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[Global Conversations] Competing Demands on Time

A family of fishermen discusses the competing demands on their time that keep them away from spending time with their daughter and preparing her for a bright future.

Photo of Jharkhand Community India [Global Conversations]
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This story was submitted by mobile phone as part of the Amplify program's Global Conversations project, an effort to extend the reach of this challenge to communities without reliable access to the Internet.

This story was submitted by Rashmi from Manjhi-Chakla in response to a weekly program on  Hopes and Dreams relating to early childhood development.

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My name is Rashmi and I am speaking from Manjhi-Chakla. We sell fish for a living… and we are sorry that we cannot spare enough time for our daughter. We are free only on few days. On some days when we cannot go to work, we spend time with our daughter, but not otherwise. You might wonder why we don’t want to educate our daughter and make her independent, but we just don’t get enough time. When we come back from the bazaar in the evening, we spend half an hour or an hour to teach her. We also drop her to her classes… But we can’t spare as much time as we should.

This story underscores the role tha competing demands play in parenting decisions. Even when caretakers are educated about strategies to set young children up for success, they often fall short because of work or other obligations. How might we support parents in engaging with their children despite competing demands on their time? How might we design solutions that improve the earliest years of life taking into account the difficulties that parents face when it comes to time?

We welcome comments from the OpenIDEO community below. Some of your comments below may be translated, recorded and shared back with the person who submitted this story.   


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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Dear Rashmi, thank you for sharing your story and concern. While being with your daughter is important, I think your message illustrates your love and I'm sure she can feel it and that this is what matters. I know a family where the parents have money and time but they feel overwhelmed by their children and prefer to be at work that with them during weekend, and tend to leave them with babysitters. I think this has a much more negative effect that parents like you who love their kids and do their best for them.
Remember also that she is also getting a lot of learning through other interactions - at school, with her friends, with family.
Good luck and thanks for sharing your story!

Photo of An Old Friend

I completely agree with you, Anne. Children are very sensitive and can read subliminal cues from their environment. Although Rashmi is a very harried parent, the fact that she is trying her best reveals the the genuineness of her care. Her approach is far better that that of parents who show they love only by letting their children run loose with their credit cards.

Photo of An Old Friend

When one seems to be stuck in a tight spot, I believe that creative, out-of-the-box solutions can save the day. That is why, to me, Rashmi and her family seem to be ideal candidates for the 'Learning Through Daily Activities' program. With the help of their parents, children can learn basic reading, arithmetic and many practical skills from daily life.

Of course, my suggestion is by no means a complete solution to their problems. Any authentic solution would have to be customized to accommodate their individual problems and make the most of their strengths - which is why I believe in personal creativity.

Also, I agree that the kind of skills learnt through daily activities are very limited in scope and will only take you so far in the world of school-learning. All I hope is that it will keep the girl intellectually stimulated till she develops self-motivation and gains enough momentum to study by herself.

Personally, I gain a lot of inspiration from reading about the lives of modern thinkers and scholars who came from relatively uneducated families (E.g. the British sociologist Prof. Anthony Giddens whose father was a clerk with London Transport; the rocket scientist and ex-President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam whose parents were fishermen, etc.).

Photo of Andrew Peterson

Your story really resonates with me because I was discussing a similar issue with my team, the Davidson Design Fellows, a few days ago. We are focusing our research efforts in the urban area of Charlotte, NC, and we have noticed that many parents suffer from time poverty- there just isn't enough time in the day to get everything done. No matter where we are, there is never enough time to accomplish everything that must be done.
Our discussion led us down a different path of thinking when formulating potential pathway for our research and solutions to follow. We discussed how our ideas should aim at making it easy for parents to commit the time required to help their children while not compromising other time consuming aspects of their lives.
Time poverty is certainly an issue; it is very apparent in America, and, from your story, I can tell it must affect many people around the world. Thank you for sharing this with us, and I hope that together, we are able to help give your child and every other child the opportunities to excel.


Davidson College, Class of 2018