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September 12, 2008

You Do The Math

Hmmmm... this sounds disturbingly like common sense:

When it comes to launching missiles in the Mommy Wars, Sarah Palin has nothing on Christopher Ruhm. On Thursday, the University of North Carolina, Greenboro, economist published a study showing that kids from high-socioeconomic-status families take a long-term hit when their moms work outside the home—at ages 10 and 11, they perform more poorly on cognitive tests and are also more likely to be overweight than those whose high-status mothers leave the workforce. Children from low-status families, on the other hand, don't seem to suffer as much when their moms work. In fact, many of them do better on the same tests, and they're more fit, than similarly disadvantaged kids with stay-at-home moms.

The findings are surprising, and it's easy to read them as a warning to affluent, educated mothers: if you want the best for your child, don't work. (Conversely, if you're not well-off: get your kid to day care.)

But what use is "science" if we can't apply it to our every day lives?

... those are dangerous conclusions to draw from the study, and even Ruhm—whose own wife worked while raising their children—says so. "This comes down to a fundamental principle of economics: something has to give. We can't have it all," he says. "But I would never tell anybody what to do or not do about that. I certainly wouldn't tell my wife." [Editorial *snort* inserted] So what are women facing a choice between work and home—and those many more for whom work is an economic necessity—supposed to make of these findings?

The study, published in the journal Labour Economics, divided women into two socioeconomic groups, based on several variables (including education levels, income prior to pregnancy, ethnicity and whether a spouse was present at home). The kids from families in the "lower" group generally fared fine if their moms worked for the majority of their childhoods—at ages 10 and 11, they either scored about the same on cognitive tests, or better, than disadvantaged kids whose mothers stayed home. For kids from high-status families, though, the pattern flipped. The more these affluent moms worked—especially if they went back to their jobs while their children were still very young—the less well their kids did on cognitive tests later in childhood. (The high-status children with working moms still did better overall than all the low-status children—so class, not employment, was ultimately the stronger factor in their well-being.)

Why do mothers' choices have such different effects on kids, depending on their socioeconomic situations? Most likely, says Ruhm, the low-status kids get more intellectual stimulation in day care or with other caretakers, such as grandparents, than they do at home. Meanwhile, the high-status kids may find day care less enriching than being with their highly educated mothers. When these moms go back to work, "you're pulling the [high-status] kids out of these really good home environments," says Ruhm, "and a lot of the alternatives just aren't as good."

The same pattern was true of weight: low-status kids weren't any thinner or fatter depending on what their mothers did, but high-status kids with working moms did have a slightly higher risk of being overweight at 10 or 11. The biggest effect on weight came when mothers were working during their high-status children's school years. Maybe, says Ruhm, these moms didn't have time to cook healthy dinners and after-school snacks: "If you're working a lot and you're eating out and buying fatty food, that could have an effect on obesity later in the child's life." Or maybe those kids were left unsupervised more often, and thus had more opportunities to eat cookies in front of the TV—and fewer opportunities to run around outside. "Parents who are working but want to make sure their kids are supervised and safe will often load up the house with sedentary activities, since they can't always be there to take them to sports or to the park," says Karen Eifler, an associate professor of education at the University of Portland. "Their kids are more likely to have a TV or computer and videogames in their room—and also, the higher your economic status, the more likely you are to have those three machines in your house."

Certainly, Ruhm says, there's good reason to think that working women spend less time overall supervising their kids. That's what other studies have shown, and time, of course, is a zero-sum game—there's only so much of it in the day. "Working women do try to preserve the most important activities with their kids. They'll let a lot of things in their own lives go," he says. "But they still have less time to spend. And it's also true that if you're sleeping less and are tired or stressed, that could have an effect on the kids, as well."

Although there's a certain intuitive logic to the study results—take a privileged mom out of the home, and some of the privileges leave with her—there's little reason for affluent working mothers to panic. The study is one in a long line; other surveys have found positive effects, negative effects and no effects when moms work. It's hard to trust any one set of results, says Thomas Cottle, a clinical psychologist at Boston University's School of Education. "This is not the natural sciences, where we can replicate things," he says. "If you're of a particular ideology, you're going to say about any given study, 'I don't want to believe this'."

