Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do You Have Affluenza?

A terrible sickness has invaded our society. Its effects are more widespread than those of the common cold and cancer put together. While colds, viruses, and cancer afflict millions of people, they are usually unavoidable. The sickness I’m worried about is much worse than these illnesses because suffering from its effects is voluntary. There’s nothing mysterious about this illness and most people are rather proud of coming down with it.

Displaying their own cases of it, modern advertising firms tout the advantages of contracting “Affluenza” and bombard us with reasons why we must indulge ourselves with more and more material possessions. We are encouraged to buy a luxury car, trade up from a modest home, “rent to own” brand new furniture, and to buy a computer–last year’s is obsolete. In order to buy, buy, and buy, people dedicate their hearts and souls to building financial wealth. But in our eagerness to acquire big screen televisions, crystal chandeliers, and real silk underwear, we go way beyond providing for the necessities of life and forget our most precious, important responsibilities.

Mothers who stash their babies in daycare and rush back to work so the family can have a big house and fancy vacations deprive their children of basic needs. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do much more than be sure the kids are fed. And children who spend most of their waking hours in day care don’t get the nurturing a loving parent would give.

Now, before people begin to yell at me for being out of touch with modern society, let me assure those parents who must leave their babies because of serious illness, death, or divorce. A lot of the negative effects and lack of stimulation can be ameliorated by loving, consistent care givers. In fact, a really good care giver can be better than an apathetic, ill parent–one of the reasons for the Head Start programs. Sometimes parents are too poor or too uneducated, with no good parenting examples in their own live, to do much for their babies. But all of these situations are the exceptions rather than the norms.

The biggest problem babies and small children face today is parents with “affluenza” who spend their energies striving for material wealth, leaving little or nothing for their children. These people pursue high powered, stress-filled jobs which also impact their own mental health.
Or these people go to medical or law school, which demand every waking hour. Note, that I’m not condemning higher education or demanding professions; I just want to emphasize that one parent should be able to devote full time to the raising of the children–especially the very young children.

When a child is in school, the mother (or father if he is the primary care giver) can return to school or part time work, as long as the home stays intact and the child’s time at home is spent with a loving parent. I wrote a couple of columns last year about parents who patronized million dollar day care centers so they could give their kids “everything.” Thanks to my readers, I’ve since learned about wealthy working parents who engage the services of two or three nannies, so all their kids’ “needs will be met.” These people have nearly terminal cases of affluenza!

If you want to give your child everything, give him or her the full time attention of one parent, while the other earns the living. If you are a single parent of a child under three and are forced to work, consider taking help from your family, applying for social service programs, or accessing an appropriate social program run by your church.

As research into the developing brain proves, you are your children’s most important teacher. Your actions and attention, or lack of same, determine their future.

But don’t take my word for it–sincerely ask that Power on High what you should do and listen to the answer. You will be led to do what is best for your family and you. I know, because I’ve watched countless parents and children heal and thrive when they put their trust where it belongs.

1 comment:

Suburban Correspondent said...

Affluenza! That's great!

And I'm honored to be on your blogroll!