Many studies have shown how important it is for low-income mothers to sustain their moral identities as both good mothers and reliable workers during times of little social valuing of mothers’ caring work. Discovering how low-income mothers sustain this duality when caring crises preclude employment requires a mapping of their social worlds as reflected in their moral justifications. We used an institutional ethnographic approach that focused on situations wherein mothers decide to exit the labor market and devote themselves to their children’s caring needs. Interviews with 48 Israeli mothers revealed that they maintain their moral fitness both as good mothers and good citizens by engaging in a specific emotion management: expressing emotional devotion to their paid job, whereas child care is presented as a necessity. We argue that emotion management is particularly revealing of how macro-level institutional practices and discourses come to the fore in individuals’ daily lives.
by Ron Huxley, LMFT
One of the most magical moments of my life was being at the birth of
my child. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I remember
watching him squirm and cry as he met the world. I remember how he
paused to listen to my voice as I whispered my love for him and
commitment to him. To this day, spending time with my kids continues
to be one of my favorite activities. To not spend time with my
children is unfathomable.
For many fathers, this isn’t the case. They sit in hospital waiting
rooms, clapping each other on the back and congratulating one another
on a job well done, while their child enters the world without their
father next to them. The day after the delivery and every day after
are filled with missed opportunities to bond with their child and
influence the directions they will take in life. They rationalize
that they are sacrificing for their family by working long hours and
justify their emotional distance as modeling how to survive in
the “cold, cruel world.” Food on the table and a roof over head is
nice but nothing makes up for loving, nurturing relationships with
How do fathers build this bond? What barriers stand in the way? And,
what are some practical tools to help fathers strengthen their
children intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically? To
help me answer these questions, I asked for advice from dad’s who
have a close bond with their children. How do I know they have a
close bond? I asked their wives! What’s more, these wives are
webmasters of active parenting and family oriented websites.
How do you bond with your child?
In response to this question, all of the fathers answered alike. They
stated that the best way to bond was simply to spend time with a
child. What you do is not as important as doing something.
They divided activities up into four main areas: Physical,
Intellectual, Social, and Spiritual. A balance of these four areas
would result in a child having a happier, healthier life. Physical
activities are the most familiar to fathers and include working
around the house together, sharing a hobby, coaching an athletic
team, exercising together, and going places together.
Intellectual activities focus on being involved in a child’s
academics, participating in school related activities, encouraging
hard work, and modeling yourself as a their primary teacher of life.
Social activities centered on talking with children, sharing feelings
and thoughts, demonstrating appropriate affection and manners, and
getting to know your child’s friends. Spiritual activities are used
the least by dad’s but have the most power to influence a child.
These activities incorporate reading spiritual stories together,
going to church or the synagogue, praying with children, establishing
rules and order, being consistent and available, and exploring the
mysteries of nature.
What is difference between the father/child bond and the mother/child
It was quickly apparent from the surveys that dad’s have a different
approach or style to bonding than mom’s. Dad’s have a more rough and
tumble approach to physical interaction or may spend time in more
physical activities such as play or working on a project together.
Competition was also seen more in father/child bonding and was
considered healthy if used in small doses and with sensitivity to a
child’s temperament and abilities. Sportsmanship, but not necessary
sports activities, was regarded as an essential ingredient in the
development of a child’s characters. While the approach may differ,
the need for bonding with mom and dad is equally significant. One dad
joked that other than a couple of biological differences (e.g.,
giving birth or breastfeeding) he couldn’t see one as more important
than the other.
What barriers prevent fathers from achieving a bond with their child?
All of the fathers agreed that work and the mismanagement of time
were the biggest robbers of relationships with children. No one
discounted a father’s responsibility to provide for his family, but
all of them maintained that a healthy balance is needed between work
and family. They felt that society makes it easy to use one’s career
as an escape. Social influences tend to value the bond a child has
with mom to be more important than with dad. But none of the dad’s
questioned felt this barrier to be insurmountable.
Eliminating barriers in society begins in the home. Dads must
demonstrate that being involved in the home is important to them
before society will start treating dads as important to the home.
