Times Are Changing

Oh the times they are a changing!

I’ve been teaching babysign for many years now and in the immortal words of Bob Dylan…The times they are a changing…

When I first started teaching the suggested age for a baby to join a class was 9 to 10 months and we would expect them to sign back to their parents at around 12 months. Imagine! (I could make a John Lennon reference but I will refrain.) Today we would expect most babies to be signing by 10 months with some signing as early as 5 months and our recommended age to start a class is now ‘as soon as possible’.

This signing at a younger age intrigues me. It could be due to the parents, usually Mums I must say, understanding more about babysign and using it with more confidence. It could be that more people are using babysign with their babies and it has just become more acceptable and commonplace. Maybe the fact that nurseries now routinely use signing helps too. My own opinion is that it’s all thanks to Mr. Tumble. Possibly the most annoying character on children’s TV but also my hero!

Socially things have changed immensely since my first classes. I was fortunate when I had my first 3 children as we had enough money for me to stay at home until they reached school age. All of my friends except one stayed home too and this was reflected in my classes where most mums stayed home. In classes these days a stay at home mum is a rarity. I’ve never forgotten one group of mums in particular who came to my class one term. They were a lovely group who all knew each other from their antenatal classes. After the babysign class had finished, some of the mums and I were talking about them returning to work. They spoke about the prestige of working and feeling fulfilled. They were without doubt diligent, caring mums who loved their babies but the pull of work was compelling and almost considered normal. I said that I’d needed to go to work part time when my 4th child was born and having experienced being at home with the other 3 I felt I’d missed out on my 4th. The years up to school age fly by and I definitely felt sad that I’d missed some precious time with my 4th child.  Talking about raising children is a bit like talking about politics or religion, generally considered a no go area but actually it was an interesting discussion. Everyone left except one mum who helped me tidy the hall. She suddenly burst into tears, big hacking sobs. She told me she was so pleased at what I’d said as she was under huge pressure to get a job. Not from her family but from other mums. After listening to me she’d made up her mind to stay home and enjoy her time with her son. It made me aware that mums who literally do the greatest most important job on earth should not be made to feel undervalued. In Norway Mums who stay at home are rewarded by the government and paid a wage in recognition of the service they are providing to their country from bringing up future citizens. It’s food for thought.

When I was at home with my first 3 they didn’t need to go to a nursery to socialize as there were always friends to play with. We had a network of friends who would meet and the children learned all about sharing and turn taking in their own homes under the mums’ watchful eyes. Nowadays mums are obliged to send their little ones to nurseries just to be with other youngsters.

I’m thrilled to say that things are becoming a little more balanced. In my recent classes there is more of a mix with a few mums choosing to stay home and not feeling unworthy if they’re not doing paid work. There are also now some jobs that offer crèche facilities onsite or jobs where baby can go too. At babysign we want our teachers to work around family life and even take baby with them if they choose. Oh yes…the times they are a changing!