I Have The Hardest Job In The World And I Love It…

Becoming a father was probably the biggest single event of my life. It was also the one that I was most unprepared for. And it definitely ranks up there as one of the hardest things I have ever done. Coming up to the event there was no shortage of people telling me that my life is going to change, people try to explain it to you but you just shrug it off. Yeah, I know I won’t go out as much, won’t be able to just think of myself. I saw all these warnings in a self centred  selfish manner. The changes I was expecting were based on sacrificing, time, leisure interests, money, my wife. All things to do with me – all things that were hard in one sort of way but kind of missing the point. 

Father and Mother
“The Most Difficult Job In The World”

So why is it so hard? What could be worse than those warnings about losing your life as you know it? Its tough to explain but the change arises from the constant self doubt. The constant self examination and focus on how good a parent you are being. Every decision I make now has an impact on two other people. Two other people who still look to me with a kind of trusting awe. A confidence that I know what I am doing, that it is a given that I understand parenting – I am of course ‘The Daddy’. Nothing can be further from the truth. Every decision (well most at least) carry the nagging doubt of whether you are doing this right. Will a decision now reoccur in their minds in thirty years time? Am I  really making the best decisions for them all the time.

Of course you can only do your best. And actually, your best is always good enough. But you want to be perfect. You start to remember every telling off, every comment that your dad made to you – however small. You stop remembering the rest  – the background of love and guidance that create what you are now. Tiny events come back to me every day now, when I was told off for something, when my mum or dad made a flippant comment to me. I know my kids will get to the same and it’s odd to know that the tiniest comments or decisions may come back to stick in their minds in the future. 

Having said that, I love it. It’s the best job in the world. (Yes even better than Project Management – although there are similarities!) It drives my thoughts and my emotions pretty much all the time. Good times with the kids leaves you on a high. The tough times really hit you. But to see them grow up and start to form their own personalities, knowing that they are (hopefully not too much but) partially shaped by you and the way that you have approached the role is amazing.

To see things you value reflected through their eyes – with their own individual take on life matching their experiences to your core values is great to watch. Finding that narrow path between gentle guidance and letting them find their own way is taxing but the rewards are massive. Seeing your children develop and start to get a sense of humour, an individual personality and even the ‘attitude’ makes you realise how difficult it is to shape themselves in the modern world. All you can do is set an example, relate to them and understand that to develop we all need to make mistakes. To make a mistake and change your behaviour because of it creates the ultimate learning experience.

Your kids, more than anyone else provide an unconditional two way love. They ‘arrive’ with that trust built in or in my case looking to trust someone who would offer them love in return. They assume that you understand what you are doing. They are confused when you admit that you’ve made a mistake, that you don’t have the answers all the time. But through thick and thin, through the tantrums, the good times and the tough ones, at the base level their is always that bond between you. One that ultimately can never really be broken

It’s hard but the rewards are amazing. It has changed my life in a way that is impossible to explain. It goes so fast and throughout all the self doubt, throughout all the tough bits, through the sacrifices that we must make to succeed,  I need to remember to savour the memories and remember that overall to do the best you can is always the only way forward.

Protecting Your Back Or Protecting The Children?

The decision by Rotherham Social Services to remove children from a couple who have been fostering for seven years throws several important issues into the mix. To what extent should someone’s alignment to a legitimate political party affect their ability to carry out their day to day business in a democratic country. More importantly, what does this decision say about those people who effectively are tasked with looking after children’s needs in Rotherham.
Foster Carers need certain qualities
 – Political Beliefs Aside
(Image © Stockton Council)

To take these points in turn, The couple in question were classed as ‘Emergency Foster Carers’. In english they are the people that are there when a child, or children, get taken away from their birth parents, often late at night, often in a traumatic ‘blue light’ situation. They are the people who open the doors to highly distressed, often extremely confused and disorientated children at a moment’s notice. They look after those children short term until they are either placed back with their families or moved onto a more medium term solution. These people play an absolutely critical part in the life of those children.

Emergency foster carers go through a pretty intrusive selection process. In that process their fundamental beliefs and values will have been investigated and challenged (as is the case for prospective adoptive parents). That would have happened to this couple seven years ago when the authorities were clearly satisfied that they would make suitable emergency carers. To get to a state now where just because they align themselves to a political party (which when I last looked was a perfectly legal one) they are judged to no longer to be capable of carrying out this sensitive, much needed role in society. Where it leads us in terms of freedom of beliefs and speech in modern society is a worrying thought.

Which brings me on to my main point. The role of Rotherham Social Services in all this is surely to look after the children.  At the critical point in a child’s life when they are taken away often in traumatic circumstances their role is to look after the children. These carers have been carrying out this task for seven years. At a rate of 2 children every 2 months, that’s around 80 kids that may have passed through their care. One would hope therefore that the social services acknowledge they are good at this role (if not, why continue with them for so long?) Experienced emergency foster carers are not just readily available and experience in this sort of area counts for a lot. 

How can an alignment to a political party affect that ability and experience? So what are we left with. A decision in the in the children’s best interests? The loss of two experienced foster carers to the system. Or a decision which addresses political correctness? I think the latter.

Possibly a good time to turn back to the mission statement on the wall and think about what Rotherham Social Services should focus on.

Teaching Parenthood

It was with mixed feelings last week that I heard reports of a government initiative to give parenting the  the fruit and vegetable five a day overhaul. Should my tax money be going to fund high level pointers into how to bring up my children? Should governments even be getting involved to this level of detail in peoples everyday lives? Who are they to be tell us how to bring up our children?

The problem is that on reflection they probably have a point. Bringing up children is bloody hard work. Like playing golf, being the best always seems a few steps away. Constantly beating yourself up, are we being too hard on them, too soft, playing with them too much or too little, too pushy or too laid back? So actually any guidance is probably useful. Five quick steps to double check that you have done your best for your kids that day are not going to hurt anyone, even if they may not necessarily add anything. The issue I still had is whether the funding that went into developing this is the best use of tax layers money.

And then one looks at the events of this week, those involved in the riots and the looting are often incredibly young. The first question that comes into mind is where are the parents? What parent would not know where their offspring was at 9,10 or 11 at night. And then one lands at  the root of the problem, this social group that has been created with little parental guidance. The group with no parental role models, no parental respect and therefore little respect for authority, rules or the community. The benefits culture creates a reliance on others, a culture of dependance where it is easy to see everything as someone elses fault.

Solutions will focus on those bits that are more easily controlled. Pumping money into youth projects to create community identification, creating extra jobs and opportunities for a group of people who are from environments where no one in their family has worked. Blaming teachers for not teaching social responsibility. And yet they miss the underlying issue. Ultimately everyone’s child is a reflection of their parent. Some children go off the rails as they grow up but core values are taught within the family circle.

Of course getting those 5 steps to successful parenthood from those who are constantly looking for better ways to improve their children’s upbringing to those who have no idea where their children are at 11pm is more difficult. Launching it on radio four as they did last week just may not do the trick…