Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘treadmill’

This just in: parents take helicoptering over the top. To wit, this post on the NYTimes Motherlode blog that links to a CNN story on moms who quit their jobs to help their kids get into college.

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?

Read Full Post »

You’ll find good news and bad news out of a new time-use study out of the Brookings Institution conducted by a husband and wife team of UC-San Diego economists.

Reporting on the study, New York Times blogger Tara Parker-Pope writes that moms and dads alike are spending more time with their kids than ever before, especially if the parental unit is college educated. Good news, right? Absolutely. The not-so-good news, however, may be the reason why.

Think treadmill.

But first, some numbers. As Parker-Pope writes:

The study, by two economists at the University of California, San Diego, analyzes a dozen surveys of how Americans say they use their time, taken at different periods from 1965 to 2007. It reports that the amount of child care time spent by parents at all income levels — and especially those with a college education — has risen “dramatically” since the mid-1990s. (The findings by the husband-and-wife economist team of Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey appear in a discussion paper presented in March at a Brookings Institution conference in Washington.)

Before 1995, mothers spent an average of about 12 hours a week attending to the needs of their children. By 2007, that number had risen to 21.2 hours a week for college-educated women and 15.9 hours for those with less education.

Although mothers still do most of the parenting, fathers also registered striking gains: to 9.6 hours a week for college-educated men, more than double the pre-1995 rate of 4.5 hours; and to 6.8 hours for other men, up from 3.7, according to an additional analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Dan Sacks, economists at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

In other words, guilt be gone. All good. Despite our angsting about carving enough family time out of our work-life balance, apparently most of us are doing okay. Not only okay, but better than our own parents did. Plus, there’s this: The researchers also found that a lot of that increased family time involved both parents doing things with their kids, that gendered parenting roles were starting to blur, and that everyone involved had more leisure time — and hooray for that. Back to Parker-Pope:

Women, in particular, are spending less time cooking and cleaning their homes, while men are putting in fewer hours at the office. A 2007 report in The Quarterly Journal of Economics showed that leisure time among men and women surged four to eight hours a week from 1965 to 2003.

All of which bodes well for everyone involved, right? When families spend more time together, rather than less, and when moms spend less time cleaning the house, and dads come home early to help with homework, everybody wins, er, don’t they? Well, why then was Parker-Pope bombarded with a slew of pissed-off comments — spewing terms like “parental narcissism” and “helicopter moms” — from angry readers?

You might look to the title of the study itself for a possible answer: “The Rug Rat Race.” Looking to find an explanation for the increase in family time, especially among highly-educated (and presumably, hard-working professional) parents, the authors suggest that as “the number of college-bound students has surged in recent years,” highly educated parents have begun to “compete more aggressively for college slots” for their kids.

They use the word “rivalry”. Ouch.

Now, clearly it’s all more complicated than the primal urge to keep up with the apocryphal Joneses.  And when parents spend time with their kids, it’s almost always a win-win. And yet. If Ramey and Ramey are right, you have to wonder: are we raising a whole new generation of kids who will forever fight to get out from under their parents’ great expectations? If “good enough” will never be, well, “good enough?”

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers