The most important of jobs
Brett Hetherington On Friday afternoons on El Punt Avui TV, Nicole chats with an English-speaking expat. For this month, she interviewed Australian teacher, journalist and writer Brett Hetherington.
Where are you from?
Australia, but I've lived here for over eight years.
What made you decide to settle here?
Getting work was the big thing. We chose Spain as our main target in Europe. I love Catalonia as a place to live. I found work teaching in Sitges.
Is that your main job, because you're also a writer?
It brings in the money, writing only a little. I was a secondary school teacher for a long time, but now I teach in companies.
Where do you live?
In a small town called Sant Cugat near Vilafranca. It's not far from Barcelona, where I go a few days a week. It's nice to have the connection with the big city – the energy, the buzz. We have the best of both worlds.
Was your son born here?
Actually in Japan. He was five when we moved here.
Does he feel more Catalan or Australian?
He feels quite Australian.
Do you go back to Australia often?
Only every three to four years. It's a long way and so you have to spend a few months to make the most of it. My family have come over to visit us here.
Let's talk about your first book, The Remade Parent.
Yes, it's my first book; I am working on a second now.
What is that about?
About travelling in this country, in Spain.
The Remade Parent's subhead is, how we are losing our children. Are we?
It is quite a shocking subtitle and it is meant to be provocative. I think there is an element in modern life where we are losing our children to some degree.
In what way?
It is a struggle to be an involved parent. There are lots of forces working against being a parent actively involved with their children. The problem is less in this part of the world, but the book is for an English language market so I am thinking of England, Australia, America.
Your background is teaching, you have fostered children before and you have a son of your own... why did your write this book?
I think parenting is the most important job in the world. Even when they get older it is important but society and friends also has an influence. It is crucial for the first three to four years of their life that parents are there for them. Ideally parents, though single parents can do a fantastic job, but it is harder. The book says that parenting is the most important job in the world. More important than what any president. I started writing the book before he started school.
How involved were you?
When he was born, my wife wasn't working. I was working in Japan on a good salary and was so fortunate enough to work fewer hours and spend time with them. My wife went back to full time work when he was three and I was working part time, so I spent a couple of days a week with him. I was pleased I could do that. We only have one child and we won't have another one. Having done that I realised how important it was to be involved.
So nothing wrong with a stay at home mum then?
No! I think stay at home mums should be rewarded by society. There are parents who are materialistic. I talk about it in the book. They put their children second and make money first.
What parts of the old-fashioned parenting do you value most?
The aspects of the old style parenting where parents trusted their instincts. There is a lot of pressure now, to be the 'perfect' parent. And maybe too much information, too. That is something that needs to go – the idea of being the perfect parent. Making mistakes is to be human.
Every child is different. So is it not more of a case of nature and not nurture?
It depends. Unfortunately, a lot of it is about giving kids screens to play with. I am very strongly against kids spending more than a few hours a day on screens. I've taught kids here who have spent their summer holidays just watching TV. Limits are the key.
Your book also talks about bringing up children in Spain – better or worse than elsewhere in Europe?
I think it is a good part of Europe to bring kids up in because society here is generally in favour of children.
What about sleep? Here children go to bed so late.
Hugo was a good sleeper because we worked on tiring him out during the day! He went to bed early. Every kid is different; some need more than others.
To finish off, give me three top parenting tips.
Don't be afraid to be unpopular with your children. Don't be afraid to be different from other parents, and read as much as you can with your children when they are young.
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