Parenting/Motherhood - the times they are a changing...1/03
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Mon Jan 6 21:22:04 EST 2003
subject: - Parenting/Motherhood - the times they are a changing...1/03
from: Smart Marriages®
- A CALL FOR A NEW MOTHERHOOD MOVEMENT IS VOICED
- STAYING HOME FOR TEEN YEARS
- PARENT'S ROLE IS NARROWING CAMPUS GENERATION GAP
- A CALL FOR A NEW MOTHERHOOD MOVEMENT IS VOICED
Published Jan. 6, 2003
> Not mentioned in this article, but quite evident, is that options for
> mothers open up best in the context of a good marriage. - Bill Doherty
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, president and founder of the National Parenting
Association in New York City, spoke at the Barnard College Symposium.
By Bettijane Levine
Los Angeles Times
The money world and the mommy world are sorely out of balance. There is no
way to offer the care and nurturing most mothers would like to lavish on
their children and yet maintain the paycheck that allows dignity, family and
career to survive.
Even for mothers who can afford it, there's no easy way to swap a career for
a stay-at-home life to raise kids. At least not without feeling guilty that
they are not contributing to the family coffers, not contributing to
society, not using the intellect, education and opportunity that women
fought so hard and long to achieve.
Of course, women are not supposed to complain about this. They fought for
decades to win the right to vote, to equal education, to equal work and
equal pay. Now, the popular thinking goes, they have to live with the
results. Well, no they don't.
Live to nurture
Rumblings of dissatisfaction, subtle but persistent for the past few years,
now verge on becoming a roar. Essays, books and films are being written by
women who want to move forward to a society that values the act of mothering
as an option in women's lives and as a way to better the future of the
Enola Aird Carter, an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values
(a private nonprofit think tank in New York that focuses on family related
issues) and director of the institute's Motherhood Project, has drafted a
call for a new motherhood movement, a kind of Mothers' Bill of Rights. She
organized a symposium recently at Barnard College in Manhattan. It is a step
toward a distant goal: "We want to change the way our culture is structured.
Right now it is structured so we live to work. We would like more balance,
so we can live to nurture our families as well. I am confident that the
debate, once joined by mothers across the country, will yield more options
and lead to major policy changes down the road."
Carter is a Yale law school graduate who tried working in the corporate
world, staying home to raise her kids, and then going to work again. Nothing
seemed to satisfy. "I was happy to be with my children but unhappy to be at
home -- because I came face to face with a culture that devalued what I was
doing, which was mothering. I went from being somebody important to someone
Her "Call to a Motherhood Movement" asks society to start "honoring and
supporting mothers and the work of mothering"; to ensure "the dignity and
well-being of children"; and to "reorder the priorities of our society . .
.that is losing touch with the essential ethics of care and nurture
indispensable for children and for a good society."
It won't be easy. The traditional interests of mothers and their children,
such as education, safety and morality, are no longer societal priorities,
The motherhood study
Informing the "movement" will be a nationwide Motherhood Study by the
Institute for American Values and the Children, Youth and Family Consortium
at the University of Minnesota. Due on Mother's Day 2004, the study will
cover how mothers see their lives and roles in these times, according to
consortium director Marti Erickson.
Right now, many working mothers find they can discuss almost anything in the
office except the issue that consumes them most -- the lack of time and
energy to cook, clean, find day care, stay home with a sick child, help with
homework, attend school meetings, teach character and values -- and just
have fun with their kids. To discuss these things at work often makes them
feel whiney, unprofessional and inefficient.
Meanwhile, many stay-at-home moms feel equally challenged. They are often
belittled by mothers with paying jobs, by husbands who think they should
have paying jobs, and by anyone who asks the dreaded cocktail-party
question: What do you do? "I take care of my kids" is too often perceived as
"I do nothing at all."
