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The Second Shift

A truly rich parent is one whose children run into their arms when their hands are empty.’ Anonymous

My daughter has just started Prep this year and I am struggling to keep up with the pace of expectation! Australian parents currently rate achieving a respectable work-family balance as their greatest parenting challenge given they work more hours than ever before. At times it seems that with too much work, too many parents experience a loss of identity and purpose as their paid jobs became who they were, how others judge them and how they judge themselves.

Most children in these circumstances need more time with their parents. Today more and more children are looking at what their parents are doing and saying they will do it all differently as they do not want an unbalanced life. Research reveals that when parents’ life at work wins out over life at home young people are more likely to underperform at school, need psychiatric help or even take alcohol and drugs. It is then that society bears the consequences of the neglect of children by parents too busy, ill-equipped or simply unwilling to devote the time needed by their children. There is simply no substitute for the backbreaking, often thankless, work of competent parenting where children are molded to be trustworthy and reliant and to develop character traits of resilience and perseverance.

For most parents this sacred responsibility occurs during the ‘second shift’ – after work and on weekends where mums and dads spend quality time with their children in order to meet childhood and adolescent needs. Quality time is crucial in molding young minds and is very difficult to plan and create as it, more often than not, will arise out of the quantity of time parents will spend with their children. This wisdom indicates that being a mum or dad is not about money in bank accounts, shares and property or the family house, car or even your career. What it really is about is the love and compassion that you will leave in your child’s heart long after you are gone. This is the most valuable contribution you can give to society as it will be seen in their relationships with their spouse and children and how they choose to engage with their world. We have some excellent examples here at ATC!

My hope for all ATC mums and dads is that your ‘second shift’ be filled with joy, laughter, kindness and justice. Always remember it is in giving that you receive – nothing changes, if nothing changes.

Conor Finn, Dean of Formation