On October 16, 2006, a report was released, “Married and Single Parents [are] Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds.” This too, is not as expected. New York Times Journalist, Robert Pears reveals, “Mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased.”
For the purposes of this study, parents were asked to chronicle all their activities on the day before an intensive interview. The findings were published in a new Russell Sage Foundation book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life.”
Ms. Bianchi worked for the United States Census Bureau for sixteen years. There she developed an interest in family life. The research done for this study builds on her work as a demographer.
In discussing this investigation, Bianchi stated, “We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so.” She continues, “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.”
The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families. But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.These words appear and many other glowing evaluations appear early on in the Times article. It would seem at first blush parents are pursuing a balanced relationship with their offspring. Perchance they are.
Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.
I offer some of the other appraisal for your consideration.
“It seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother. Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families. With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.Wow, this realization is truly wonderful. One could surmise that Americans discovered the truth, just as our former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich did. There is no true balance. People must choose their priorities. Do they desire a glorious career or a fabulous family? Some in the study did decide.
But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time. The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.
For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965. For married fathers, the time spent on childcare more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours. Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.
• Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.” People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.Ah, the “perfect child.” The young person of today is followed or pushed by the ideal parent. Perhaps this explains much.
• Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.
• Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.”
[Yet, this is part of the problem as I see it]
• As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.”
Parents today are spending time with their children as they drive them hither and yon. The youth in America are enrolled in everything. According to the publisher of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, and Robert Coles . . .
Parenting today has come to resemble a relentless To-Do list. Even parents with the best intentions strive to micro-manage every detail of their kids' lives and live in constant fear that their child will under-perform in any area — academic, social, athletic. Lists and schedules, meetings and appointments invade every moment — and the need to be the best is a philosophy dominating — and undermining — our own sense of self as well as our children's.In my own life I may not have been given the structure that constant companionship or parental supervision provide. However, I was given the freedom to think, to be, to imagine, to invent, and to inspire myself. I was able to fashion a life that reflected my inner most joys. Activities were not imposed upon me. I immersed myself in personal pursuits. My parents did not choose my interests; nor did they force me to compete. I was deprived of their time, and rewarded with many opportunities.
I learned to enjoy my own company and to create an unparalleled community. The world of me, myself, and I was wondrous, full and expansive. It included my grandfather, who took care of me frequently. Mary, my caregiver was my daily companion, and though for the first five years my Mom was not fully physically present, she was totally, emotionally there for me.
My Mom recognized her own need to be a better parent and person and set out to become so. In the interim, she consulted regularly with Mary. She established a connection with me by expressing her desires to Mary. She discussed child-rearing in depth and detail She knew what she wanted for me. My Mom ensured that my upbringing was the best it could be until she could again fully join me and advance my greater growth. I was given time to play and contemplate.
My resources were inspirational readings, paper, pencils, and toys tailored for investigation. Egg poaching pots and pans were early energizers. Coloring books were considered too restrictive for a creative soul. Thus, structures were my own. I was encouraged to explore, to be curious, and to be the best of scientists. The phrase often uttered in my family was, “Ask, and you shall receive.” Gifts were not meaningless materials; they were loving and thoughtful trinkets, gems, words of wisdom and gestures of support. What was given was invaluable, encouragement and engagement.
In recent years, many child development experts have voiced increasing concern over the fact that children are accorded little time or encouragement to engage in imaginative play. Too many children are overscheduled with school and other activities, according to these experts.Today, we as a society are saturated in standards. As parents, producers, and power-mongers we seek accountability. We prefer systems and forego freedoms. We teach our children to do the same.
Even sports, in which an adult sets the framework, leave little room for the development of creative thinking in children, these experts say.
When children do have time to play, they too often play with a pre-programmed electronic toy or sit in front of a screen -- television, computer, or hand-held game -- responding to a scenario created by someone else, experts say.
As a result, children are developing a "problem-solving deficit disorder,'' says Diane Levin, a child development expert at Wheelock College in Boston. “Developing imagination and creativity is essential for children to develop problem-solving skills.’’
