Vacations in Europe and to more exotic destinations are fashionable in Israel these days. Even when both parents work at demanding full-time jobs, they use their precious vacation days to travel abroad without the children.
So who is watching the children? Besides their regular child-care arrangement, a combination of various grandparents, relatives, paid babysitters, and whatever can be cobbled together. I already wrote about the rumble at the local park. I also heard about a child who was up with severe diarrhea for several nights, while the elderly grandmother slept over and cared for him. The parents were abroad for over a week. The grandmother hadn’t wanted the responsibility, but the parents assured her that the onus would be on the paid babysitter. That’s not how it turned out. How can a babysitter take the child to a doctor and decide whether he is ready to go back to gan? Parents just assume that “yihyeh beseder” (it will be okay) and the child will stay healthy, there won’t be a school strike, and the babysitter won’t have a family emergency during the parents’ trip. Then there was the couple who went to Thailand for three weeks, while their children went to a different relative every day. In this case the mother didn’t want to go, yet had made a social commitment to travel with other couples.
Young children, even if they stay healthy, are unpredictable about their reactions to a change in routine. By the time the parents realize that their child was not ready for such a long separation the damage has been done.
Even one Shabbat can be too long, but there is no way of contacting the parents if they are observant.
I also have to ask myself how this attitude fits with a couple choosing a two-career lifestyle “because they need the money.” If they really regret leaving their children for work, they would make the extra effort to spend their leisure time with them. I have a friend who didn’t go out in the evenings for several years, because she worked during the day. I find that attitude to be rare. Most parents with busy careers get babysitters several times a week or send the kids to the grandparents at every opportunity. Even young babies stay in their “misgeret” (daycare or literally framework) when the parents are off, on Fridays for example. I know that working parents are stressed and that there is never enough time for all the errands and housework and couple time. But such vacations show where the parents’ true priorities lie. I am afraid our children are absorbing the message.
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