I was interviewed recently for a television program that intends to look at various styles of parenting and the kinds of children these create. I know they’re trying to be nuanced about the topic but I can imagine the stereotypes their audience will have in mind. Namely, the idea that my generation of parents are coddling our children, are too intense about our parenting, that we’re a little too attentive.. that we want our kids to get trophies just for showing up and we’re creating feckless brats in the process. Yes, so about that..
I really, really like this piece, “How the ‘trophy for just showing up’ was earned” by Sonya Huber in The New York Times.
My son’s eight soccer trophies are lined up above his bed. One is a fake-metal bobblehead, and one has a little soccer ball that spins. He received each one for merely being on the roster.
These pieces of plastic and metal handed out by park-district coaches have emerged as a symbol of the unearned praise that is said to have weakened our children’s characters.
But I love them, those memorials to grit and mud.
Motherhood writing could do with a lot more of this… a lot more perspective, a lot less stereotyping.
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I wish so much that I had been able to buy Miriam Elia’s book, We Go to the Art Gallery before it was stomped on by Penguin books. I do love a bit of mothering and nihilism in art galleries, you know.
Thanks to Penelope D. for the link.
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This essay is written by Cristina Nehring. Do you remember the controversy around her essay about her love for her disabled child last year? Anyway, here she is writing about being a single parent and entering a new love affair – it’s not a brilliant essay, it’s just interesting. She specialises in big sweeping statements that can piss readers off but I do like the way Nehring explores her life with a bigger picture in mind. And I’m always interested in the topic of parents having sex lives, as you know.
Here’s Nehring in The New York Times with “Are parents better lovers?”.
But now I was there — even if I was on the other side. And all my fears were true: I did make Dice my priority. I’d find myself pushing her baby carriage through the park and thinking “I never spent near this much time with any man in a park.” Nor has anyone ever listened to me so rapt, nor smiled at me so winsomely, tenderly, heartbreakingly.
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Much conservative ink has been spilled boiling the problems of black America down to its absent daddies, but no one in the black community needs pundits to lecture him on family values. Deadbeat dads rank about one step below the Klan in popularity among African Americans. Hiphop may be grossly misogynistic, but you will be hard pressed to find a cultural movement that more reveres mothers and reviles fathers. (Indeed, rap’s only mother-hater of note is a white guy, Eminem.) The anti-paternal sentiment in rap expresses a larger fatigue among African Americans for “tired-ass” black men who doom kids to fatherless lives. So when Jay-Z says “Momma loves me, Pop I miss you/God help me forgive ‘em, I got some issues,” he isn’t simply having a cathartic moment, he is speaking for 70 percent of African-American children. He is also speaking for my partner and me.
From Ta-Nehisi Coates with “Confessions of a Black Mr Mom” in The Washington Monthly.
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It’s nearly impossible to think of any other situation in which we, as viewers, including parents and pastors and progressives and feminists, are asked to watch young women and their children go through hell, and tell ourselves the proper response is inaction or even mockery. It’s hard to imagine any other situation in which we as a culture root for real young women and their real children to fail, all in the name of metaphorically saving a much larger group of young women who will never become pregnant.
Absolutely this! As I’ve said before, if you want to see patriarchal attitudes towards motherhood then look at how teenage mothers get treated and a lot of feminist sites have really dropped the ball on this one, too. Great article from Amy Benfer in Dame Magazine with “Why does everyone – from pastors to progressives – doom teen mothers to failure”.
Thanks to Kate Harding for the link.
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Posted in arguments with your partner, book review, fatherhood, feminism, motherhood, motherhood bliss, motherhood sux, school kids, teenagers, work and family (im)balance on February 2, 2014 |
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Raising modern, indulged children for their own sake can be challenging. In the end, Senior writes, “Mothering and fathering aren’t just things we do. Being a mother or being a father is who we are.” Her most striking observations reveal this existential complexity. “How it feels to be a parent and how it feels to do the quotidian and often arduous task of parenting are two very separate things. ‘Being a parent’ is much more difficult for social science to anatomize.” Social science is especially inadequate to describe the nature of this particular joy, but Senior deploys a novelist’s sensibility in giving evidence of that privileged euphoria, insisting that it is not merely coincident with all the tedious things parents must do, but actually an outgrowth of them. “Freedom in our culture has evolved to mean freedom from obligations,” she observes. “But what on earth does that freedom even mean if we don’t have something to give it up for?”
Senior draws on the psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s distinction between the “experiencing self” that exists in the present moment and the “remembering self” that constructs a life’s narrative. “Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes — or napping, or shopping, or answering emails — to spending time with our kids. . . . But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one — and nothing — provides us with so much joy as our children. It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it’s the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life-tales.” She talks about parents’ pride in their children, not only in their accomplishments but even in their basic development as human beings, their growth into kindness and generosity. “Kids may complicate our lives,” she writes. “But they also make them simpler. Children’s needs are so overwhelming, and their dependence on us so absolute, that it’s impossible to misread our moral obligation to them. . . . We bind ourselves to those who need us most, and through caring for them, grow to love them, grow to delight in them, grow to marvel at who they are.”
“Under Pressure: a review of All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior” in The New York Times by Andrew Soloman.
Complicating matters, mothers assume a disproportionate number of time-sensitive domestic tasks, whether it’s getting their toddlers dressed for school or their 12-year-olds off to swim practice. Their daily routine is speckled with what sociologists Annette Lareau and Elliot Weininger call “pressure points,” or nonnegotiable demands that make their lives, as the authors put it, “more frenetic.”
