The Challenges of Modern Parenting

The NY Times has a book review today of an interesting new book that explores how radically parenting has changed in the last 70 years. Kids are no longer seen as property, or workers for the farm, but rather precious little beings that rule the household like royalty. This creates a huge shift in how we interact as families, and the expectations the next generation of adults will have about how the world should regard them. Interesting food for thought.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Children alter the adult relationships into which they obtrude. Indeed, Senior says, they provoke a couple’s most frequent arguments — “more than money, more than work, more than in-laws, more than annoying personal habits, communication styles, leisure activities, commitment issues, bothersome friends, sex.” Mothers are frequently overwhelmed by their attempts to excel both at their paid jobs and at child care. In 1965, when most American women didn’t work outside the home, mothers nonetheless spent almost four fewer hours a week than today’s mothers do providing child care. Fathers, on the other hand, spend three times as many hours with their children now as they did then, but do better at keeping some downtime reserved for themselves; they do not judge themselves the way mothers do, and experience few of the pressures that make women feel so guilty about being away from home during the workday.

Taking care of — and indeed loving — one’s children changes as they reach adolescence. Senior notes that parents often do homework with their children; “homework,” she writes aphoristically, “is the new family dinner.” It is the locus around which affection is played out. Parents struggle through their children’s teenage years both because of their changed relationship with their children and because of their changed relationship to themselves. It is not easy to have much of your purpose shattered by your child’s independence. This loss can throw parents back on their own inner lives, and self-examination can be painful. “The mere presence of adolescents in the house, still brimming with potential, their futures still an unclaimed colony . . . sets off a fantastical reverie of what-ifs,” Senior writes.”

Read the full story here: http://goo.gl/opyyYI

ALL JOY AND NO FUN
The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
By Jennifer Senior
308 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $26.99

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