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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?

Reader's opinion (15)

Vikas JainMay 11th, 2011 at 16:38 PM

Hmmmm, while the points made sound thoughtful,will it (not) be possible to get such a license or pass certificate by bribing the issuing authority? What will be THE extent of success ,of those authority people, in parenting? A shot in the arm of the monster called CORRUPTION!!??

The Big NagDec 20th, 2010 at 17:24 PM

Very refreshing and fresh writeup from Jug Suraiya... Reminds me of my early teens when I carried similar views.... Hope Bunny agrees with Jug, here.

Suneet Dec 14th, 2010 at 14:38 PM

Absolutely disagree..who decides the rules of good parenting!I think this article completely misses the point that bilogical parents in most cases would have a huge family support,which may/may not exist in adoption cases,hence its a exhaustive process.Lets not equate parenting to business...

Madhusudan KannanDec 10th, 2010 at 14:49 PM

The analogy provided is particularly very nice. If we cannot drive vehicle without getting a lisence, then why not have a lisence for parenting...can also b used as a proof of worthiness wen children complain about the parents they have got.. :)

shailender SinghDec 7th, 2010 at 17:00 PM

agree with all people who agree and those who think that it is putting them in check should look at other aspects of governance on what all checks it puts on people...

Manisha MishraDec 6th, 2010 at 14:54 PM

from where do u get these ideas Mr Writer?but i think ur absolutely correct if ones want to adopt a child he/she has to go a hell lot of procedures ,then why not for biological parents.

Venkat RamanDec 6th, 2010 at 13:23 PM

parenthood and raising a kid is by default

Asokananda ProsadDec 6th, 2010 at 10:26 AM

What a collection! To add, “How can it be at all possible? Form yourself in an ordinary way. If that is done, the extraordinary will come of it. If you turn your eyes towards the eternal all at once, what effect can it produce! That’s not wise at all. That’s a mistake.”

Asokananda ProsadDec 6th, 2010 at 04:22 AM

It’s nice to think. An MPA is far-fetched; at least an under graduate is deserved. Mother says, 'You’ve to exercise your judgment from the very beginning of conception. ‘Haven’t I got to eat, dress, rest and sleep?’ If one brings up one’s child on the right lines, it doesn’t prove to be too taxing.

Swami VasDec 5th, 2010 at 21:40 PM

An interesting piece providing some clues to would-be parents as to what is expected of them in raising a child! A child however has no choice but to be born to those who have mothered and fathered it - qualified or unqualified!

Pallab MondalDec 5th, 2010 at 20:14 PM

I don't agree with the view. You can make provision for license, for things that we, human beings have created. But something which is nature, God created... We can't and should not control. Does a Lion need a license to kill in a jungle? Now, we live in a sophisticated one...

J PDec 5th, 2010 at 17:21 PM

A parenthood license in additional to a marriage license seems to make sense in these times.

Rujuta VaishampayanDec 5th, 2010 at 16:23 PM

I, too, am in complete agreement with the writer. It makes logical sense thought the idea may not be appeal to one's emotions.

Anubha ShastriDec 5th, 2010 at 10:57 AM

revolution.............but is it practical? considering the fact that it is a natural phenomenon and noone can precisely say when an intercourse may result in a pregnancy, it would practically mean putting a check on what and how people should conduct in their bedrooms.

Chandra SharmaDec 4th, 2010 at 18:16 PM

I am in full agreement with the views of the author.

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