These deadlines have unintended consequences. They force women to search for wormholes in the time-space continuum simply to accomplish all the things that they need to do. In 2011, the sociologists Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider found that mothers spend, on average, 10 extra hours a week multitasking than do fathers “and that these additional hours are mainly related to time spent on housework and child care.”
When fathers spend time at home, on the other hand, it reduces their odds of multitasking by over 30%. Which may explain why, a few years ago, researchers from UCLA found that a father in a room by himself was the “person-space configuration observed most frequently” in their close study of 32 families at home. It may also explain why many fathers manage to finish the Sunday paper while their wives do not—they’re not constantly getting up to refill bowls of Cheerios.
Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.
From “Why Mom’s Time is Different to Dad’s Time” by Jennifer Senior in The Wall Street Journal.
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I really, really think we have a problem with neo-liberalism and therapeutic approaches to social justice at the moment, which is at the expense of collective solutions. This is a very good statement about why ‘personal responsibility’ is extremely limited as a solution to problems of the scale of racism.
An appeal to authority—even the authority of our dead—doesn’t make Barack Obama any more right. On the contrary, it shows how wrong he is. I can’t think of a single credible historian of our 500-year tenure here who has concluded that our problem was a lack of “personal responsibility.” The analysis is as old as it is flawed, and that is because it isn’t analysis at all but something altogether different. No black people boo when the president talks about personal responsibility. On the contrary, it’s often the highlight of his speeches on race. If you’ve ever lived in a black community, you might understand why. I can assemble all kinds of stats, graphs, and histories to explain black America’s ills to you. But none of that can salve the wound of leaving for work at 7 a.m., seeing young men on the stoop blowing trees, and coming home and seeing the same niggers—because this is what we say to ourselves—sitting in the same place. It is frustrating to feel yourself at war with these white folks—because that too is what we say—and see people standing on your corner who you believe to have given up the fight.
“I am not raising ‘nothing niggers,’” my mother used to tell me. “I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner.” My mother did not know her father. In my life, I’ve loved four women. One of them did not know her father and two, very often, wished they didn’t. It’s not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It’s not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It’s not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family—in particular—is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact—whatever the charts, graphs, and histories may show—is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happen, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever.
My mother’s admonishings had their place. God forbid I ever embarrass her. God forbid I be like my grandfather, like the fathers of my friends and girlfriends and wife. God forbid I ever stand in front of these white folks and embarrass my ancestors, my people, my dead. And God forbid I ever confuse that creed, which I took from my mother, which I pass on to my son, with a wise and intelligent analysis of my community. My religion can never be science. This is the difference between navigating the world and explaining it…
.. Catharsis is not policy. Catharsis is not leadership. And shame is not wisdom.
From Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic with “The champion Barack Obama”.
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“It is notable — and worrying — that young people’s presence in public places, regardless of their behaviour, was considered to be an ASB by four in ten adults,” said Hulley. “The information that adults have about young people, for example from their negative portrayal in the media, often defines them in terms of the threat that they allegedly pose to adults.”
In making a direct comparison between younger teenagers’ perceptions about particular (so-called) anti-social behaviours with those of adults — as both groups completed the same questionnaire — the research was the first of its kind, and could offer valuable pointers to policy-makers looking to foster more cohesive communities during a time when the generation gap appears to be widening, says the study’s author.
“In the context of increasing distances between generations, between ‘them’ and ‘us’, efforts should be focused on improving social connectedness by bringing adults and young people together so that adults can get a better understanding of young people and their behaviour,” said Hulley.
Just maybe, something similar happens with babies and little kids in public space. I say this because whenever the topic of babies in public space comes up you see a lot of very angry personal stories from people about how terribly disruptive little ones are in public and how completely rude and indifferent to this disruption their mothers are. This surprises me because I hang out quite a bit with mothers and babies and I don’t see a whole lot of this stuff happening. You would think I would be seeing some of this epidemic of bad behaviour. But what I see is the occasional rude parent just as I see the occasional rude elderly person, or the occasional rude teenager, or the occasional rude twenty-something person. I don’t see an over-representation of mothers with babies and small children in my experiences of rudeness in public. Maybe there’s a bit of confirmation bias going on, just maybe. And maybe that bias has its roots in misogyny..
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Let me break down parenting for you, and why it’s so hard.
Before you have kids, you think it’s the diapers or the late nights or the mortification of trading in your car for a minivan. But really, it’s the mind games. It’s the daily, hourly micro-aggressions involved in living with totally volatile and irrational people.
It’s the gray matter that gets lost each day when you try to reason with the unreasonable.
It’s the tax on your brain of trying to keep your cool when they lose theirs.
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It’s an inescapable fact that extracurricular activities, which increase student investment in school, are planned by parents who have ample time and money, who sometimes lack insight into the lives of students whose parents don’t. I tried to advocate for these students.
From Debra Monroe in The New York Times with “When elite parents dominate volunteers, children lose”.
I don’t want to be too hard on any parents who volunteer at school because mostly they’re women, and let’s face it, they are all doing work we rely on.. but I have witnessed similar problems to those being described in this article in P&C meetings. I have seen meetings being called at times when working-outside-the-home parents couldn’t attend. And I have been at meetings where parents were nudging the prices up for fundraising activities (and even sometimes, community-building activities) though the impact of this on low income kids was raised.
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