Friday, March 28, 2014

Parenting Zeitgeist

I'm sure it's only on my radar because I am a parent now, but there seems to be a lot of coverage of parenting styles, how having kids doesn't make you happier, actually diminishes your marriage, new books on these topics, etc in the media now. Reading mommy blogs (the wildly popular prototypes of Love Taza and Hey Natalie Jean -- which don't stop at celebrating motherhood but in my view actually fetishize it*) provides a counterpoint to this scholarly** activity.

*I wonder why I read these -- the writing is terrible, terrible and the content -- well, there is no content. Photography's good though.
**Is it scholarly or fear mongering and preying on the anxieties of people worried about Being Very Good Parents? Talk amongst yourselves.

Here are some Parenting Zeitgeist interviews and articles I've found thought-provoking recently. Click through when you have a minute or forty (I find my forty during my 'workouts').

I read Hannah Rosin's The Overprotected Kid article yesterday while slowly cycling stationarily -- is helicopter parenting leading to better, more well-adjusted kids? Does being a good parent mean spending a lot of time, all your time with your kids? The article focuses on new playgrounds in the UK that encourage risky play -- with fire! -- that is likely more in tune with healthy child development (which is probably more violent and Lord of the Flies than we care to admit or gasp! foster) than our sanitized, plastic primary color models here. Watch kids play at the one of these playgrounds here. It's terrifying.

The article references a bestseller I've heard about but have not read, All Joy and No Fun. Click to listen to the author Jennifer Senior's Fresh Air interview.  Read her 2010 article that spawned the book here ('All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting').


On the anti-helicopter parenting technique front: I checked out, didn't read, returned Baby Knows Best a couple of months ago because I spotted it on the New Books shelf -- didn't know Resources for Infant Educarers was a thing but it must be thing because later I ran across this Vanity Fair article about RIE in Hollywood. (That makes it a thing, no?)

And now a corollary, Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte's Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time [click for partial transcript and interview here] I was on board with her - I'm all for an egalitarian marriage too - until she mentioned that she and her husband had agreed to rules regarding chores to minimize conflict - seems reasonable. It's your turn to do this, mine to do this, we don't need to discuss it... And she provided the anecdote of TEXTING A PHOTO OF THE UNMADE BED TO HER HUSBAND AS A REMINDER THAT HE HAD NEGLECTED TO MAKE THE BED.

And then I wasn't on board on anymore because who likes a nag?! Who wants to be a behavior modification project for their spouse? I was reminded of why Esther Perel argues against perfectly egalitarian partnerships -- what could be more poisoning to eroticism, sexiness, playfulness than your spouse texting you a chore that you forgot?

What do you think, readers? Are unrealistic expectations for parent-parent, parent-child relationships causing serious problems for our generation vis a vis paroxysms of guilt, insecurity, inadequacy, and constant comparison? (Be careful around those mommy blogs! They can send you into a domestic shame spiral. See also: all of Facebook and Instagram) Is this all a narcissistic exercise in self-seriousness? Should we all just relax and do our best? Should we simply not care what anyone else thinks of our choices?*

*“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” - Marcus Aurelius

1 comment:

  1. Yes. I think child-rearing has become a sort of project that middle-class parents feel compelled to excel at, to produce the best children possible, instead of focusing on having a relationship with their children. It's not about being a good parent or bad parent, making bento box lunches or enrolling kids in karate and speech clubs (I never had any of that growing up, btw). Too much focus on how to do things the right way has removed a lot of joy from parenting. Now in my fourth year as a parent I have stopped reading the books and started thinking about my own childhood, relying more heavily on personal advice from friends and family, trying to feel part of a community instead of an info-hungry, perfectionist, disappointed mama. It's not easy, either. I'm totally type A and perfectionist. That said, I've been reading Senior's book and really enjoying it because she isn't prescribing anything - she's explaining and relating, and she makes me feel less lost and more normal. My three-year-old isn't the only one refusing to wear pants, for example, and then I learn why (maybe). Anyway, I recommend that one.