The last few weeks, culminating in Pesach, have forced me to consider parenting in a different light, especially how much time parents spend with their children and so I wanted to share a thought. In 2013 after a suspected security breach, US telecommunications company Verizon, conducted an internal audit. It was discovered that one of the organisation’s employees, a software developer in his mid-40s, had been outsourcing his job to a company in China. In paying them a meager fifth of his salary to do his job, he chilled out and spent his hours surfing the net and watching hours of frivolous content on YouTube.
With the term once only heard in the hallways of large businesses, today the notion of outsourcing has managed to permeate almost every aspect of our lives. We have come to value outsourcing as a way of managing our hectic existence. It has become the key to unlocking productivity and efficiency in our lives and has provided employment and opportunity to others whose specialties complement ours. Is this not the ultimate win-win situation?
In a world that places ease above exertion and results above effort, it is no wonder that outsourcing, a modern-day synonym for convenience, has managed to infiltrate even the most personal and sacred spaces of our daily lives, none more so than when it comes to our children.
Whilst the outsourcing system has allowed us to get more jobs done, what we have failed to assess is if we are doing these jobs right. Time that was once spent by parents intimately involved in their children’s upbringing and education is now punctuated by a plethora of activities and personalities - sports coaches, school tutors, activity coordinators, friends, and digital distractions. Our children’s time has become a space for occupation, rather than stimulation, a job often done by someone else.
Our children’s time should be viewed as a finite entity. The more time occupied by means of outsourcing, the less time attributed to the source of their moral development and formation of self - the influence of the seminal parent relationship. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to ask ourselves, how much time are we spending with our children, communicating and interacting with them? Are we actualising our responsibility as parents to inform their moral development in a morally ambiguous world?
In the case of parenting, outsourcing quite literally refers to our children moving out from the source - a departure from the critical influence of the parental relationship. Forgoing the opportunity, in the form of valuable time spent together, to imbue our children with the values, skills and principles we hold dear, inhibits their ability to do the same for their children and in turn diminishes the legacy we leave for future generations.
Parenting, however, is not and should not be a ‘one man show,’ for as the literary similarity between the words horeh (parent), moreh (teacher) and Torah allude, there is in an inextricable bond between the terms. We make a choice in our children’s schools, teachers, youth movements and communities based upon the impact and influence they will have on their development. This decision is not an alleviation of parental responsibility but an expression of it, for as the words express, Torah and our truest source of education, shares its roots with both parents and teacher.
This sacred syndicate is best modeled in our Jewish communal structure, in which our communities are built around our schools and sustained by communal funds so that none are excluded. Intrinsically we know, that parents can never absolve themselves of the responsibility to be involved in their children’s education, just as we seek more than a formal education, in the form of moral and social reinforcement from our children’s schools. Outsourcing parenthood is the catalyst for ambiguous moral messaging in our children’s lives. Conversely when parents’ purposefully collaborate with us in the schools and the community, our children become the beneficiaries of a partnership that promotes consistent and fortified moral education.
Unlike the Verizon employee, who sought to outsource his livelihood and responsibilities, there is no show worth watching at the expense of our children’s educational and moral development. Whether as guiding parents, good teachers, or as supporters of communal educational institutions, we are the spiritual conduits of Jewish values, a job only we can do.