"We all recognize our own mothers and appreciate their contribution to our
lives," says Eileen Lindner, deputy general secretary of the National
Council of Churches and a member of the symposium. "But as yet we have not
as a society recognized the importance of mothering itself." It really
doesn't matter whether a woman stays home to raise children, works full time
or does anything in between, she says. "There should be no more debates
about which is better. But the act of nurturing -- in whatever time a woman
has to do it -- should be acknowledged as a critical role."
Panel member Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics
at the University of Chicago, says women's suffrage was achieved, in large
part, because people believed the world would be better if the maternal
perspective was included in its shaping. Nowadays, that perspective is
rarely acknowledged or invoked, she says. "It's time to reinforce the values
of mothering, its impact, and all that entails."
-- Staff Writer H.J. Cummins contributed to this report.
- STAYING HOME FOR TEEN YEARS
Some Parents Are Finding That Older Children Need Them as Much as Toddlers
By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 4, 2003; Page B01
Susan Dykstra worked through two pregnancies, delivered two boys and each
time returned to the office quicker than some people master diapering. She
kept working as her sons started crawling, kept working during their play
group years, kept working when they began elementary school. Long hours,
frequent travel such were the demands of an executive career. And Dykstra,
investment analyst, vice president, was a high-energy career woman.
But two years ago, as Case hit 10th grade and Gregory eighth, their mother
quit. Packed up the files, stepped off the corporate track. At the very
stage when parents often expect to be providing less attention, Dykstra and
her husband thought their family needed more. So for the first time in her
life, she became a stay-at-home mom in McLean.
Ever since women entered the job market in force in the '70s and '80s, then
commenced having babies in the '80s and early '90s, the angst of working
parents has centered primarily on young children and day care. Ditto the
most emotional public debates, the ones fueled by conflicting experts and
family values politics.
Nowadays, though, some households are considering different issues. With
children slouching toward adulthood, parents who never took off during those
initial years are rethinking priorities. Some radically modify office hours
or arrange lengthy leaves. Others clock out for good. Given the potential
pitfalls of the middle school transition, or how suddenly high school comes
and goes, they want to be available in ways that seem perhaps more important
than when sons and daughters were little.
"I'm just here for him now," explained Joy Gough of Arlington, who retired
early from the International Monetary Fund in August so she could savor the
last two years before her son heads to college. "Somebody said, 'Oh, did you
stop work because he was a problem?' And I said, 'No, he's a good boy.'"
The return on investment can be significant. In the last decade, studies
repeatedly have shown that parents continue to hold major influence with
"We've tended to think that it's okay for parents to step back a little and
let other adults play more of a role. The research doesn't support that,"
noted A. Rae Simpson, author of "Raising Teens," a synthesis of more than
300 studies that the Harvard School of Public Health published in 2001.
Savvy parents realize teenagers require as much attention as toddlers, not
just to solve problems but also to avert them. There are more bases to
check, more challenges to monitoring behavior. Confidences are not shared on
"Being the parent of a teenager is indeed time-consuming," Simpson stressed.
"It takes reflection to think through what teenagers need and what teenagers
are trying to say."
While federal labor statistics indicate that more than eight in 10
adolescents have working mothers, the data provide little insight on how
parents adjust their schedules as children grow older. According to a
business coalition called Corporate Voices for Working Families, the gap
between when teenagers get out of class and parents walk in the door can
stretch to 25 hours a week frequently, unsupervised hours that may invite
Parents who choose to stay home with this age face skepticism: Why are you
doing this now? Or surprise: "Wow," one colleague told Dykstra, "you're the
last person I would have expected to make this decision."
Or, most typically, envy: "So many people said they wished they could do it,
too men and women," recalled Kathleen Drew of Chevy Chase. "I think it
says parents want to be with their children, want to spend more time with
[them] while the children are still around."
Drew is five years removed from her former job as a network television
producer. After unrelenting evening and weekend hours away, as well as
tag-team parenting with her New York-commuter husband, she resigned because
she wanted to ensure a solid rapport with her son before he hit any teen
"If you're going to do this, do it before he stops talking to you," a friend
She has filled her break her preferred term with Sam's soccer and
baseball games (which she had never attended), his basketball team (which
she organized and manages), a stint as PTA president and mentoring at
school. Sam is 13 and happy to have her.
