[FORUM]Changing roles in the family“All seem to have left, really.”
Last Saturday afternoon, driving fast through a street in Gangnam, Seoul that used to be notoriously crowded, my taxi driver commented in wonder. Empty streets, rather than the heat, gave me the feeling that it was indeed the vacation season. Come to think of it, my daughter, who was preparing for the college entrance examination at a study center near her school, complained that there was no place to eat because all the nearby snack shops were closed for vacation. Haven’t the mass media vied to show scenes of beaches densely crowded with women and men in swimsuits appearing like bean sprouts in a jar?
The vacation season is truly welcome to salarymen who can easily miss the change of seasons while shuttling between home and work as if in a rat race. How difficult it is for them to have an actual vacation even if they are entitled to one. But thanks to the surrounding atmosphere, summer vacation is an exception.
Still, there are many obstacles that must be overcome to take a vacation. People doing similar jobs must be careful not to vacate their posts all at the same time; important meeting schedules must not overlap with a vacation; the peak vacation period, when the heat is unyielding, must be yielded to seniors.
Of course, the dates children must go to school and the vacation schedules of the private institutes they attend must also be taken into account. Moreover, working couples must consider their spouse’s circumstances. To go on a trip, they must make reservations, so scheduling a vacation is like finding an answer to a difficult equation. Nevertheless, all are determined to leave. They seem determined to have happy moments with their family. There seems to be no time other than the summer vacation for salarymen when they are more preoccupied with having a good time with their family alone.
At this precious opportunity, a special program is needed. Even so, we don’t need to be in a sweat, looking at maps and calculating the budget. There is a program which does not require money, time or excessive energy, and if used well, makes your family maintain a lasting harmony, not a temporary one that lingers only during the vacation. This is “changing roles in the family.” Even for a few days, let wives play the role of husbands, or vice versa. If circumstances permit, it is worth changing roles with children.
A group of psychiatrists voiced their opinions that role playing is effective in treating patients because it helps them recognize their problems objectively by having them play the role of those who have complaints or grudges against them. An experience program, “Taking Care of the Other’s Mother,” by a British broadcaster perfectly demonstrated that the program helped its participants find their problems of their own accord and realize the preciousness of family. Experience is so powerful.
People talk about the crisis of family. The crude divorce rate has risen from 2.5 in 2000 to 3.5 in just three years. Like Choi Jin-shil and Jo Sung-min, there are many couples who do not divorce because of their children but are unlikely to be able to restore their relationship. There are also many others who seemingly have no problems but lack dialogue or have walls between them.
Underlying the rapidly increasing suicide rate every year are families that have lost their preventive functions. The key to solving all family problems is dialogue. It is not easy to talk with each other anew, and there is concern that if the dialogue is attempted awkwardly, they might just end up confirming the gap between them.
Guides to dialogue are necessary. One of them is “changing roles in the family.” The golden vacation period, when all family members dream of making happy memories, is the right time to try this unusual experience. Wouldn’t the heat and annoyance retreat when we share our experiences with each other, talking about the difficulty of preparing meals in the kitchen in mid-summer and about the dilemma in which wives cannot turn on the air conditioners for fear of the electric bills?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Hong Eun-hee