Dads need to take the initiative to change a diaper, clean up after
dinner, give the kids their bath, and do the laundry. The collective
effect of these “small” acts will ripple out into society to
create “bigger” change.
Can a father bond with a child if they did not have a father growing
The entire group affirmed that not having a father would make it more
difficult but not impossible to bond with a child. According to one
dad, bonding is more of an innate need or spiritual drive, than
simply a learned behavior. Therefore, fatherless fathers are not
doomed to repeat their own childhood experiences. Another dad
suggested “getting excited” by the little things that make a child
excited or happy. Getting down on the child’s level, regressing to
those early moments in life when you were a child, and sharing simple
pleasures with your child will foster the bonding missed the first
In summary, it is clear that the bond between a father and a child is
an important one. Barriers, such as social values and absent fathers
make bonding with children difficult but not impossible. Children
need the unique style of bonding that fathers can provide and fathers
can build that bond by spending time engaging in physical,
intellectual, social, and spiritual activities.
1. Mothers will compete with you. At some point in motherhood during a playgroup for your child, potluck, playdate or on the playground, you will learn that other moms are evaluating how you parent, the type of snacks that you pack for your children, whether or not you are a good enough mother because of the tantrums your child has or the types of activities that you expose your child to, like music lessons. Over the years, I have chosen to create my community with mothers that do not have something to prove by pointing out what I should or should not be doing.
2. Setting boundaries is essential to having any chance at personal peace. I’ve learned that the word “no” is my best friend, and my comfort level with speaking it has prevented me from overcommitting at PTA events and other activities. This two-letter word has also allowed my children and spouse to understand that I don’t have additional hours in my day to do more than my share. I’ve realized that the clearer I am about what makes my household and life move smoother, the better I am at asking for what I need.
3. Motherhood is stressful and beautiful. At many points on this journey you will experience stress trying to do it all – when “all” was never expected to begin with. One of the ways that I’ve practiced reducing my stress is to repeat daily that “less is more.” When I have less stuff that I am committed too and fewer things to fill every corner of my home, I find it easier to live and see the beauty that is around me.
4. Your car will be messy. As much as I would like to say that my minivan, affectionately known as the “Mom-Me Porsche,” is always spotless, it isn’t. Well, maybe it is spotless for the few hours after a car wash before I pick up the children and their friends, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. We live in our car and it has every type of sporting equipment, backup outfits, a first aid kit and snacks just in case mom realizes that someone forgot the “whatever.”
5. If you’re married, you must date your spouse without your children. My husband and I try to date one another every other week at least. We might meet for lunch or go out for dinner. Sometimes, we visit our favorite bookstore and just have coffee and make time to talk without interruption. Occasionally, we arrange to do something more interesting that requires us to dress up and impress one another. We truly cherish our time together.
6. At times you will question if you are making the right choices for your children. It happens to us all with every child and at every stage of motherhood. It might begin with a simple decision that you made during your child’s routine doctor appointment or whether or not to choose a particular school or teacher, or to switch a child’s class. It could even be a decision that you made to allow your children to watch certain television programs, or to view the latest blockbuster movie, and the list goes on and on. I have learned over the years that if 80 percent of my decisions are great and 20 percent of them are fair-to- average, then my children will fare well in their lives. I also frequently remind myself that perfection is never the goal and that striving for it will drive me insane. Really.
7. Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you can give your family. Never feel guilty for making time for yourself, because your self-care will make you a better mother. Women struggle tremendously with finding time for themselves as mothers and justifying time away from their families. There’s a reason that flight attendants tell passengers to secure their own oxygen mask first and then the masks of children traveling with them. After all, how can you take care of those around you if are unconscious? Being your best will allow you to give your best to everyone in your family.
More women in their late 30s and 40s are deciding to have children, a finding that researchers say may be the reversal of a trend. (Credit: “young parents with strollers” image via Shutterstock)
U. BUFFALO (US) — More older, highly educated women are choosing to have a family, but it remains unclear whether they are having children in addition to—or instead of—careers.
