Friday, November 16, 2007

Chaps my ass

I have this rather giant pet peeve. First I would like to disclaim, before I rant, that I think that moms whose chosen vocation is their home, children, and family are beautiful and blessed. They are underrecognized and incredibly hard working: Dr. Phil says that being a stay at home parent with two children is the equivalent to 1.5 full time jobs in the work place with regards to hours, workload, and required skills. Those who homeschool on top of that are triple amazing. So don't get the wrong idea as I rant.

My pet peeve is this social tendancy to assign resonsibility for percieved 'social deterioration' amongst children to the historical shift of women from the home to the work force. Mom at work = unstable, rude, drug and alcohol abusing, God-rejecting (if one is a christian), immoral, problem children.
There are several problems with this theory.
#1, women have actually worked throughout history, including large numbers of women in the workforce during the world wars, whose generations of children were more polite and conforming and respectful (how accurate this is, I don't know, but it seems to be a widely held belief) than the current one (how disrespectful this generatoin is I don't know but it seems to be a widely held belief that this generations' children are less respectful than the last).
#2, I heard a statistic yesterday on the radio (not guaranteed accurate, but interesting) that the average man polled in the US spends 6 minutes per week with each of his children outside of the activities of eating and sleeping in the same house.
Why is it that moms are carrying the hefty weight of guilt/responsibility regarding social deterioration amongst their children when the dads are spending so little time with their children?
Obviously not all dads fit this statistic. I'm just using it as an extreme example to point out the fact that God gave each child two parents for a reason: it is a two parent job and as such responsibility for social changes lies with both parents.
#3, Social changes amongst our children would probably be better viewed in light of certain adult social changes in the last two generations. There was a lot of emancipation going on in the seventies. Women, sexuality, emotional expressiveness, art, philosophy, and especially social constraints with regards to what or who one was 'supposed' to be. My parents' generation didn't like to be stuck in boxes or follow rules, norms, or ettiquite. This is cool. Emancipation is cool.
It also follows that a more free, emotionally sensitive, expressive generation of parents would raise more free, emotionally sensitive, expressive (and less conforming) generation of children.
Are children really more disrespectful, or are they just more free?
I guess it depends on your perspective.
#4, We have this concept that divorce rates are rising, drug use amongst children is rising, and etc. Actually, divorce rates are not rising. They are lower now than they were in the late 40s/early 50s. I wonder if drug use amongst children is actually on the rise, or if it is holding steady. Any drug use is of course a concern, but if we are going to blame ourselves for something, lets at least get the 'something' accurate. If it is holding steady we can't really blame the moms' going to work. We could look at certain aspects of their parenting for sure, and maybe mom's absence during working hours is a factor, but I don't think all the responsibility lies in her lap.

I'm an attachment parent. I believe in spending a LOT of time with one's children: focused time, plugged in, tuned in, emotionally responsive time. I believe in extended breastfeeding and cosleeping and babywearing and homeschooling and all the myriad manifestations of attachment parenting. But I also think that moms can be this type of parent and work. There are all kinds of personalities and all kinds of women out there with all kinds of gifts/skills/assets/callings, so why is there a guilt inherently associated with work and mommyhood? I know myself well enough to see and admit that I am calmer, happier, more tuned in, more energetic, and have better perspective as a parent if I work one or two days a week. I don't think ALL moms have to work one or two days a week. My point here is simply that there isn't only ONE kind of mom so there naturally wouldn't be only ONE kind of manifestation of attachment parent.
Hence, some moms will work. And it does not seem fair for these moms to carry the weight of responsibility for negative social changes amongst children. That is my rant.


Roboseyo said...

hear, hear!

I don't think it's all that much worse than it ever was before: its just more sensationalized in the news now, and bad apples have access to more weapons and substances than they did before. Attributing guilt is trite, as is the flip old expression "things aren't what they used to be . . ." -- I disagree. Things ARE essentially how they've been before, human nature HASN'T changed THAT much, except that now YOU're older, so you complain about kids being too free, instead of being a kid enjoying her/his freedom.

here are some quotes about young people.

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for
authority, they show disrespect to their elders.... They no longer
rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their
legs, and are tyrants over their teachers."