Discuss amongst yourselves. The Princess will be at the bar.

Drinking heavily.

Posted by Cassandra at September 12, 2008 06:41 PM

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Having passed well beyond the phase of parenting under discussion, please allow an old Hill-William to get the first round for you Milady.

Posted by: bt_shaken-not-stirred_hun at September 12, 2008 07:45 PM

They said there would be no math on this blog!

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 12, 2008 07:47 PM

It's hard to know without the methodology, but it's possible that the loss of a parent in the home full-time is balanced by the benefit of additional income the parent brings in working for lower-income households.

For higher-income households, the incremental benefit of additional money is subject to diminishing returns. Therefore, the loss of a parent in the home full-time is more greatly felt.

The article's take on this is that mothers in lower-income households do not provide their children enough stimulation? While that's certainly possible, it doesn't seem to be a comprehensive explanation.

I'm particularly curious about these "slightly-higher" and "about the same or better" characterizations. Are they statistically significant?

Posted by: ummmm at September 12, 2008 08:03 PM

"They said there would be no math on this blog!"
Why do you think I volunteered for the first round? Having to access the extended calculation capabilities found in the shoes is tough when snockered.

Und ta set oop da mood, -wit no countin' invalved- a lil tippin' tune.

Posted by: bt_shaken-not-stirred_hun at September 12, 2008 08:09 PM

Meanwhile, the high-status kids may find day care less enriching than being with their highly educated mothers. When these moms go back to work, "you're pulling the [high-status] kids out of these really good home environments," says Ruhm, "and a lot of the alternatives just aren't as good."

That actually does sound like common sense.

Posted by: Grim at September 12, 2008 08:12 PM

I have read (and oddly enough, I have observed this, and I did home day care for years) that as an extremely general rule, women in homes with a lot of books - which is not necessarily to say that the Moms have a college degree - talk to their kids, hold them, make eye contact, etc.

IOW, they interact with their babies. Constantly. They are also, statistically speaking, more likely to breastfeed them, and for longer. All of this translates into just plain spending more time doing hands-on parenting.

Now I did not have a college degree when I was a mother, but I would argue that I was still well educated. I read 3-4 books a week, and my children grew up reading. I read to them every day before naps and before bed from the time they were about 8 months old. I read to my tummy when I was still pregnant. I realize that is weird, but I'd read that your baby can hear you.

My first son started talking a blue streak at 8 months and the kid never shut up.

My second son (never tell yourself you're an awesome parent!) hardly said a word until he was 2. Then he started speaking in full sentences within about a two-week period - he literally went from Mama, Daddy to short sentences in that time period. The kid knew how to talk all along. He just wasn't going to do a durned thing until he felt like it :p

Child rearing is an inexact science, I think. But I also think there is a huge common sense factor here. Whatever amount of time you are going to spend with your kids, you have less to spend if you work. Having been a stay at home Mom and a working Mom, I know this is true. And money, I think, is not a proxy for time and attention.

Posted by: Cass at September 12, 2008 08:20 PM

What made a lot of sense to me was that if would have gotten a lot of high quality attention at home (the high income scenario) day care represents a step down in intellectual stimulation.

But if a child wasn't getting much attention or formal intellectual stimulation (the low income situation) being in day care may mean they're being exposed to things they wouldn't get at home: arts and crafts, books, the attention of adults as well as children (better vocabulary). So it's a net gain.

Posted by: Cass at September 12, 2008 08:25 PM


My son has gotten a lot of stimulation from both his parents, most of his life; but obviously, when I went to Iraq and he went to school, that's not the same as having me there all the time. Of course, they'll do more to teach him addition, and I'd do more to teach him rafting, horseback riding and the stalking of wildlife; but both skillsets are beneficial to cognition.

I'm not sure about the school's history-teaching, though. He came home today with a booklet about Davy Crockett. "Did you learn about the Alamo?" I asked.

