma. As an example, the owner of my aerobics hub is the wife of a leading industrialist here in India. So technically, she doesn't have to "work" or earn her own keep, but still does and I respected her for that. But recently, she came up to me , knowing I work with kids, and asked me about summer activities for her daughter because she was "driving her mad staying home all day." Fair enough. How old is this child? 16 months. How many round-the-clock trained nurses does she have attending to her? 3 (She's in perfect health, but only nannies aren't good enough, though there are 2 of those around too.) And this child who is trailed by a gaggle of hired help every waking moment of the day is driving her MOTHER insane? Whoa!
I don't mean to look down on anyone and to each his/her own, but in a way I feel a little sad for this mother who's missing out on spending time with her child during her funnest years. Oh well. Just wanted to tell you I agree and ended up ranting. :0)

The Mad Momma said...

ummm... where have you been all my life? or rather all my blog life? I keep screaming myself hoarse that kids NEED TIME. And then the other women send those nice people to put me away in a padded cell.. because they believe children need an hour or two of quality time. may i link up?!

Molly said...

Firstly, I love the idea of the sound proof glass in the car so you can stay sane while you drive, I think you should market that idea right now!

Secondly, I am appalled at Jeff paying someone to spend time with his kids while he goes grocery shopping etc. Would it not be better to pay someone to do your chores so you could go to the park with your kids? People who think like that shouldn't have kids because they just can't be arsed to spend any time with them.

stephen with a ph said...

Thanks for dropping by and asking me that question.
The answer is no I still don't know who I am...must be a mid-life crisis!

stephen with a ph said...

Just noticed you have listed Portishead as one of your favourite bands. I love them too...I recently downloaded dummy as I had lost that cd. I play it every night whilst I read in bed. It really chills me out ;-)

Drunk Mummy said...

I love the idea of the glass screen in the car. In fact, it has just occurred to me that I might as well go the whole hog and just drive a black cab instead, since I am already a part time taxi driver to my kids. Not only would I be immune to the noise of interminable squabbling, but I wouldn't have to breathe the noxious gases emanating from them either. Pure genius Emma!
Thanks for the link by the way. Love your blog!

Tickersoid said...

I am a bloke.
I don't question why people choose lifestyles if they don't impinge on me.
If they affect me negatively, then I question why they behave so and try to see a way of changing their motivations such that they don't piss me off.

I do, however, ask myself if their lifstyle holds anything I'd like to add to mine.
In this

It's just the way blokes think.

Chris said...

I remember watching a friend (childminder) waving goodbye to one of her wards (!) as the real mum came to pick him up.

He tripped on the step, and fell and cut his knee. The mum tried to comfort him, but he ran away from her and buried his little curls in the surrogate mum's skirts.

You could almost see her heart break, it was awful.

And this was just a normal mum-who-works, not anyone trying to avoid contact with their offspring like the people you describe.

meva said...

I totally agree with you, Emma. Kids need their parents around and they need to have lots of time with them.

I don't understand this concept of 'quality' time. Isn't that watching a parent in the kitchen preparing a meal? Or watching a parent clean the bathroom? Or going to the supermarket together? All life experiences that kids should be able to see and share. I think 'quality' time is a shit excuse invented by parents who can't be bothered sharing their lives.

I don't think palming kids off on a nanny is a new phenomenon, though. Haven't the English aristocracy been doing it for centuries?

Troika said...

I have abandoned eight kids at birth.

I feel no shame about this whatsoever.

SUR NOTES said...

nice post. i am a mom of a 20 month old. just finished a film working at home. and have stayed away from the 24 hr nanny that is so easily avaiable in india. it was tough and tiring. and your sound proof glass idea is perfect except that i would have loved a glass capsule i could slip into!
yet, i have no doubt that the fact that i have been physically around my child, and emotionally available to her every hour of the day has made her a calmer and happier person.

and yes when i see a gaggle of nannies around the kids in the park i feel like i AM doing something substantial by kicking the ball for the hundreth time for my child!

cesca said...

I agree. My kids get heaps of TIME with me. It's not all quality time, but it's time. They are with me when I do the grocery shopping, the dishes, the vacuuming... they're in the room when I'm drinking wine and reading books all afternoon (heh heh heh...).

spymum said...

Why oh why do people have kids if they don't want to be with them? I cannot understand it. Yes, kids are noisy, tiring, messy, (aging!!) and expensive but they are also loving, wonderful, perfect, beautiful, clever, stimulating, gorgeous and amazing. And they are yours - but not forever. They grow up..

Childhood is so wonderful and so short - turn around and it is gone. We are so lucky; we have our own childhood and then we get to see it all again through grown up eyes via our children.

Sorry about the rant!! Great blog btw, and thansk for the add! ;-)

Kira said...

the Hollywood families apparently have 3 nannies - one for the day, one for nights and one for weekends!
Somehow it all reminds of the way the wealthy used to shrug off their kids... send them to boarding school. They don't seem to do that much anymore.
I guess it's the modern day alternative to infanticide and adoption of kids you really didn't want?
You can look like a mom without having to dirty a finger, hardly!

Lizard said...

it is a truly odd phenomenon. Perverse. Hideous. Sort of like you hve to have the baby because it is the right accessory, but to actually spend all that time with the thing... ick. Sad all around, but especially for the kids.

I can understand on occasions leaving the kid at daycare an hour longer to run an errand all alone. Sometimes I go shopping in the evening just so the kiddo will hang at home with Daddy and I can go to the store all alone. Such a luxury.

But. Jeff's idea of quality time vs all the time is not so good. Kids do just need us. And they need us in the grocery store, where we can talk about the day and talk about the groceries. Where they can understand some of daily life, and that you can't just play every minute, sometimes you have to go to the store if you want to eat and have toilet paper in the house.

Perhaps part of his problem is that it is only one day a week. It is easier the more you do it. You get used to the kiddos in a whole different way and it is just easier.

I'd like the bank account of those Manhattan women, though I am glad not to have their brains because those seem a tad defective.

Ice said...

You too Chickita Banana... have a rockin' weekend ;)

See ya next week.

(I'll do everything you do, plus some!)

I have no fear, no regrets;)

Nisha said...

The Other name of kids is Time. Not even being fulltime mother is enough, I'd say. Quality time of 2 hours a week, Why? So that the kids don't forget that they have parents? Cool.

beta mum said...

You can't guarantee that an older child will tell you what's on his/her mind in the one or two hours you give them.
Things they're worried about spill out at any old time, in the middle of a conversation about Sea Monkeys or why the sausages are looking a bit burned today.
I didn't realise the hours between the end of school and the end of a day at work were so long for them until I started working from home and fetching them myself every day.
But some people don't have that choice.
In fact I may not have that choice for much longer!

Ariel said...

Er, why do those yuppies have kids then? Status symbol, as in "look, I can afford to spawn 4 kids and have employees looking after 'em"? Ye gods!

Geosomin said...

Yeesh. This is the very reason my husband and I haven't had little people yet...time. We keep getting bugged about it, but I honestly feel that although noone is ever "ready" for kids, if you're going to have them, have them and spend as much time with them as you can. Every time I get the urge I end up caring for a friend's kid and they're awful and I reconsider. I think a lot of mom's don't think about the fact that their little "darlings" can be little hellions too. I suppose someday I'll get around to it...
I know both my parents worked a lot, but they tried to have as much "ordinary" time with us as they could, and it's the little things like that I remember.

Tom Paine said...

The pay-back comes when they're teenagers.

Stay at home dad said...

What on earth is 'quality time' with your children? What would Jeff do? Throw a cocktail party? Some of the nicest times I've had with my daughter have been bonding over paying cheques in at the bank or shopping for a toaster at Ryness. Being bored together. Now that's quality time...