In educational settings, they must engage in collaborative learning projects. In sports, they are trained to be part of the team. Throughout their young lives, our offspring are prepared. They must attend the “best” schools and receive honors for their studies. They are readied for their proper role in society. They, just as their parents, will occupy an “appropriate” station. The young today need not think; nor are they taught how. They, as their employed mothers and many fathers have no time for such supposed silliness.
In today’s society, thinking is not considered necessary. We are taught to quote facts and use these to formulate a life. Our life is expected to be parallel to that of others.
Intellectually we may feel free to be who we are; however, in truth, conformity, not deep thought is the guiding light, and publicly accepted principle that many of us follow. We, as a population, are as many employed mothers . . .
On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed. [The latter may not necessarily be a bad thing.] . . . they [employed mothers] also spend less time with their husbands.Sadly, I suspect, we as a nation are not teaching our children well. We present information and demand prevailing tenets. Society states, “There is a need for scientists and mathematicians.” Teach the formulas, the facts and create technicians.
Administrators and those in favor of “accountability” say, “Forget the Fine Arts; they do not yield the fruits we as a nation need to survive.” Apparently, the need for curiosity and creativity is void. Thus, we stuff the minds of our children with statistics; we command them to “meet the standards.” We no longer require, nor do we teach our young to think.
As this New York Times article concludes, in 2006, nothing is as it appears. Couples may stay together, though they rarely spend time with each other. Husbands and wives are not friends; they barely know each other. People, partners are busy. Families run from here to there, mindlessly. People do not realize their dreams, though they constantly race towards them. They believe there may be other possibilities; yet, they never conceive these.
I surmise that parents spending more time with their children may not breed what we human animals crave. The connections we yearn for are lost in the dust as we scurry about. We are rushing, chasing a career, our children, or the competition; yet, we forfeit our selves. Our souls are lost. Only on occasion do we imagine what we might be within. We are too busy, too busy to breathe.
In today’s world, hours, minutes, and seconds, man-made constructs govern us. We measure these as though they can be quantified and qualified. We treat our children and time as tangibles. Researchers want to theorize the more time together the merrier; however, in reality this is not true.
I propose we not evaluate schedules when appraising the value of a relationship. Instead, I invite each of us to assess reciprocal reverence in the parent child connection. This characteristic is not necessarily visible or verifiable. Calculations cannot always determine excellence within such a bond.
If parents tell their children what to think, say, do, feel, or be in a moment or in many moments, this will not gratify the souls of our youth. It will not engender closeness. Nor will it make our offspring better human beings. Time spent together may be important. However, it is not more critical than what we do with our time.
• I offer another glorious essay by Helaine Olen. This exposé also evaluates the parent child relationship in 2006. 'Gifted Child Industry' Preys on Parents' Insecurities, does not paint a pretty picture.
References for your review . . .
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• PDF “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
• “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
• “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” By Suzanne M. Bianchi,John P. Robinson, Melissa A. Milkie
• Suzanne M. Bianchi. Maryland Population Research Center
• John P. Robinson. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
• Melissa A. Milkie. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
• Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association
• Census Bureau. U.S. Government Census Bureau
• The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, Robert Coles
• Experts concerned about children's creative thinking, By Karen MacPherson. Post-Gazette. Sunday, August 15, 2004
• The Family Leave Act, By Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor. New York Times November 8, 1996
• For Parents: How To Raise a Kid Who Cares. Oregon Public Broadcasting
• Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can't Read, Write, or Add, By Charles J. Sykes
• Summary Dumbing Down Our Kids, By Charles J. Sykes
• Dissecting the Dysfunctions That Lead Down the Path to Divorce, By Kathleen Kelleher, Special to The Los Angeles Times. Monday, September 18, 2000
• Keeping Art Alive Under No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB], By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
• O, Say, Does Your Class Know the National Anthem?, By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
• Standards, Assessment and Accountability. U.S. Department of Education
• Parent-Child Relationship Quality Depends on Child’s Perception of Fairness, By Jeremy Diener. Journal of Family Psychology. August 11, 2004