"The what? No." he replied.

Hm. May have to have a wee word with his teacher next week.

Posted by: Grim at September 12, 2008 09:47 PM

Not only no math but no statistics. Now I have to slam the idiocy of well-to-do mothers working while their kids go to hell in a handbasket, but the children of lower income and dare we say it, single moms are well adjusted?

Dare we run the crime stats of both groups? I think the lines would be indistinguishable or one would be significantly lower.

There is also that nasty day care study about how badly kids do in day care, that Headstart isn't all it cracked up to be.

Another subtle dig at Palin, if I may say so. The nutroots are going ballistic over her being a working mother, as are the screeching homeschoolers in my group.


Wait til the main stream media rehashes the LAW that requires single parent service members to have a family plan or they are out of the service.


Let the caterwauling begin again...

Posted by: Cricket at September 12, 2008 10:45 PM

So, I has to ax the question: If the high income moms who go to work put their kids in day care, same as the lower income moms, shouldn't the disparity disappear?

Or if the children of both are in school at the same time? I read somewhere that the more education a mother has (not necessarily income), the better fed a child will be.

I know my poor mother fed us from the garden we had a couple of times a year for at least ten years, ground whole grains to bake bread and fed us organic eggs and milk. She had a college degree, a bachelor's, and my father has a master's. She also worked for a while after I started school, and quit when I was in third grade.

I had a horrible life.


Posted by: Cricket at September 12, 2008 10:53 PM

When I was working on my M.Ed, I was in a non-thesis program that still required a research paper. My topic: (forgive the wordiness of it - it's meeting the required format of the assignment...) The Impact of Reading Intervention Programs on Elementary School Children At Risk for Reading Difficulties

What I found was that the amount of exposure a child has to the written word prior to beginning school is a good indicator of whether or not that child will have difficulty reading as they get older. For whatever reason, the amount of exposure correlates to socio-economic status (SES): the more affluent the family, the more exposure to books in the home before entering school, the less affluent the family, the less exposure to books before school. It doesn't have to be that way, but it so often is. Guess it comes down to this: there is a reason the SES is low, and quite often it is because the parents lack a proper education themselves. And, even with intervention, it is hard for the "at risk" kids to catch up, and if there is no intervention at all, they will fall further and further behind in reading. And reading is key to getting an education. If you can't read, you can't read your science, social studies or math texts, either (whether those texts be actual textbooks, or other materials on the subjects).

My parents weren't college educated when I was a child (Daddy earned his degree after he retired from the Army; he now teaches history at a local high school). We weren't rich, but we weren't poor, either. My dad was enlisted. But, we always had books around: we were taken the library and we were allowed to pick out books to order through Scholastic at school.


How old is your son? I've got a growing children's book library that I hope to put in a classroom some day, and although I have posted about two dozen book reviews, I've got many more books (mostly picture books) I've not posted on. I might be able to put together a list of books you might like to share with him. I seem to have a preference for books that fall into the "social studies" category right now...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at September 12, 2008 11:06 PM

I thought the same thing, Cricket, about it being a dig at Palin...

What I got from it, but wasn't explicitly stated was that the children affluent working mothers did less well when compared to their peers who had affluent stay-at-home moms, but that the children of working-poor moms did better than children of stay-at-home poor moms, not that children of working-poor moms did better than the children of affluent working moms.

And, I would guess that affluent working moms might not be sending their kids to the same types of day care as working-poor moms: sometimes, you get what you pay for...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at September 12, 2008 11:12 PM

He's six, ML. Likes to be read to; not so much about reading on his own yet. This means, though, that he can tackle higher-level books: I was reading him Ivanhoe the other week. It's great for his vocabulary, and he loves the story, but it'll be most of ten years before he could read it himself.

Posted by: Grim at September 12, 2008 11:32 PM

So here is a story, as stories have been posted above. My mother-in-law was once concerned about her children's lack of appetite at dinner and took them to a doctor.

The teeenagers explained to the doctor their afternoon ritual of taking out a a loaf of Wonderbread. One would spread the peanutbutter and the other would spread the jelly.

