latch key kid
Several decades back, the 'feminism' movement advocated women's rights of full citizenship i.e. the political and social equality with men. Aimed at breaking male barriers to derive the sense of identity/security and worth from their abilities to earn and get the equal power, the women with all the vigour took up employment in Government offices, hospitals, banks, private companies and the like. In effect while the traditional simplicities buckled under the swagger of yuburbia, the dual career families----largely the nuclear families----gave birth to 'latch key kid'.
'Latch key kid' is a term coined to describe children who wear or carry house keys to school so that they can let themselves into their home when they return from school. These children are at home without adult supervision until their parents return from work, school, or other occupations away from home. Currently, the term 'self care' is used to refer to elementary and middle school children who are without adult supervision during the after-school hours whether they are at home, at friends' houses, or in public places. Preschool children usually are not included because it is considered inappropriate for preschool children to be unsupervised for any amount of time (less than 1 % of the preschool population spends some time in self care). Adolescents attending high school also are not included because it is developmentally appropriate for high school students to care for themselves after school without direct adult supervision.
When he is still a neonatal, the toddler, still in the swaddling clothes, his young upwardly mobile mommy (yummy) would always be under active gun, 'Tinkies' with two incomes, nanny and kids, would leave him with nanny for his/her day care. If the nanny is not alive or is in poor health, unable to look after the baby, the maternal granny would take over the charge of baby-minder, while the mommy and papa are out at work. Some yuppies would even permanently send kids to their 'nani-hal', the maternal grandfather's house/family. In some cases the dual career families also hire services of an 'aaya' or male servant for taking care of the kid. Alternately dual career parents look for crèches and baby sitters, or else either of the parents forces himself /herself to stay home and play/swap the role of baby sitter.
But then as the little fellow grows up into a school going student, he goes to school and gets home from school. And then as a 'latch key kid' he collects keys from the hiding place or from his/her neck or from the neighbours and lets him/herself in to his/her house/flat to be looked after by he/she, him/herself. With or without changing school uniform, the kid heads for the hot case/refrigerator to get rice and vegetable (cooked) left for lunch. While doing so he/she would settle down to couch potato in front of TV or play with his/her indoor games or busies him/herself in the homework. He/she may even settle down at the neighbour's house till either of the dual career parents returns from the office. In the event neighbours are not home the 'latch key kid' waits at the roadside (at times even finishing his/her homework) till the working mommy returns from office.
In a typical upwardly mobile dual career family and a (latch key)kid or two, the woes of the yummy (young upwardly mobile mommy) begin early in the morning when she tumbles out of her bed with the nightmarish thought that she has;
got the floor to mop, the food to chop;
the chicken to fry, the baby to dry;
got company to feed, the garden to weed;
got shirts to press, the tops to dress;
the beans to cut, and clean up the hut.
She fixes the breakfast (and lunch as well) and meanwhile ensures that the school going kid(s) wakes up and finishes with his/her unending session in the bathroom. It is not many minutes before the harried mommy thunders at the top of her voice, and virtually drags the little brat out of the bathroom to catch the school bus on time. As she assures herself of the note books, school diary, lunch box, water bottle and the like in her ward's school bag the career mother issues sermons to the 'latch key kid' to play his role effectively.
In the present day liberal world the latch key kids constitute the 30-40something segment of our 'demographic dividend'. A large majority of this section of population owns and/or works for private sector as knowledge/media workers, designers, management/financial whiz kids and other high profile professionals. Developed in dual career families, some people would say, that these fellows are/were exposed to the parents who do/did not know how to really cope and who try to be very loving, compensating their lack of love(and time) with the material gifts and spoiling their children in the process. They would argue that the kids as a result do not inherit the negotiating power as required for their effective development, and that the illusions of the helicopter parents about coddling and protecting their children threaten the abilities of these children later in their life to strike off on their own and form a healthy relationship and proper job skills. Children in settings like this, they would say, do not get the optimal brain growth and the activity that establishes the cognitive pathways.
However a large number of people agree that the mother's employment status does have effects on families and children, but few of these effects are negative ones. Indeed, most seem positive -- the higher academic outcomes for children, benefits in their behavioral conduct and social adjustment, and the higher sense of competence and effectiveness in daughters. On the whole, they suggest that most families accommodate to the mother's employment and in doing so provide a family environment that works well. In two-parent families, the fathers take on a larger share of the household tasks and child care and this seems to have benefits for the children. In the working class, employed mothers indicate a higher level of well-being than full-time homemakers and this, in turn, affects their parenting in positive ways. Even in the middle-class, where employed mothers do not show a higher level of well-being, neither do they show a lower one.
While the quality and stability of nonmaternal care for infants and young children is considered important, the mother's employment itself does not seem to have the negative effects often proclaimed. The developmental impact of self care is thought to depend on the circumstances. The child characteristics, type and amount of self care, and family circumstances are factors in the outcomes of self care. Younger children and children who were experiencing behaviour problems before self care began appear to be more adversely affected by it. Children and young adolescents who hang out with peers and who spend long amounts of time unsupervised also seem to experience more negative outcomes than other children. Children from low-income urban families also appear to be at greater risk from self care. Nevertheless keeping in view the broader visions of the educated working women, the latch key kids reared up in these families invariably emerge as independent (minded), though aggressive and robotically successful in their career graph.