What would make Scotland the best place in the world to bring up children?
The Scottish Government will soon be launching their National Parenting Strategy. You can read more about it here. This is a brilliant opportunity to use our voices as parents and let the Government know what they’re doing well… but more importantly what they could be doing better.
I’ve been asked by the charity Parenting Across Scotland to do a quick post with my own thoughts, but also to help gather your thoughts. Please do feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below, or if you’re on Twitter you can tweet using the #PAS12 hashtag.
I was brought up as a child in Scotland, and I started to bring my own child up in Scotland, so I’m well aware that the policies that could make a difference range from large infrastructural changes to tiny tweakings of dinky details.
Pregnancy and parenting support
Places like the Pregnancy and Parents Centre in Edinburgh provide incredible support in the community, and they really recognise that the parenting journey starts when you’re pregnant, not just when you give birth. They provide both informal and formal support – counselling, yoga, and birth preparation classes, but also a friendly and affordable meeting place to catch up with other pregnant women and new Mums. When I had DorkySon, the first time I left the house on my own with him was to go to a coffee morning at the PPC, because I knew there would be a friendly welcome. Unfortunately, places like the PPC have to spend as much time on fundraising activities as they do on their core support work. Better funding of places like this – that can already demonstrate the value they bring to a community – would be brilliant.
Affordable childcare, and flexible employment opportunities
Before I had DorkySon I worked full time in the charity sector. It was a brilliant job, but the combination of a third sector salary and the cost of childcare in Edinburgh meant that it made no financial sense for me to go back to work after becoming a parent. If I had worked full time and he had been in nursery full time, my entire salary would have gone on nursery fees. To spend 5 days away from my son and not be making any income was something I saw as a lose-lose opportunity.
I see this as an issue that really has to be tackled from both sides. Most mothers would make brilliant employees! We are hard working, resourceful, well used to juggling a hundred things at once, skilled negotiators, natural networkers… If employers could approach employment creatively and step away from the idea that you have to be sat in an office from 9-5 to do your job well, and if the Government could help with providing quality, flexible childcare for children from the age of 1, then I think that would be a huge step to a happier and wealthier society.
Outdoor play areas
There is nothing sadder than seeing a neglected play area, but unfortunately Scotland is full of them. One battered looking slide covered in graffiti, a couple of swings that some local teenagers have tied up so they can’t be used, and a scratchy looking patch of grass that’s full of dog poo. Not exactly where you want your toddler to spend his afternoons. But on the flip side, when proper investment is made in play areas, such as the BRILLIANT park on the Meadows in Edinburgh, then you’ll they’ll always be busy and well used, our children will be happier and healthier, and new parents will have more opportunities to get out and about meeting other families.
A diverse culture
When I lived in Edinburgh, I felt like my son was being exposed to a wide variety of people from different countries and cultures. I loved that he would hear different languages being spoken and have the opportunity to spend time with people who ate different food, wore different clothes and listened to different music. I think it’s hugely important the Scotland remains a place where there is a real international buzz. In rural areas where that doesn’t happen as much, maybe it would be helpful to look at other ways to open children’s eyes to how big the world is – through cultural exchanges in schools, to penpal schemes, to visiting music or drama groups.
Looking after the environment
I was lucky enough to be born in the Western Isles, where you can’t help but feel connected to the land. From fishing to crofting, the majority of jobs are dependent on a healthy natural environment, and it’s important to take care of that environment on the big scale as well as the small scale. If we can create a Scotland where all our children are able to breathe clean air, to eat healthy, local food, to recycle, to live in warm homes and to walk or cycle around their towns, then I think that would be the best gift we could give them.
What do you think? What would be the best changes that could be made in Scotland to support you as a parent, and to help your children live happy lives? Would it be free entry to local attractions? More events in your local library? Parenting classes? Free school meals for all? Better financial support?
Leave your thoughts below – anonymously if you prefer.