Imagining these poor kids almost made me cry. It was my joy and honour to take some career time off to raise my kids when they were little. Sure I supported my wife in her graphic design business and acted as her gopher. Sure I did and still do the admin and paper work. We put our kids into a little family day care, some preschool, and at one point even had my young son in all day care… for a few months…until whatever crisis we were going through abated and we just could not stand bringing our dear boy home after dark. But even in that busy period, there was nothing like this! As George Monbiot says:
They spoke of parents who had already decided that their six-month-old son would go to Cambridge then Deutsche Bank, or whose two-year-old daughter “had a tutor for two afternoons a week (to keep on top of maths and literacy) as well as weekly phonics and reading classes, drama, piano, beginner French and swimming. They were considering adding Mandarin and Spanish. ‘The little girl was so exhausted and on edge she was terrified of opening her mouth.’”
In New York, playdate coaches charging $450 an hour train small children in the social skills that might help secure their admission to the most prestigious private schools. They are taught to hide traits that could suggest they’re on the autistic spectrum, which might reduce their chances of selection.
From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate for what it displaces: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment. For the sake of this toxic culture, the economy is repurposed, the social contract is rewritten, the elite is released from tax, regulation and the other restraints imposed by democracy.
How are you all raising your kids? What work / life balance lessons are you trying to teach them? What strategies? Maybe some of you are already fairly ‘elite’ and gifted with unusually high intelligence and earning money is easy. Good for you! Just remember to be generous and do what you can for society and the environment, and the rest of us will try not to be too envious. 😉 But the rest of us? How are you preparing your kids for the more and more cut-throat world they’re growing up in?
I’ll leave the closing summary to George.
In the cause of self-advancement, we are urged to sacrifice our leisure, our pleasures and our time with partners and children, to climb over the bodies of our rivals and to set ourselves against the common interests of humankind. And then? We discover that we have achieved no greater satisfaction than that with which we began.
In 1653, Izaak Walton described in the Compleat Angler the fate of “poor-rich men”, who “spend all their time first in getting, and next in anxious care to keep it; men that are condemned to be rich, and then always busie or discontented”. Today this fate is confused with salvation.
Finish your homework, pass your exams, spend your 20s avoiding daylight, and you too could live like the elite. But who in their right mind would want to?