‘Parents Don’t Have to Be Perfect’

“Parents don’t have to be perfect. They have to be sufficiently good”. This is the message that, according to Ana Carvalho, Hospital da Luz Lisboa paediatrics coordinator, should be conveyed to all those who are already parents or plan to be.

In Well’s Conference dedicated to ‘Natality – how to make Portugal grow’, that took place on May 9, the paediatrician reminded that the anxiety provoked by that “demand of perfection of today” is also a discouraging factor for natality.

In this Well’s Conference, that counted with the support, besides Hospital da Luz, of the Ministries of Health and Social Security, Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Central and Association Population and Development, the debate moderated by journalist Ricardo Costa discussed the problematic of natality in the perspective of opportunities and challenges.

Ana Carvalho reinforced the idea, formerly exposed in the conference, that parents present mostly social and economic reasons – of work and family support, among others – to justify the fact of having one single child. From her experience as paediatrician, and with “parents of different ages” she concludes that, quite often, it suffices “that the first experience of parenthood does not meet the high expectations they had, to discourage them from having a second or a third child”. Therefore, she insisted in the message: “There are no perfect families. There are no perfect parents. What we must convey on our daily work is that it is enough to be sufficiently good”.

The paediatrician reminded that “situations of chronic disease that were until recently incompatible with pregnancy are now overcome”. “These situations are presently more easily controlled, allowing quality of life and the possibility to have children without risk”.

The same applies to the prevention and surveillance of risk pregnancies, today much more efficient, wherefore “in terms of health, there are conditions to overcome most impairments to natality”. “So it seems, effectively, that reasons of social nature are in the origin of the low birth rates in Portugal”, she concluded.

In fact, and after a slight change in the national trend in the first two months of the current year concerning the number of births, the birth rate in Portugal – 1.3 children per woman – is the second lowest in Europe, having significantly decreased in latest years.

Which means that, in accordance with the views exposed in this Well’s conference, “Portugal has not been able to renovate generations, since the last decade of the 90s”, and “if the trend persists, by 2050, it will reach a practically irreversible population decline, threatening the economic growth and viability of the country”.

Vanessa Cunha, sociologist from the Institute of Social Sciences, confirmed this somber portrait of natality, revealing that a third of the country’s districts registered, last year, a maximum of 50 births per year. “We have a greatly asymmetrical territory and it seems to me that Portugal gave up having children – and we must understand exactly the motives for that, as the situation has deep impact at all levels”.

One of the intervenients in the debate was Sibila Seddon-Harvey, who gave her opinion in the quality of mother: “I represent here any mother or father, and that is the only reason that I am here”. But she also stressed that to be parent in Portugal “requires a great dosage of hope, because the perspective into the future is quite negative”.

João Cília, general director of Well’s, highlighted the fundament of the project of natality promotion launched by the company all over the country, prevailing until the end of 2018: “We want to celebrate natality and make it a priority in the life of the Portuguese population”.