How To Quit Intensive Parenting

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The term began gaining popularity in the early 1990s and became the subject of magazines, blog posts, and even a 2006 book of essays by noted writers such as Jane Smiley and Susan Cheever. At first, the term mainly referred to conflicts between mothers who worked for pay and those who stayed at home with their children.

How To Quit Intensive Parenting

How To Quit Intensive Parenting

But over time, it has expanded to include a range of “rivalries between maternal philosophies and practices,” from sleep training to breastfeeding and screen time to discipline, Jenna Abetz, a professor of communication at the College of Charleston who has studied American motherhood, said. “More than ever, it seems moms are being split into smaller and smaller camps and forced to justify and defend their own parenting choices.”

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Indeed, while the phrase “mommy wars” now seems antiquated, conjuring up images of white women carrying babies in diapers, the wars themselves may never have been more intense, especially as the pandemic has intensified the pressures on parents. Many times over the past year, parents have faced the fear that “the choices I’m going to make will depend on whether my family lives or dies,” said Angela Garbes, author of How to Mother.

And it seems like every week there’s talk of parenting being divided into factions, whether it’s a recent New York Times column about having kids in their 20s or accusations that pandemic parents are just whiners , who want someone else to take care of their children.

Although each of these disputes may seem unique and individual, there is a systematic reason why they arise so often – why American parents, despite what may appear to be common interests and goals, so often seem , hate each other.

In essence, the culture and politics of parenting in America almost guarantees endless conflict by setting impossible (equally racist and classist) standards for good parenting and then giving people absolutely no help in meeting them. The “ideal mother” in America, for example, is someone who is always there when her children need her, but she also makes sure that her children have food, clothing, and a roof over their heads—which means that she may will have to work for . alive, so maybe not only her

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To always be with her children, but she also has to find a way to pay for childcare, which in many places costs more than college. All in all, raising children in America makes enemies out of potential allies as families fight for their slice of what feels like an ever-shrinking pie.

“If the life of the American family was better,” Garbs said, “if people had the support they needed in general, we wouldn’t care what other people do.”

The standards of parenting in America are far from static. In fact, a hundred years ago, fathers were expected to take the lead in raising children, making decisions about rules and practices that mothers would simply follow, Brigid Schulte, director of the New America Better Living Laboratory and author of the book. Overloaded: how to work, love and play when no one has time, told. “Parenting was considered so important that it was a job for men.”

How To Quit Intensive Parenting

This has changed over the years as different approaches to parenting have gained and lost favor. For example, the idea that parents should be careful not to be too affectionate with their children – “if you showed your child too much love, then you were a suffocating mother” – eventually gave way to concerns that children do not get enough attention, – said Schulte.

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But many of today’s parental conflicts have their origins in the social and economic changes of the 1970s. At the time, the feminist movement pushed previously male-dominated fields to open their doors to women. Meanwhile, the kinds of jobs that moved many white families into the middle class in the 1950s and 1960s—jobs where a person with a high school diploma could earn enough money to support a family—have disappeared or paid lower wages, Schulte said. said This meant that in many cases, middle- and upper-class white women were not only allowed to enter the workforce—they had to do so if they wanted to support their family’s standard of living.

That led to a “massive backlash,” Schulte said, “a lot of fear that it would destroy the American family, and that mothers were working out of a sense of choice, and they were being selfish, and they were putting themselves before their children.”

Criticism and stigma have had a big impact on moms themselves, perhaps fueling the rise of intensive parenting, in which fathers focus their entire lives on caring for and enriching their children, Schulte said. Working fathers began to spend more time with their children, perhaps to prove that they are not the self-centered, heartless people they saw in the media criticism of the way moms start working. As of the 2010s, working moms spent as much time with their children as stay-at-home moms did in the 1970s.

And while the trends of the 1960s and 1970s have not reversed—supporting a family on one income is even more difficult than it was then—a significant portion of Americans are still skeptical of working motherhood. Back in 2013, a Pew Research Center poll found that 51 percent of Americans believed that children would be better off if their mothers stayed at home.

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Of course, black women, other women of color, and working-class women of all races worked outside the home long before the 1970s. But the public conversation about parenthood in America has consistently cast white stay-at-home mothers as the ideal. In contrast, black women were often not seen as mothers at all, said Kimberly Harper, an English professor at North Carolina Tech State University and author of “The Ethos of Black Motherhood in America.” Under slavery, black mothers were “treated as animals” and “producers for the slave economy,” and these dehumanizing stories continue today in the idea of ​​”welfare queens” and other stereotypes that “basically say that black women don’t raise and care for their children , and also about white women,” Harper explained.

The idea of ​​the perfect white mother stigmatizes not just black moms, Harper said, but any mother whose life falls outside a certain, very narrow set of circumstances. “If you adopted or had a child through IVF, are asexual or in a same-sex marriage, is your maternity still valid?”

Parents may also feel judged or stereotyped about parenthood. Some employers, for example, assume that new parents want to work more to provide for the child, Schulte said. But women still do most of the child care in American families, and there’s a reason moms are at the center of the parenting wars: “We live in a patriarchy,” Schulte said, “so women will always come second.” places”.

How To Quit Intensive Parenting

And the cultural stigma against working moms—indeed, against some fathers who don’t fit the white middle-class ideal—is also turning into politics. Efforts to expand America’s child care benefits have been stymied by conservative claims that they would harm nuclear families, leaving America with virtually no child care system — more like a collection of programs that force many working parents to spend more . for childcare than for rent, or are forced to cobble together a range of informal arrangements because they cannot afford formal childcare at all.

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The US is also the only country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that does not have guaranteed paid maternity leave, meaning only one in four working mums return to work two weeks after giving birth – not enough time, to recover. physically, let alone bonding or caring for a newborn.

In general, “a country shows what it values ​​with the policies it pursues,” Schulte said. By not providing support in the form of paid leave and child care, the federal government is essentially saying to parents, “You’re on your own, and we don’t know how you’re going to make it, and we do. I really don’t care.”

This isolation, in turn, turns the parents against each other. “We’re all competing,” Garbes said. The lack of funding for everything from paid leave to public school leaves parents feeling like they “need to hoard resources because there aren’t enough.”

And when all the responsibility for raising children falls on individual nuclear families rather than communal ones, this leads to an intense focus on individual parents – often

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