Monday, June 23, 2014

On the deEvolution of Parenting: Part One - Freedom

I recently posted something on finding the joy in parenting and in life, so my ears perked up when I came across the teaser for a new book entitled All Joy and No Fun: The paradox of modern parenthood.  I have not read this book so I am obviously not reviewing it.  But the Parenting Now segment of the PBS news hour was interviewing the author so I settled in to watch and learn and I was driven to comment on the points made in the interview.  

I was thrilled with them covering this subject. 

Until they started.

Then I was just depressed. 

The author, Jennifer Senior, (who is a journalist not an expert in the field of child development or family relations or psyhoclogy or even sociology) proposed her thesis that parenting roles and purposes are changing.  

Her main idea is that parents are recently seen as the "custodians of their children's happiness", and because of this parenting is no fun. It is just too intense.  Parents are pulled between the work, kids, and spouse so just getting through the actual tasks of the day is a challenge - but now parents feel compelled to also make their kids happy.   Add to it the problem of competitive parenting combined with dual career households and it is a bad combination.  Parents are rushed and over whelemed and have too much to do.  There is too much pressure to have kids well rounded and so they are over programmed.  Then there are social media pressures as well.   So parents therefore take on parenting like they take on other challenges - it is something to learn about and to master.

This is so depressing.

Does anyone else find this awful? 

No wonder people are delaying parenthood or only doing it part-time so they can maintain their careers.  Who wants to give up their career for this misery!?

Then, she moves to the rationale behind the changes in parenting. 

First, birthcontrol has given us dominion over when, how often, and how many children we have.  Family size is down as people are having fewer kids.  

Wait a minute - wouldn't that make it easier to have just 1 or 2 children (says the mother of 4)? 

Apparently no.  

Senior argues that fewer kids means you have more invested in each child.  She actually said we 'assign more value to each child' because we have fewer kids.  Don't tell my kids that please.   

Related, the use of birth control has meant that women can wait to start their families.  Because women with college degrees are having children later in life on average, when they have children, they now have to give up their autonomy in exchange for motherhood.  

Again, sad, but given that identity development is one of my favorite areas of study I totally understand that.  Kids are all consuming and if you are used to being self-focused and independent and able to shower whenever you want (& by yourself), motherhood can be a shock.   Your dreams, your wants, your privacy, it is all put second (or third, or fourth...) to the needs of others.  

We have so much less control over our own life.  And most people (although not me) see that as bad. 

The transition to parenthood becomes much harder for those who have already established a career, because now they often have to negotiate their identity. 

Do I give up being a Doctor to be a Mom instead? How can I be awesome in both these full time all consuming roles?  I have known more than one professional who left the career track for mommy-hood when she realized she could not do both as well as she could do just one of those jobs.  Put another way, once motherhood was upon her, one of my favorite people knew that she wasn't able to maintain the hours and sleep schedule required to be fabulous detective.  What a shock to her system to go from being a badass who broke up terrorist cells to changing diapers.  I think she is still a badass but there are days when she questions it still. 

So before birth control, couples did not wait as long to get married, and they didn't wait as long to have children.   

As early as 1968, Pope Paul VI warned that the use of contraception would have dire effects on the family and society. Janet Smith has a nice, short essay on those early predictions of the Pope regarding contraception.   It is crazy to me (but cool?) that a secular journalist has birth control listed as the top reason that parents aren't finding joy in parenting. 

Senior brought up two other reasons in her interview as well, related to women working outside the home and a cultural shift towards children being served rather than serving the families needs.  Those are discussed in the next blog... along with an actual conclusion which is clearly lacking.  Tune in for more at the link:  To Be Continued Here...

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