While it is still too early to be certain, research clearly shows fertility rising for older, highly educated women since the 1990s. (Fertility is defined as the number of children a woman has had.) Childlessness also declined by roughly 5 percentage points between 1998 and 2008.
“Women born in the late 1950s are the turning point,” says Qingyan Shang, assistant professor of economics at the University at Buffalo. Members of this group initially showed low fertility. But fertility increased for them when they reached their late 30s and early 40s.
Straight from the Source
The paper, co-authored by Bruce A. Weinberg, professor of economics at Ohio State University, appears online in the Journal of Population Economics and will be published in a forthcoming print edition.
Two previous studies which examined fertility among highly educated women had limitations and came to conflicting conclusions, Shang says. One focused only on women in their late 20s and another examined fertility for women in managerial positions.
Using a sample of professional women makes the results difficult to interpret because women who have more children may switch to other occupations, Shang says.
“We did a more comprehensive study. We instead define the sample using education, which is less responsive to short-term fertility decisions.”
The conclusions are derived from data gathered by the June Current Population Survey, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers also used the Vital Statistics Birth Data from the National Center for Health Statistics as a second data set.
The research did not directly address what factors might be contributing to the fertility increase. “We did list some possible explanations based on previous research,” says Shang, including the idea of “the learning story,” in which decisions of previous generations inform later decisions by subsequent generations.
There has also been an increased supply of personal services that have reduced childcare expenses. Other research shows men may be taking more responsibility for child care.
Whether women are choosing families instead of or in addition to their careers is unclear, Shang says.
“We know these women are opting for families. We don’t know if they in turn are opting out of the labor market.”
The study also indicated an increase in multiple birth rates around 1990, suggesting fertility treatments may have played a role.
“The data does not include information about whether women used fertility treatment,” Shang says. “But we use the trends in plural birth rates to impute the share of the increase in fertility among highly educated women that is attributed to fertility treatment.”
More news from University at Buffalo: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/
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It’s a concept that parents may not be familiar with, but experts say it can explain a lot about family conflicts: Is your child’s temperament a good “fit” with yours?
For example, a stubborn child who’s a chip off the old block might have a lot of showdowns with an equally stubborn mom or dad. But contrasting temperaments don’t necessarily assure good results: A determined child might overwhelm an overly flexible parent.
Many personality traits such as these are inborn, but “temperaments can also be colored by the environment in which children are raised,” said child psychologist Brian Daly, who teaches at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
That means parents who take a step back to consider their child’s personality traits may be able to tailor their childrearing style to deal more effectively with problems.
Much of the research on child temperament is based on the New York Longitudinal Study, in which psychiatrists Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess followed a group of children from birth to adulthood beginning in 1956. Thomas and Chess, who were married, found that children’s personalities could be put in three basic categories: easy, difficult, and slow to warm up. They also identified nine other variables that measured behaviors and traits such as willfulness, moodiness, activity levels, distractibility, attention span, and regularity in sleep, hunger and other biological functions.
One finding from their research was that a good “fit” between children and parents results when adult expectations, values and demands are in accord with a child’s natural capacities and behaviors. Their last book, published in 1999, was called Goodness of Fit. (Thomas died in 2003, Chess died in 2007.)
But their theory was not just a way of letting parents off the hook by blaming kids for personality traits they could not control. The takeaway for parents was that conflicts resulting from a poor fit between parent and child might be ameliorated if childrearing practices could be changed. The theory has withstood the test of time, with psychologists and other experts who work with children and parents still using some of these concepts today.
Resa Fogel, a psychologist who practices in Montclair and Teaneck, N.J., was one of the children in the original study. “When I was little, they came to my house all the time and interviewed and watched me,” said Fogel. “They were the nicest people. I thought they were another set of grandparents.”
She became interested in psychology, an interest that was fueled when she got a job assisting Thomas in his research at New York University. She used some of the original studies for her dissertation, which looked at how children with difficult temperaments end up behaving.