"It's a full-time job," Drew said, cheerfully. "It's just not the one I
She admits her attitude would have been less sanguine earlier in her career
when she was making her mark. It is a common sentiment; at this point in
life, these parents say, they've already accomplished much of what they had
intended professionally and reached a more secure place financially. They've
accumulated expertise and seniority. That's particularly true of women who
delayed childbearing until their late thirties or early forties.
For those who cut back hours rather than cut out entirely, time has been on
their side in other ways, too. Working from home, working as a consultant,
telecommuting and teleconferencing no longer are unusual ideas. And between
fax machines and cell phones, the Internet and e-mail, few assignments are
Mostly, it is women who divert, but not exclusively. At the Stilwell house
in Alexandria, Dad has been meeting the school bus since 1996. "It's amazing
the things they come home and tell me," Mike Stilwell said. But the catch
is: "You have to be there when they're ready and willing to talk."
His boy was turning 10 and his girl 8 when he and his wife sat down to
figure how to restore sanity on the home front. Everything was a mad rush
between the office and sports practices and other activities. With a third
child on the horizon, that seemed destined to get worse.
The couple agreed that her career at Fannie Mae would take precedence over
his in fleet management. Ever since, he has been their children's central
presence mornings and afternoons chauffeur, coach, confidant, taskmaster.
"We're committed to it because we've seen the difference it's made," with
improved grades and fewer pressures, Stilwell said. Yet some days, dirty
diapers would be easier to deal with. "At least you knew what the outcome
was going to be," he joked.
No one knows how many other parents would make the same choices if corporate
policies were more flexible and savings accounts better padded.
Organizations such as the Family and Home Network, a nonprofit group based
in Fairfax County, and Mothers & More, a national group out of Illinois,
advocate for parents to be able to share generously in all stages of their
children's growing up.
When parents of adolescents pick home over work, it helps counter "the
notion that once your child hits 5 or 6, they're cooked," said Joanne
Brundage, who founded Mothers & More in her living room in 1987. "You kind
of kid yourself. You think to yourself that they're independent individuals
without the need for a lot of parental support. It gets harder to see when
they need you." Until, that is, things start to blow up.
Teenagers don't necessarily view greater parental contact as positive. Joy
Gough remains amused over 16-year-old Matthew's first reaction. "He was a
bit horrified. 'What? you're going to be home? You're going to make me do my
Sausage-and-pancake breakfasts have softened him slightly, as has his
mother's willingness to drive him and friends around. This year, she'll have
total flexibility as Matthew applies to colleges.
"We'll be able to travel to colleges and check them out," he said. He's
still weighing other pros against the cons. "It was such a shocker, when
someone who's really demanding tells you she's going to be around all the
In McLean, the catalyst for Dykstra's metamorphosis was younger son Gregory
and the disaster of sixth grade. He went away to a special program in New
England the following year, and his parents felt one of them had to be
around more when he returned. Maybe it would benefit older brother Case,
too; both boys had been "spoiled to death" by their beloved nanny, Dykstra
"I was a little bit more worried about them missing Helen," she said with a
Greg remembers the conversation with not a hint of trauma. "I was happy," he
said. "Suddenly we were going to see more of our mom. . .. I was only in
eighth grade, but I still understood the importance of her job. I was
shocked but excited that she would give that up for us, that she would make
The changes day to day have become routine. Instead of the nanny in the
kitchen making lunches, it's Mom. And it's Mom picking them up from high
school, and Mom sewing 18-foot-long togas for Latin Club, and Mom nearby to
In between, Dykstra is working again, but as a consultant on specific
projects, for a limited number of hours a week. She misses the intellectual
stimulation of her previous work, but she has no regrets.