It was not so odd after-all that they had little appetite. And my MIL, except when inspired was not that good a cook.

Posted by: levi from queens at September 13, 2008 12:04 AM

Miss Ladybug,
You sound like you had the same kind of home I did. I was read to, and when I was in kindergarten, my older sister turned me on to Carolyn Haywood books. I still love them; they turn up every once in awhile on ebay. By the time I was in first grade, I was reading Nancy Drew. I was not what you call gifted, but I did read early because of the exposure I had from everyone. My parents and siblings read to me, we read as a family.

We carried that tradition to our children.

Posted by: Cricket at September 13, 2008 01:11 AM

I love books. That's one thing I want to instill in my students - once I have my own classroom. Even now, when I'm in a classroom subbing, if the situation arises, I talk to students about treating books with care because books are special. I read all the time. Not always books anymore, since I check certain blogs pretty much daily unless I've got stuff going on that takes me away from a computer. I tend to go in spurts where I either have this insatiable urge to read, or I'm not reading anything. Right now, I'm reading a book (The Button Box, about Mrs. George S. Patton, written by Ruth Ellen Patton Totten, one of their two daughters), but it's not that "I have to read it all the time until I'm done with it" like I can sometimes get with some books (like Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan books and the Harry Potter books as they came out). I've taken to buying books as gifts for my cousins' kids instead of toys, and I'm sure I'll do the same with my new niece when she's old enough for them (she's not even a month old yet).

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at September 13, 2008 01:26 AM

My wife and I read 3 or 5 books to our daughter every evening for the last 4 years. She corrects us when we miss a word or mangle a sentence. She also claims that she can't read. She either has an awesome memory or she really can read over our laps and just wants the formal vindication of 'learning to read at school'. She's in kindergarten so we'll see what happens next. Either way. I'm happy.

Posted by: Curtis at September 13, 2008 03:30 AM

My daughter married at 16, had her first baby 2 days after her 17th birthday. She and my son-in-law now have 4 children. They finally after 12 years of marriage reached a total income higher than the poverty level, they are still just barely above with both of them working. They refuse all assistance preferring to be self reliant. Both have worked most of the time they have been married but their children were never in day-care. They arranged their schedules to allow for one of them to be home at all times. Their home is full of books. The result is that the 2 older boys who are in middle school are both in all honors classes. The 9 yr old boy is a total book worm, both reading and writing stories. The 7 yr old girl is probably brighter than any of her brothers. All the statistics in the world don't compile to be universal truth. Intention and perseverance can make all the difference.

Posted by: Terentia at September 13, 2008 10:18 AM

Good for them, Terentia.

I read all the time about how women "have to work" in today's economy. I consider that a load of bunk, especially coupled with crap about how they can't find "affordable child care".

Having been a stay at home Mom (who occasionally worked out of my home at various things when she wanted more money) for 18 years, I know that it can be done. I also know that it's more expensive to replace the skills of an intelligent homemaker with prepackaged dinners and convenience products: there's a whole lot of capital-for-labor substitution that goes on when both parents work outside the home.

I don't necessarily question a woman's decision to work.

I just don't want to hear a lot of whining about the cost of working, or how women "have to work". Most of the time when you actually do the math, you can make it just find staying at home.

You may choose not to, and for reasons you consider quite valid. That is fine.

But I become very impatient with contrafactual arguments intended to reach a predetermined conclusion, especially when that conclusion so often violates common sense.

Posted by: Cass at September 13, 2008 10:42 AM

I got the dig at Palin too, Cricket.

But notwithstanding that, it was still a good article. My brother and his wife both work, and yet their kids are well educated and well behaved. They made the sacrifices needed to ensure their children got the right kind of care during the day and had plenty of attention. I think it can definitely be done.

I also think perhaps you admit that sometimes there are tradeoffs between 'perfect parenting' and having a life as a woman.

What bothers me is dishonesty.

