As I get older I realise that changes in society are continuously happening although slowly. It’s quite fun to try to work out which direction we are heading in. Is the so-called democracy of developed nations going to be a model for every country, or will it be modified first (hopefully ironing out current problems) or will a completely different model emerge?
Last week I had coffee with a friend of nearly 40 years. She has moved interstate so I don’t see her very often. We met when our children were very little and now our grandchildren are at the same stage. In the early days women were struggling with the question of work/career versus motherhood. Most of us chose motherhood particularly as childcare was much less well developed that it is today. I laugh when I hear complaints about the high cost of it to the nation! We mothers did all that for free and it was taken for granted. That was still regarded as our role and the financial contribution we made to the economy through what we did was rarely considered. One of the advantages of not having well organised child care then (what was available wasn’t usually of a good standard) meant that we organised our own child care amongst ourselves. The huge advantage of this was that long lasting friendships were formed which become even more precious as we get older. Our friends became substitute aunts.
What about the other half of this situation- the fathers? They largely missed out, or only had limited opportunity to be involved with their children. Many of them today are finding out that it is as much a precious experience for men as it is for women.
The traditional roles of men as the breadwinners, their only roles, are now giving way to partnerships in which the tasks in the home need to be shared equally, particularly if the mother is employed full time. I don’t know if anyone enjoys housework but most of us find it merely a chore. Men are apparently finding that too and still seem to be trying to avoid it if the statistics are accurate.
This role change is part of the history we older people are witnessing in our lives. As we live longer our own roles are changing as we have more years to enjoy the next generation. I barely knew my grandparents yet my grandchildren spent quite a bit of time with all of theirs. Before long great grandparents will also be a part of everyday life for young children. Maybe this will give them also an understanding that history isn’t just something from the past but it is constantly being created as society changes. How long into the future will it be before great, great grandparents are also a part of young children’s lives and how will this affect society and the values passed on to succeeding generations?