Her time at home has been well spent, she said.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
The New York Times January 6, 2003
- PARENT'S ROLE IS NARROWING CAMPUS GENERATION GAP
> "I'm a baby boomer myself, and I know we sometimes have this idea that we're
> owed something," he added. "But I also know that students whose parents are
> involved in their higher education do better."
By TAMAR LEWIN
By lunchtime, Megan Della Selva, a sophomore at George Washington
University, has already traded e-mail messages with her mom, just to say hi.
Maria Minkarah, the friend she is having lunch with, has just talked to her
dad, to report on a doctor's visit and her latest thoughts about studying
abroad. The young women keep in close touch with their families, discussing
matters big and small, academic and personal.
Ms. Della Selva and her mother, an Albany psychologist, talk about pretty
much anything going on in their lives. When Ms. Della Selva visits her
boyfriend in Rochester, her mother calls to say hi to him. When Ms. Della
Selva needed a research topic, her mother, just back from the Netherlands,
suggested Dutch immigration.
Ms. Minkarah depends mostly on her father, although she also calls her aunt,
uncle and grandparents every weekend, using more than 3,000 cellphone
minutes a month.
"I might call my dad and say, `What's going on with the Kurds?' " she said.
"It's a lot easier than looking it up. He knows a lot. I would trust almost
anything my dad says."
Not all college students are this closely connected with their parents. But
university officials, students and their families say that the generation
gap is nothing like what it used to be, now that baby boomers, once so
alienated from their parents, have become parents themselves.
Cellphones and e-mail have a lot to do with what university administrators
and parents alike say has been a sea change over the last decade. But they
say this change also reflects a fundamental rethinking of a child's
departure for freshman year as the stark marker of separation and
"This generation of parents is more involved," said Jennifer Bell,
coordinator of the parents office at North Carolina State University. "It's
the baby boomers, the soccer moms, the parents for whom the kids became
their lives. Thirty years ago, parents were content to drive their kids to
college, drop them off, and pick them up at graduation. Now there are
different expectations, because they've been involved in their kids' lives
all through school, so to say, `They're 18 and it's time to stop' seems
Hundreds of colleges nationwide have recognized the new reality by giving
parents a stronger presence on campus, through a host of offices created to
deal with parents' queries and concerns.
Washington University in St. Louis has an e-mail newsletter, Family Ties, to
keep parents "in touch with the community in which your child lives and
learns." Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., has a parent e-mail group.
Colorado College in Colorado Springs has a parent directory, and is
preparing to offer brief courses aimed at parents who want a taste of their
children's educational experience.
"You pay $35,000 a year, you want services," said Susan Brown, who leads the
parents office at Northeastern University in Boston. "We put together our
parent handbook five years ago, because so many parents were requesting the
student handbook. We have about 80 applications a year for our parent
advisory board. Parents like these things, and schools want to establish
lasting relationships with them."
At many schools, the parent services office is seen as part of the
fund-raising operation. But whatever the motivation, some parent
orientations now last as long as those for students. North Carolina's
two-day sessions cover housing, financial aid and letting go. "We have
Kleenex on every table," Ms. Bell said.
Not every parent has trouble letting go, or cares to give more than minimal
supervision to college-age children. And there are still plenty of college
students who talk to their parents only sporadically.
But over all, the ties between parent and child seem far tighter than they
were 30 years ago. Many parents say it is a healthy change.
Ms. Minkarah's father, Jay, had worried that his relationship with her might
taper off when she got absorbed in campus life. So he was delighted to find
that he feels more in touch with her now than when she was in high school
and living at home.
"She'll call between classes, for anything," said Mr. Minkarah, a community
development director in New Hampshire. "Whether you're wondering about a
sweater or a class, it's great to have someone to bounce questions off. And
why not a parent? Before the Industrial Revolution there wasn't this concept
that children should grow up, move away and become autonomous. The nuclear
family structure is a relatively new one, and I don't think it's a positive
Others, however, worry that children in late adolescence need to develop
independent identities and can do so only if their parents get out of the
"You have these boomer parents who not only want to run their children's
lives, but have these fond memories of their own college years," said Judith
R. Shapiro, president of Barnard College in New York City. "There's a far
more stringent standard of parenting these days, with a lot invested in a
child's success. The question is, against whom are these kids going to
rebel? If their parents get into every part of their lives, how will they
separate and learn to make their own decisions?"