If you want to work because the truth is that you would be terribly unhappy staying at home all day, just say so, and then make the best possible arrangements to minimize the impact on your kids. Also, children have TWO parents. Why is this always put on the mother?

That has always bothered me, and always will. But that's a tale for another day :p

Posted by: Cass at September 13, 2008 10:47 AM

Okay, I have to comment. Is it possible that the test measurements are not reliable? Cognitive scores improve when the mom's stay home, but so do SAT scores. I mean intelligence tests don't really measure innate intelligence as much as they measure a specific body of knowledge. It could be that scores improve because affluent non-working moms have more time to obsess about pumping knowledge into their kids and more invested in their kids acheivement. Although, we'll never know unless they start measuring it. I can think of at least 30 studies to spin off this one based on objectively examing home life, stimulation, face time, etc., etc. that might provide more actual information other than a vague, but interesting result. And yes, I took psychological statistics in my undergrad courses.

And for the record, I teach my oldest three kids at home. My Dad never finished college but he and my mom who took a few college courses loooovvvved books. The story goes that my big sister (who now is a reading specialist with a doctorate in teaching reading with her two kids in home-care) taught me to read before I went to kindergarten.

I love books and my oldest son had a lot of trouble reading. In third grade we had a battery of tests done and found among other things that he has serious vision problems. We are still in the middle of various treatments for this. I've talked to adults who've never had these issues cleared up. Meanwhile, the next daughter is reading chapter books in second grade. You just never know. I agree that while statistics are helpful for identifying general trends they can't speak to specifics so each child tends to be idiosyncratic.

Posted by: baberuth at September 13, 2008 10:54 AM

I don't think it matters much whether you're measuring knowledge or intelligence. They're hard to separate out, but you rarely acquire the second without a generous helping of the first.

What I do think is being measured here is that spending quality time with kids (stimulating their little brains) matters in their mental development. And it doesn't matter so much whether that happens at home or out of the home, though every test I've seen indicates it's generally better if it happens at home and it's generally more effective if it happens earlier in life rather than later.

I think that's what this study says.

Posted by: Cass at September 13, 2008 11:08 AM

Interestingly, this article has been around for quite a while. I found a working paper version from 2005 here. The article itself is in the Table of Contents here. You can’t read the whole thing without paying more than 30 pounds (choke, gasp) but you can get to the abstract which tells you the article was online in 2007. Despite this lengthy history (for all I know this is common for this type of article), I don’t think publishing the article now - or writing about it in Newsweek now - is a slap at Palin. After all, the article says lower-class mothers should work and dollars will get you doughnuts that Newsweek considers Palin lower-class.

As for the structure of the study, I’m not comfortable with the inclusion of ethnicity as a means of assigning socioeconomic status. Like Ummmm, I’m surprised the suggested explanations don’t consider the fact that for a poor family an additional income can make a huge difference in stuff like nutrition and which school district the child is in. This is even more true if Mom’s income is the *only* income which is why I’d like for the study to have broken out families with a spouse in the home from those without.

Several years ago (more than 7) I read an editorial (probably in US News & WR) that looked at a similar study which found all kids did better in some metric or metrics if they were cared for by a family member than if they were in day care. The editorial writer’s conclusion? Mothers should stay home with their children. I frothed at the mouth for days about that one.

I was all set to start frothing at the mouth about this until I read the entire Newsweek article. It’s careful to point out that Rubin’s study doesn’t distinguish between children with working mothers who were cared for by family members (including fathers) and those who were in day care. I would really like to see a study comparing (1) children cared for by Mom with (2) children cared for by a family member other than Mom with (3) children in day care for the following reason:

Years ago I was in a Post Office in Manhattan. Behind me in line were a child, probably 4-6 years old, and his nanny, a woman probably in her 40s. The child was fascinated by the Post Office (it’s huge) and looking all around with eyes like saucers; the nanny was simply standing in line, holding the child’s hand but not interacting with him. I can vaguely remember when I was around 6 going to the post office with my mother and having her explain to me what it all meant: why we were going, what all the little gold boxes were, what the man behind the counter did, what happened to the mail after we handed it over, and so on. I know it’s dangerous to draw vast conclusions from one incident (for all I know the nanny talked nineteen to the dozen to the child most of the time) but it did make me think about how a paid employee - however kind and generous - regards a curious child as opposed to how a mother, father, grandparent, or even aunt or uncle regards that child. To those who love the child, his or her learning about the most ordinary things in the world must seem almost miraculous and teaching the child about those things must be great fun (at least most of the time).