“You would think people with difficult temperaments are automatically very hard people to be around,” she said. “I showed that if there’s a goodness of fit between the environment and the person, then even if you have a difficult temperament, you’re not going to necessarily misbehave. In other words, there’s hope for people who are tough.”
Difficult children “are going to be harder” for parents, she acknowledged, “but you have to have the right way of handling it. That’s what goodness of fit is. It’s like a puzzle you put together.”
Arthur Robin, director of psychology training at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, said one common problem he encounters is a child with ADHD or “a very hyper-impulsive child” who has “a passive, depressed, lethargic mom. The child is going to get to do anything he or she likes because the mom is not going to have the energy level to set down some structure.”
Another common problem is “a very rigid, willful child and a highly flexible parent,” Robin said. “The parent is going to go with whatever the child wants. The child is going to end up really spoiled or have a strong sense of entitlement.”
Sometimes problems are rooted in the temperament of the parent, not the child. “If a parent is extremely moody, and a child is not very even-tempered, the child is going to get really upset and scared, and may develop in an introverted manner because they can’t deal with the extremes of parent moodiness,” Robin said.
With willfulness, Robin says, he tries to recast the trait as “determination” and encourages parents to channel it into “positive activities to move the child ahead.” Teenagers might be encouraged “to fight for some kind of cause, or sometimes parents can get them to spend a lot of time on creative pursuits, so it’s not all channeled into conflicts with parents.” Music or artistic pursuits may be an especially good outlet for moody children, Robin said.
Daly said he often encounters families where parents have no problems with one child but a lot of problems with the other. “One child is very well-behaved and fits their parenting style,” he explained. “You could say the child’s temperament is a good match or fit. They rave about that child; the child is responsive and respectful.”
But with the other child, the parents may feel that they’re “constantly butting heads. There may be temper tantrums, digging in heels, but without an appropriate result. A lot of times parents have certain values and it can be hard to adjust those values to meet the temperament of the child.”
Choose your battles
Daly said parents who are just as stubborn as their kids often get into standoffs because “neither will give ground.” In these cases, it may not work to take a hard line approach of, “if you can’t comply with this, then you’re going to get in more and more trouble.”
It also pays to pick your battles carefully. When a little girl couldn’t get out of the house without a tantrum over what to wear, Daly counseled her parents to let her choose her own outfits even if they weren’t quite as coordinated as the parents wished.
With teens, said Robin, if they’re “sneaking out in the middle of the night,” you have more important things to focus on than whether their room is clean. “The stuff that isn’t worth fighting about, let it drop,” Robin said.
Another thing to keep in mind when a child’s personality presents challenges, Fogel said: “This is the temperament she was born with; this is how she acts, this is how you act. You try to find a way to make things better but there’s no magic answer, there’s no formula.”
“American mothers are multitasking for 48.3 hours each week, compared to 38.9 hours working fathers put in, researchers from Michigan State University reported in American Sociological Review. They add that women find multitasking a negative experience, compared to fathers who say that for them the experience is a positive one.”
Ron Huxley’s Reaction: A recent journal article reported that mom’s multitask more than dad’s and they find the entire experience more negative than do fathers. This could be because they do most of the work around the home, as the article implies, than do dad’s. I wouldn’t like it either if I was the one doing all the work either! The article gives some very simple advice: Dad’s need to help out more. Unfortunately, like most simple advice there is more complexity behind it, like social rewards or more flexible work hours. In our home it was do whatever you could whenever you could and this way, no one got resentful that the other parent wasn’t doing their part.
How do you divide the parenting/household responsibilities? Are dad’s really just slackers when it comes to parenting duties? Share your thoughts by clicking the reply button.
Do you ever swat your child on the behind? Let’s hope not. Over the past few
decades, numerous studies have concluded that spanking isn’t the best or most
effective way to discipline a child successfully. But when your kids
misbehave, don’t replace spanking with yelling. New research shows that
screaming loudly at children may also harm them. So what can parents do when
their kids become unruly, especially with the summer vacation months upon us
and children spending more time at home?
Read the full story on Live: http://live.psu.edu/story/53707#nw44