Interviews with students on a variety of campuses suggest that many turn to
their parents for help with everything from roommate troubles to how to
improve the paper they e-mailed home. Perhaps the most striking thing was
the tone students had when talking about their parents: fond, warm and
admiring. The sense of parents as people to be admired was widespread.
"Kids in my generation respect their parents as thinkers," said Alexander
Dryer, a Yale junior, who said he talked to his parents at least once a day.
"I sort of feel like my parents are my friends. I know I talk to them in a
way they didn't talk to their parents."
Other boundaries have shifted, too. It is no longer unthinkable for parents
to show up in their children's dorm rooms, to vacuum or even to stay
"When my mom comes to visit, she stays in my room and comes to parties with
me," said David Noyola, a Yale junior. "She wants to see how I live and get
to know my friends. I would never have taken her to a high school party, but
this is pretty comfortable. Everyone seems to like her."
At George Washington, Ms. Della Selva and Ms. Minkarah looked almost puzzled
when asked if they ever thought they might be too close to their parents,
and whether they would still consult them after graduating and getting a
job. "They're our parents they're supposed to help us," Ms. Della Selva
said appreciatively. "That's almost their job."
This closeness is a source of some wonderment to professors who came of age
in a different era.
"The kids I teach say they love their parents, and they're not just saying
it automatically," said Anne Trubek, an English professor at Oberlin College
in Ohio, the college she graduated from 15 years ago. "They really like
"These kids aren't as anti-authoritarian as we were," Professor Trubek
continued. "They're more comfortable with adults and less cynical. Where we
took a critical stance to authority figures, they see it more as, `Hey,
people want to help me.' "
Just how much help they should be getting, and what kind, is open to
question. All the students interviewed said many classmates had their
parents edit or even rewrite papers. Some estimated that parents gave
academic help to as many as half the students at their school.
"Recently, after I hadn't talked to my parents for a couple days, I sent
them a paper I was writing," Mr. Noyola said. "It's a way to stay in touch
and get a little help. They gave me a couple of good suggestions. I'm still
bad at constructing paragraphs. And my mom loves helping me."
For most parents, though, providing such help seems to be a guilty secret.
Even if their children talk cheerfully about enlisting parental help, many
parents deny ever giving it. But they, too, all say they know people who go
over their children's work word for word.
Many college officials say there is a delicate line between supporting a
child and being intrusive and that, increasingly, parents are crossing the
line. At the same time, baby-boomer parents, who once fought for
independence and against universities' acting in loco parentis, are now more
often pushing schools to take on parental roles.
At the parent services office at Baylor University in Waco, Tex., Judy
Maggard recently got a call from a parent concerned that her daughter was
out at 10 p.m. and might not be safe. "I told her that 10 p.m. is when life
gets started on campus, and it's fine for her to be out," Ms. Maggard said.
Rodney Johnson, director of parent services at George Washington, said a few
parents call each year to ask him to wake up their children. "I tell them we
won't do that," Mr. Johnson said. "Our students wouldn't come here if we did
Mr. Johnson spends much of his time teaching parents how to get their
children to tackle their own problems, telling them where at the university
to seek help. But when it comes to parent concerns, he said, he hears it
all, including angry calls demanding disclosure of a student's grades,
something forbidden by federal privacy laws unless the student agrees.
"One we hear pretty often is, `I'm paying, why don't I have the right to
know what my kid got on the midterm?' " Mr. Johnson said.
"At parent orientation, I ask parents to remember back to the 70's, when the
baby boomers were so concerned that their parents not find out what there
were doing," he said.
"I'm a baby boomer myself, and I know we sometimes have this idea that we're
owed something," he added. "But I also know that students whose parents are
involved in their higher education do better."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
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