This week FOX Headline News asked me to comment on a new University of Maryland study lead by Suzanne Bianchi about American parenting trends. I was fascinated when they emailed me the report and then talked to Dr. Bianchi about her study.
Moms today are spending almost four more hours a week with their kids than did moms forty years ago. In fact over the last four decades, mothers are clearly spending more quality, involved time with their children than June Clever. Moms are also reading more each day to their children (YES! The teachers of the world will love that one) and choosing to spend their free time with their kids. But here’s I think the most interesting finding: Despite those gains, moms still don’t feel that they are “good enough” in their parenting. That old “Maternal Guilt” still haunts them.
And why? There are a few reasons, but here is how I explained that trend in my commentary for FOX:
First the cultural expectation of “what is a good mother” continues to rise. (AHHH!) Moms are still buying into the belief that a “good mom does it all.” After all, we’re in a text craze frenzy and have been repeatedly led to believe that the only hope our kids have to succeed out there in the game of life is by enrolling them in every activity available. How else can they possibly reach their potential. So we’ve become almost taxi cab drivers carting our kids from class to tutor to lessons to practice. which mother has the longest to-do list wins these days.
But we can’t add another hour into an already crammed day, so how did we boost our kid involvement time four more hours each week? Well, we became geniuses at multi–tasking. Absolute geniuses!!! You know, feeding the dog, boiling the pasta, running the garbage disposal, folding the laundry, answering the phone, helping with the homework. How else could we possibly manage to do so much for our kids within a twenty-four hour time frame, right? One part of the guilt is that we continue to not feel we’re doing enough. The other part is that we know that we’re not always being the “calm, cool, collected mom” in attempting to do it all. (Probably why one of the perpetual mommy questions is to look at another mother who seems to have mastered Motherhood Mania and ask ourselves, “HOW DOES SHE DO IT?”)
Despite our efforts to add more hours with our kids into our already packed day, the kiddies aren’t always appreciating those efforts. Their biggest complaints? “My mom is always busy.” “My mom never is relaxed.” “My mom is always stressed.” Well, is it any wonder? Our KIDS don’t always feel our “FACE TIME” (that one-on-one full-presence) because we’re focusing on some many other things.
The University of Maryland study found that what moms are giving up (in order to add more hours into their days and spend more time with their kids) is THEIR time. Time to SLEEP (which is perhaps why they’re sleep deprived!). and their free time (to read or watch TV or date their husbands or just sit on a chair and put their feet up for five seconds). Which is another reason why our kids say we always seem too busy, or too stressed, or not relaxed. How could we be?
Here is the Reality Check: We certainly should celebrate that we are prioritizing our children and choosing to spend more time with them each day. What is more important? But we also need to keep in mind one essential parenting secret: A MOTHER WHO TAKES CARE OF HERSELF HOLDS TOGETHER HER HAPPY FAMILY.
Finding that thing called “Balance” is what we may need to focus on in the next decade. June Clever is probably raising her eyebrows in concern as she watches a lot of moms looking like hamsters on a wheel trying to do it all.