Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » February 2005 » Out of the Mommy Trap and On to Utopia

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02/27/2005: Out of the Mommy Trap and On to Utopia

I see Len has skipped all the philosophical musings about "Women Running The World" and gone right to humor...but, this article, the Mommy Trap investigates some of the myths and perceptions surrounding that most delicate of female decisions to be an "at home mother" or "a career woman" in today's modern society.

I, of course, perfer my own solutions and added touches of humor for every societal and daily home issue that arises. (See my Mom On Strike article and What If Women Ran The World musings.)

For more about this "Mommy trap" either read some snippets below hit the "more " button or click on the article link above.

Mommy Trap

"The first is that, in affluent America, mothering has gone from an art to a cult, with devotees driving themselves to ever more baroque extremes to appease the goddess of perfect motherhood. Warner, who has two children, made this discovery upon her return from a stay in Paris, where, she says, mothers who benefit from state-subsidized support systems -- child care, preschools, medical services -- never dream of surrendering jobs or social lives to stay home 24/7 with their kids. In the absence of such calming assistance, however, American moms are turning themselves into physically and financially depleted drones.

The truth of this last observation is perceptible on even a short visit to any faintly tony suburb, though it's doubtful that only mothers have lost their sense of proportion. Parents no longer set up metal swing sets in corners of their backyards; they hire professionals to erect sprawling wooden castles that consume half the lawn. Parents line up at 5 a.m. to get slots in just the right neighborhood preschool and bring their children to specialists upon noticing the slightest delay in speech or motor coordination. Desperate to maximize their children's levels of attachment and developmental capacity, they turn marital beds into family beds, flash ''Baby Einstein'' cards at their 3-month-olds, enroll toddlers in nonstop improving activities, and give up quiet evenings at home to plan Girl Scout cookie drives -- ''Girl Scout cookie meetings? At 8 o'clock at night?'' exclaims Warner. (That last surely is a mother-only activity.) The ex-professional stay-at-home mothers who, like haughty high priests, identify each new form of self-sacrifice set the pace for the still working ones, some of whom leave their jobs to keep up.

There's more than just detail, however, to back up the theory that parents put in more time than they used to. According to the Families and Work Institute's most recent five-year study of the national work force, children receive on average one hour more of parental attention on work days than they did 25 years ago. Translated out of the levelling language of statistical averages, that means many, many hours of helping with homework, cheering at basketball games and schlepping to music classes. (Interestingly, the study says that it's men who are putting in the extra hour, while working women spend the same amount of time as before: 3.4 hours per workday. Men now average 2.7 hours.) Insofar as Warner implies that these new standards of parenting are driving women from the work force, she may be exaggerating. She is right to observe, however, that something is taking them out of action. A 2002 Census Bureau report shows that from 1998 to 2000 the percentage of women in the work force with small children declined from 59 to 55 percent, reversing a general upward trend; 13 percent more children were being raised at home by full-time mothers in 2002 than in 1994.

Which brings us back to overparenting. Warner deplores its dangers both to us and to our children, who, she says, are likely to wind up as spoiled, callow, allergy-prone, risk-averse success machines with no inner lives. I rather doubt it. Social scientists and commentators have been warning of the ill effects of overparenting since parental advice books first began appearing in bookstores, but each new generation seems about as agreeable or disagreeable as the last. For all its excesses, overparenting is still preferable to its alternative, which was depicted with quiet sadness by the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in her 1997 book, ''The Time Bind.''

Karen on 02.27.05 @ 09:45 AM CST

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