Job Description for Parents

So what if, instead of being something you do because you want to or because you have kids, parenting was something you did for a living?  What if it were your career, something you trained for and then looked for just the right situation?  You’d have to read job listings, check the online websites, network with friends and colleagues.  You’d have to go through a lot of job postings to find the one that was just right for you.  But what exactly would that position look like?  How would the job description read?  Perhaps it would look something like this:

Wanted: Contract manager for 18+ year project.

Must be responsible and able to provide leadership both by example and with counsel and advice.  Will be responsible for care and feeding of subjects.  Able to provide transport as needed.  Must coordinate with educational and health services providers.

Responsibilities include: ensuring physical and mental health maintenance, providing a support system, and identifying and preparing for worst-case scenarios.

Note: expenses will not be reimbursed.

Compensation: None, but some retirement benefits may be offered depending on success of project subjects.

Not a particularly appetizing description, is it?  When you consider the compensation and the expenses, it gets even worse.  And yet, people take this project on every day by the thousands.  According to the CIA world fact book, nearly 12,000 children are born every day in the United States.  That’s a lot of people taking on a lot of very big commitments.

There are three major goals for a parent with respect to their children.  They are:

  • Ensure their safety and well-being — keep them alive and help them grow.
  • Supply adequate, appropriate food, shelter, and clothing.
  • Provide them with and access to educational opportunities and experiences.

First and foremost, you have to keep them alive.  That means watching out for their safety, protecting them from danger, and making sure they get the medical attention they invariably need.  It means seeing every possible worst-case outcome from peas in the nose and ear to the myriad of ways an inventive child can injure or kill themselves with a spoon.  It means envisioning the very worst that could happen and preventing it.

Part of keeping kids alive is making sure they get fed, but a parent’s job is more than that — it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure kids get the nutrition they need to grow and be healthy.  It means saying no to junk food no matter how much they whine and wail when what they really need is to eat their brussels sprouts.  Parents are also responsible for making sure that kids are sheltered from the elements and have adequate clothing.  They don’t need the latest and greatest brand name fads, but they do need shoes on their feet and a jacket to keep them warm.  Likewise, some sort of roof over their heads is a necessity.  Whether it’s a studio apartment, a mobile home, old camper, or a mansion in Beverly Hills, they need somewhere to call home.

Lastly, parents need to give their kids an education, to provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to survive and become successful as adults when they venture out into the world.  For most, that means making sure they get to school every day, but it also — and this is critical — means going over their homework with them, reading to them regularly, displaying respect for education and knowledge, and being an active, positive presence at their school.  It also means that parents need to teach their kids along with the school system.

Parents need to teach life skills — manners, confidence, morality, love.  From taking a walk around the neighborhood together and noticing the shapes and colors of flowers to week-long expeditions into the backcountry, parents need to provide children with experiences that will teach them to be active, enthusiastic learners who don’t just live in our world but who explore and marvel at it and who have the confidence to do so on their own.  Trips to Disneyland or voyages on luxury cruise ships may be nice, but they’re certainly not necessary and, unless they are used as a chance to engage in parent-child activities, may even be undesirable.  Children don’t learn as much when dropped off with the cruise ship’s babysitting service as they do crawling around the local playground with mom and dad.

These are the bare necessities.  More than this, of course, is great but, really, everything else is just gravy.

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