On a recent trip to the apartheid museum, it was depressing to see the lifestyle that the disadvantaged were forced into. There weren’t many options for them in terms of employment. Men came from rural areas to Johannesburg to work on the mines leaving their families behind at home so that they could earn some money to support their families. Many females worked as domestic workers within the homes of the previously advantaged, only getting the opportunity to see their families only once a week, if at all. While looking at all of this, a question came to mind: who was raising their children whilst they were raising the children of others? This may be an indicator of the social trends we see in our society today.
After leaving home a few years ago, I was among the multitude that realised the amazing work their parents did in their lives. I was fortunate to grow up in a home with both my parents, both present and involved in my life. Looking back at all the scolding, and disciplining, and coercing, I came to the point of realising that without all that my parents had done in my life, I wouldn’t be the man that I am today. They are the ones who instilled discipline, a sense of purpose, the appreciation of hard work and the value of money into me, and this stands true for families around the world. The family forms the cornerstone of communities: providing primary support, guidance and growth for the current and future active citizens of society.
After the trip to the apartheid museum, it was interesting to see the large number of domestic workers in uniforms walking through the streets of Sandton, some walking and talking among themselves, and others pushing prams with other people’s babies. And the question still resonated in my mind: who is raising the children of these domestic workers?
We grow up in a society of inequality, where the poor complain about lack of opportunity and employment, while the rich complain about crime and security. The less fortunate then leave their families to live in someone else’s home, raise someone else’s children, and leave their own children under the guardianship of someone with a lesser, delegated responsibility of raising the children. These children don’t get the opportunities that the more fortunate get of having full parental attention at their fingertips, and have a higher probability of becoming a burden to the community and society at large.
We look at criminals and ask the question: “Where were their parents when they were growing up?” If the question wasn’t rhetorical, we may realise that their parents were serving in our homes. We often neglect to realise that the people around us such as the waiters in restaurants, the people behind the tills, the people who tend to our gardens and those that clean our homes are individuals with their own lives, their own stories and own difficulties.
As this cycle continues, the continuous Madam vs. Eve battle may continue beyond this generation, and may be more difficult for our descendants. Today we may be arguing about a shirt that wasn’t ironed properly. Tomorrow it may be about whether to take your wallet only, or both your wallet and your BMW.