No joke. According to the piece, these are highly educated, professional women who take a “college prep leave” or quit entirely in order to micromanage their kids through the grueling college application process — along with all the resume-building that accompanies it:
There are no statistics counting how many mothers compromise their careers to help their teens with college admissions, but college counselors say they’ve witnessed more cases of mothers pausing their jobs or completely quitting their jobs. Over the past five years, Jeannie Borin, president of College Connections, says she saw a 10 percent uptick in mothers who quit or postponed their career to get their teens into college. Her counseling company offers services in 32 states.
These mothers, who can afford to quit their jobs, may stop working for months, a year or several years leading up to the admission process, say researchers and college admissions counselors. They reduce their full-time hours to part time or request a temporary leave. Because many of them have jobs that require advanced degrees and specific skills, it’s usually easier for them to transition back into the work force.
“They know it’s going to be an intense year and they take a leave to that effect,” Borin said. “The college frenzy has affected the entire family.”
I vote yuck for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the divide this creates between upper middle class kids and, well, all the rest. But that’s another story. The piece goes on:
Managing a child’s college application process can be similar to a corporate job, says Hilary Levey, a fellow at Harvard University who specializes in family studies. Levey conducted dozens of interviews with mothers who stopped working and stayed at home for their children. She says she talked to mothers who used their Blackberry devices to organize schedules and help their teens craft resumes.
“Raising the child sometimes becomes a career in itself,” Levey said. “Instead of getting a promotion and measuring progress in professional sense, a way to measure how well you are doing is how well your child is doing.”
This kind of takes the idea of parenting-as-competitive sport to all new levels of ugly. In a post a while back, we mentioned a time-use study that found that highly educated parents were spending much more time with their kids these days — which was the good news — but that the reason for the additional time spent went a little toward the dark side: prepping their kids early for limited slots at prestigious universities. In other words, rivalry. We’ve also written about the treadmill that starts early for so many kids, when their lives are pretty much dictated by the need to build a college resume. Put the two together and you wonder if these kids will ever get out from under the weight of great expectations — or be able to make a decision for themselves.
A while back I interviewed a teacher and counselor who had worked at the same private girls high school for the past two decades. She told me that the rate of parental involvement had lately escalated to the point where the school had to issue a written “communication protocol” spelling out the steps the students should take in handling their own problems before parents were allowed to intervene. “For the longest time, parents would call the school – my daughter didn’t make the team, didn’t make it into the play – and she’s always been the best at this,” she said. “And we’d say, well, you know what, your daughter needs to go talk to the director of the play, the coach, the teacher. And the parents were appalled. What do you mean? You’re not going to talk to me about it?”
One of the comments to the Motherlode post offered a similar take on the rising role of helicopter parents:
I work at a university, and the number of parents that have called my office asking about registering their kids for classes, picking up forms or papers for their kids, or any other item or request that should be fielded by the actual student makes me a little nervous for the next generation. Parents should know that there are consequences to this kind of micromanagement, namely, a kid who can’t handle the real world by themselves.
And a kid who is never allowed to fail. And yet, because she’s never been able to climb down from the treadmill, may never feel that she’s succeeded, either. And it’s worse for girls, experts say, because they’re hard-wired to please. They’ll stick with the program, no matter how crazy, so they won’t let anyone down.
And then, of course, comes the real world. No benchmarks of worth, such as grades or fat college admission packets. But the chase all the same. Grass is greener, anyone?