Home Alone

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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  1. I just wanted to let you know that I agree with you. That is a very sad situation and I am sure children know the score. As a mother with a one year old, my husband and I would never dream of going away without our daughter. We are always compensating for the fact we both work. As soon as one of us is out of work we pick her up from childcare, if I am at home for the day I would never bring her to childcare as that is less time with me. I feel so sad for the children you speak of and of the messages they may be recieving about their importance in their parents world.

  2. mother in israel says

    Good for you for your attitude. I’m sure your daughter will thank you for it one day.

  3. Jerusalem Joe says

    seen this a lot too. i keep wondering what is the point of making children if you don’t want to take care of them?

  4. SephardiLady says

    I am afraid that our children are absorbing the message that they are 2nd place (or 3rd, or 4th, or 5th place) too.

    This is a great post on an important topic. Kids have enough unscheduled uncertainty as it is since parents and other siblings get sick, have major life events, etc. I can’t understand putting more uncertainty into life on purpose.

    I owe you an email. Expect one soon. đŸ™‚

  5. It’s not just Israel.
    I remember reading an article by someone who was raised in South Africa. The maid quit just before the parents were planning a vacation. What panic until they found a new one before their flight. They carefully locked up the jewelry, but left their kids with the stranger.

  6. You’ve got to be kidding: you expect a working mom to keep her kid HOME with her on her off-days? Come on, get real. Why spoil the kids routing? And he will miss the Shabbat party at gan. What could you possibly be thinking??? Besides, Fridays are paid for.
    How about the parents who go beserk when maon is closed for a little while in the summer? Don’t you know of the kids who go to kaytana when maon is closed, because he “needs” the socialization?

  7. mother in israel says

    Unreasonable, I know.