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Want to be a parent? Get a licence
No qualifying test, no reservation quotas, no cut-off marks, no previous experience required. A very crucial job is being left to rank, unqualified amateurs.
WANTED: An educationist-cum-psychologistcum-paramedic-cum-sports trainer for 24x7 job, 365 days of the year. No pay, no holidays, retirement benefits uncertain". Would you apply for a job of that description? Would you want to, or feel that you were qualified for it?
And the job of course is that of being a parent, a mother, or a father, or sometimes both rolled into one. It's arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the world, calling for a high degree of professionalism in many diverse disciplines, from child psychology to medicare, soccer coaching to homework supervision. And yet all those holding down this job - which is crucial not just to the present but to the future of our world - are rank, unqualified amateurs, no matter how wellmeaning and well-intentioned they may be.
The old licence raj initiated by Indira Gandhi - where you had to get some 500-odd licences, literally, before you could start your own business or industry - might have died a natural death. But another form of licence raj is prevalent in the 21st century India. For instance, you can't, legally, drive a car or other motorised vehicle on a public thoroughfare without first demonstrating to the satisfaction of a stateappointed official that you are sufficiently well versed in the rules of the road, traffic signage, etc, and have the requisite physical coordination, to be given a driving licence. Indeed, in order to do or be almost anything you have to have the relevant 'licence' or official certificate of qualification. For example, in order to be a graduate you have to have a college degree. To be a doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant, architect, engineer, soldier, sailor, cop, stenographer, IPL cheerleader you have to show that you have undergone the requisite training and are qualified to do the job.
Not so for parenting. In India (not taking into account the widely prevalent incidence of child marriage) anyone over the legal age of marriage (21 for men and 18 for women) can enter into matrimony and in due course become an officially sanctioned parent. No qualifying test, no reservation quotas, no cut-off marks, no previous experience required. Like Nike, just do it.
An admirable get-up-and-go attitude. Except that having a child, and bringing it up - right from diaper changing and potty training, via measles, mumps and chickenpox, through board exams, college admission and careerhunting - for at least 20 years till it can fend for itself is a different proposition, requiring a different level of commitment from acquiring a swanky set of footwear.
What parental training do parents have? None. A few might have read Dr Spock (himself at least 30 years out of date). A few more might go by the (arbitrary) guidelines their parents had laid down for them when they were kids. But for the most part it's flying by the seat of one's pants, on a wing and a prayer.
All this holds true only for biological parents. If you want to adopt a child it's an entirely different matter. In the case of adoption, would-be parents are subjected to exhaustive scrutiny to make sure that economically, socially and emotionally they are fit for parenthood. In short, they have to get themselves 'licensed' to be parents.
If this is so - and so it should be - for adoptive parents why should the criteria be different for natural, or biological, parents?
Perhaps it's more than high time we devised a PTP - a Parent Training Programme - that all would-be mums and dads would have to undergo before they were licensed to bring a child into the world. A grotesque thought, even more repugnant than it is ridiculous? A gross invasion of privacy and personal freedom? Maybe. But maybe it's precisely because we find the idea so immediately outrageous that we need seriously to consider it.
In an increasingly overpopulated, resourcecompetitive world, parenting is no longer a matter of doing what comes naturally. It's a specialisation that demands special skills. It is - or ought to be - no longer a hit-or-miss hobby for amateurs; it is - or ought to be - a job for professionals. You wouldn't go to an unqualified doctor or lawyer, or get into a car driven by someone without a licence. So why would you let your child have a parent who wasn't an MPA - Master of Parental Administration?
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