Are the Richer Classes Fit to Parent?


… asked Mrs Beeton in the 1880 edition of her Household Management, warning that there are numerous instances where:
The mother is either physically or socially incapacitated from undertaking these most pleasant duties herself, and where consequently she is compelled to trust to adventitious aid for those natural benefits which are at once the mother’s pride and delight to render to her child. In these cases, when obliged to call in the services of hired assistance, she must trust the dearest obligation of her life to one who, from her social sphere, has probably notions of rearing children diametrically opposed to the preconceived ideas of the mother, and at enmity with all her sentiments of right and prejudices of position.
It has been justly been said – we think by Hood – that the children of the poor are not brought up, but dragged up. However facetious this remark may seem, there is much truth in it; and that children reared in the reeking dens of squalor and poverty live at all is an apparent anomaly in the course of things, that at first sight would seem to set the laws of sanitary provision at defiance, and make it appear a perfect waste of time to insist on pure air and exercise as indispensable necessaries of life, and especially so as regards infantine existence.
On the one hand:
We see elaborate care bestowed on a family of children, everything studied that can tend to their personal comfort – pure air, pure water, regular ablution, a dietary prescribed by art, and every precaution adopted that medical judgement and maternal love can dictate for the well-being of the parent’s hope – and find, in despite of all this care and vigilance, disease and death invading the guarded treasure.
And yet:
We turn to the foetor and darkness that in some obscure court attend the robust brood who, coated in dirt and with mud and refuse for playthings, live and thrive and grow into manhood and, in contrast to the pale face and flabby flesh of the aristocratic child, exhibit strength, vigour, and well-developed frames.

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