"The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have
no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all
restraint. They talk as if they alone knew everything and what passes
for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for girls, they are
forward, immodest and unwomanly in speech, behaviour and dress."

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond
words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and
respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise
[disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"

Sounds like modern social critics and generation-gap complainers, eh?

The sources:

Socrates (4th century BC, I believe)(disputed attribution)
Peter the Hermit (1274 AD)
Hesiod, (8th century BC)

What is, will be again. There is nothing new under the sun (or something like that) Ecclesiastes

Tonya said...

I think that rather than attributing behavior "issues" on Mom's working, it should be attributed to something else. Pure selfishness. :-) I see so many parents/grandparents/people who are just selfish. I want what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want. We have taught our children that. We live in an extremely affluent society which enables us to get our wants too easily! So, is it the mom working or is it that mom works because she is selfish, doesn't discipline because she is selfish and gives her kids what they want. So, not all working mothers fall in to that category! Not all SAHM's are NOT selfish! :-) When I got married, I realized how selfish I truly was. So I worked on it. Three years later I had my first child and realized that I was still incredibly selfish. Well, 12-1/2 years later, 4 kids later, still struggle with that. :-) You can be a SAHM, homeschool mom, etc and have children who are spoiled rotten brats. Just like you can go to work and teach your children to love others, delay gratification, be respectful, everything. I think we all just want a "rule book" for parenting (you know, the one you lost). Doesn't work that way!

Oh, and the freedom of expression thing isn't disrespectful. It is how you go about living life. You can freely express and be very in your face, rude about it. You can conform to society and be the same.

I could go on, but will shut up. Yes, roboseyo, there is nothing new under the sun. :-)

Sara, Leigh, and Kaleb said...

Lis, I agree wholeheartedly that working moms are blamed for everything, judged constantly and looked down upon for leaving their children. I am a better mom because I work. I know that.

However, I do think that kids are less respectful now than they were in previous generations. I don't know what this is caused by but I get to see kids on a daily basis and Kaleb would suffer consequences for speaking to anyone in the way that I am spoken to daily. It isn't every student but it's enough of them for me to believe that teenagers are disrespected enough that now they disrespect everyone around them. I try very hard to ensure that I create an environment of mutual respect and 90% of the time that works but not always.

Also, I don't remember the exact statistic but drug use has significantly increased over the last 10 years and has changed from being mostly pot to being horribly addictive and life threatening drugs like e and crystal meth. In Victoria, crystal meth use in teens has increased over 100% in the past 5 years. We just had 4 young teens (13 and 14) arrested after they OD'd on ecstasy. It's really scary.

I agree with Rob that human nature is essentially unchanging and that teens are really not worse than they've ever been but I think that Tonya's comment about our materialism may be at fault here. I think self entitlement is causing the problems of disrespect in our youth. I think that for the most part we have taught our children that they deserve everything without having to earn anything. I know why we do this (because we love our kids and truly believe that they deserve the world) however I think we've set our youth out into the world believing that they don't have to work for anything. When life doesn't turn out this way we see the behaviour that teens are all stereotyped to have - rude, disrespectful, violent, outspoken, etc. I know that this is a huge generalization but sometimes generalizations are required. I also know that not every youth, not even close, is like this but I do believe that this seems to be an increasing trend.

I don't know, maybe I'm talking out of my ass but my job allows me to see teenagers daily. I love teens, I think that we never give them enough credit, that they are judged and persecuted solely based on their age. But I don't like some of what I see in the high schools and I don't put up with it. Maybe if we respected our youth, they would show us more respect.

melissa said...

I was hoping you would also comment, Sara~being the person I know who works closest with kids by being in education. And also being a working, attachment based parenting mom.
Thanks for the info regarding teen drug use--I had suspected as much, given my job, but had no hard facts to back up my suspicion. I wonder if those who would have driven fast cars and drank a lot of alcohol three generations previous are now the teens who are using some very hard core drugs...?
I really appreciate your perspective regarding mutual respect and the issue of entitlement. I think we as adults model a lack of respect AND a sense of entitlement that is being adopted by the next generation. I appreciate good teachers like you who are on the front lines of education, carving out a new model of behaviour and modeling it to our kids. Thanks for being a teacher! It's a hugely powerful, important job that I'm glad there are gifted people like yourself out there doing.