Pointer to fascinating research about parenting and judging parents
When our kids were growing up they flew alone from Denver to Detroit every summer to visit their grandparents in the Mitten State. They took their first trips when they were seven and eight and were so intent on going alone, they insisted on being there different weeks. Maximizing a rare chance for some undivided attention was probably their primary motivator.
Most of our friends and co-workers knew about the ritual, and I distinctly remember the time one of my co-workers, my manager actually, told me, "I would never let my children travel alone on a airplane." Apparently she wasn't impressed with our attempt to foster a strong sense of independence in our kids while ensuring some quality time with Grandma and Grandpa. Instead, she thought we were putting them at great risk. And I assume she thought the risk was greater than any potential reward.
This memory was triggered recently when a friend pointed me to an article written by Tania Lombrozo that was published on the NPR web site in 2016. It's called "Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids at Perceived - But Unreal - Risk?" and references research* published in the open access journal Collabra. The article and research provide really fascinating, and sometimes surprising, information about how we perceive various risks parents take, and it draws attention to some thought provoking ideas like the following:
Working parents need to make a lot of deliberate decisions about childcare, and this article makes it clear that society judges those decisions ... sometimes harshly. And sometimes unfairly and ignorantly. This article will get you thinking, hard, about making decisions that will help your children both short-term and long-term. It may build your confidence in terms of decisions you've made or are making. Or it may cause you to question some decisions. Either way, it'll make you think.
File this story under "Fresh Thinking". And at least try to skim the article. It's really fascinating.
* More about the research: It included a series of clever experiments written by authors Ashley Thomas, Kyle Stanford and Barbara Sarnecka. They found evidence that shifting people's moral attitudes toward a parent influences the perceived risk to that parent's unattended child. Learn more.
Being a working parent is a challenge. After reading the book The Hate U Give recently, I'm reminded that it's even more of a challenge for some parents, like those depicted in the book. This young adult novel was a book club "assigned read" and one that I feared would be a difficult one. But it was just the opposite. While the subject matter is heavy and revolves around a police shooting of an unarmed young man, the story is told in a way that is compelling and well-rounded. Along with the very difficult situations, there is love, laughter and teen-aged silliness (and angst).
Even though the book is targeted at readers much younger than me, I found it compelling, relevant, and very worthwhile. It made me realize than one person's idea of struggle just may be another's idea of privilege. If everyone in the US (at least) read this book, I think we might have at least a little less strife and a lot more understanding of each other.
Submitted by Ann Brauch
When my daughter Kirsten was a senior in high school, she called me at work one morning toward the end of the school year very upset. She had overslept. And wouldn't you know that it was the morning of her AP Spanish exam. She flat out missed it. I felt horrible knowing that if I'd been a more attentive mother, I could have prevented the situation and the angst that followed. Kirsten was no slacker, and I hated thinking about the consequences she would endure in spite of all of her hard work.
Another mother, a friend who happened to be at school that day, overheard the teacher ball Kirsten out for the transgression in no uncertain terms. Apparently she did not go easy on her. Kirsten was and is a strong young woman, and interestingly, she didn't tell me that part of the story. She accepted full responsibility for her mistake.
Luckily all was not lost, and a make-up exam was offered and taken. I'm sure you won't be shocked to read that Kirsten went on to college, graduated, and is now gainfully employed by a software company in the healthcare field. The mistake did not ruin her life. In fact, I think she learned a lot from it. For starters, I don't think she's overslept since!
As I look back on this experience with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that it was valuable. If I hadn't had my own work and priorities, I might have prevented the situation, and the lesson might not have been learned. At least not then. In some unexpected ways, I think the fact that both my husband and I work has required each of our kids to develop a strong sense of responsibility. And that is serving them well now that they are young adults.
Submitted by Theodosia Wicktor Ahern
I'm 80 years old and raised three sons. Unlike most women my age, I worked and went to school while they were growing up. I'm sure that my work helped them become the strong, self-reliant and honorable men they are today. All three of them have married strong independent women who worked while they raised their children, and all three of my boys turned out to be excellent home chefs too. It's probably because they had a working mother.
My sons were always interested in what I was doing, or where I was working. I think that contributed to their respect for women and appreciation for family. They turned out well in spite of, or maybe partly because of, the roles I had outside our home.
Submitted by Bruce Lundeby
One of the most useful books that my wife and I read that helped our parenting is Why Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard Feynman. As I recall, there is not much content related to parenting. The focus of the book is the question of the title.
We resolved to refuse to make parenting a show for those around us. We were happy to watch, listen, and learn from the insight of others. But, we would not care whether others were impressed or distressed by the parenting we decided to practice.