Mommy guilt

Dads may be catching up to moms (though still lagging far behind) in housework and childcare, but despite spending more time with kids than their own mothers did, it appears that today's mothers are wracked by “mommy guilt.”  The key info from the Post:

According to a University of Maryland study, today's mothers spend
more hours focused on their children than their own mothers did 40
years ago, often imagined as the golden era of June Cleaver,
television's ever-cheerful, cookie-baking mom.

In 1965, mothers
spent 10.2 hours a week tending primarily to their children — feeding
them, reading with them or playing games, for example — according to
the study's analysis of detailed time diaries kept by thousands of
Americans. That number dipped in the 1970s and 1980s, rose in the 1990s
and now is higher than ever, at nearly 14.1 hours a week.

This is
especially striking because it is at odds with how today's mothers view
their own lives: Roughly half of those interviewed said they did not
have enough time with their children.

“It's almost like it
doesn't matter how much they do, they feel they do not do enough,” said
sociologist Suzanne M. Bianchi, the study's lead author.

So, basically what this tells us is that society is basically telling women to feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children.  I think this is just part of the larger problem of parenthood seeming to be so socially competitive these days: “The Miller's started their kids in soccer and dance at 3!” “My 4 year old can read at the first grade level” etc.  Part of this results in a sense of competition of proving how good a parent you are by how much “quality time” you spend with your kids.  Sounds like mommy guilt is a lot worse than Daddy guilt, but I am not going to feel guilty for just hanging out in the same room with my kids reading the newspaper (how do you think I stay so informed?) instead of always directly engaging with them.  Nobody ever falls down the stairs when I'm reading the paper– though Alex's rate of impishly pushing Evan over does seem to be higher when I am distracted. 


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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