Posted by: Elise at September 13, 2008 01:05 PM

Cass, I know you got the dig at Palin; the reason I mentioned it is because I am now taking a communications class and it was a case of 'is it just me or do others see this too?' type of a comment.

I am trying to see if I am capable of thinking, and if others see it too, then I don't feel so idiotic for making the comment.

As to early stimulus, I was sent an excellent article about brain development in babies; one reason why the 'terrible twos' are called that is because at that age, an infant's brain is growing and processing information six times (I think) the rate of an adults, and they need a feast of information. A very capable teacher of genius children had a program set up for babies in the crib to about four years of age. These little ones were reading and understanding what they read. Of course, they weren't reading doctoral dissertations or master's theses, but they were able to follow the train of a story and tell it back to the instructor.

That is the basis for the grammar phase of language and cognitive development. The rhetoric and logic stages come later.

Because it is so labor intensives, many parents shunned the program (I am one of them) and preferred to go with the benchmarks of development rather than accelerate their children.

Reading to and asking a child to repeat back what was read is something any parent or caregiver can do, as well as ask questions about the story. Just about any child loves to be read to and it is one of the nicest ways to bond with your child.

However, if you have unlimited time and a couple grand and a baby to teach, go for it.

Posted by: Cricket at September 14, 2008 01:29 PM

I know four or five families in which the mother makes an unusual amount of money (doctor, lawyer) and the father is the primary child-rearer, working very little or not at all outside the home. They seem to do fine. It's hard for the fathers, though. They're bombarded by messages that their role is anomalous. It takes an enormous income discrepancy to induce the parents to reverse the roles, it seems to me. But in all the talk about how a parent should stay home with the kids, 99 times out of 100 there is practically no attention given to the question of which parent it should be, which gets my hackles up.

I don't have much experience with kids entrusted to a lot of daycare. I do know that the intellectual stimulation I got from my father overwhelmed anything I got from school until at least university, and made an enormous difference in my development early and late. Yet my father worked and had two other children to worry about. (Mother died young.) The time a parent has available is important; my father never worked late or traveled -- but the approach was the most important. No matter how young we were, he never assumed we couldn't learn. And he was reading almost every minute he was awake, so we naturally absorbed the importance of books. He didn't enjoy the advantages of great schools himself growing up, so he never assumed that most of our education would naturally come from school.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 14, 2008 07:45 PM

Texan99, you hit it. My husband has turned his had to assisting much with childrearing tasks, while not being full time.

But you had a father who invested his time with you, and therefore, his love. While I believe that many people make the best choices they can for their children, time is one commodity we seem to not harness too well. It never hurts to spend it with your family when you can, giving of yourself.

Posted by: Cricket at September 15, 2008 01:15 PM

Very interesting subject and discussion, which I have no wish to enter (he said as he waded into the bog).

Being a neurologist, who sometimes dabbles in child neurology, I have been struck with the utter nonsense found in what some call educational research. Every child has a (mostly unknown) potential for development. That's the genetics. How well they function as adults depends in addition to the stimulation they are exposed to during the first 6-8 years. This is how active parents make up for whatever relative deficit the genes give their children. Just look at the size of the head of a newborn and compare it with the size at age 14 or 15. There is a lot of growing going on, and most of it is not making new braincells, it is connecting them in the web that makes the brain work.

If you have a lot to start out with, even a poor environment cannot hold you down, but you will not reach your potential. Conversely a very active environment can make up for a multitude of sins. Hence the "geniuses" we see from time to time due to intensive parental interaction.

I had a professor of psychology at university, who flat out stated, that my class consisted of the best and brightest based upon our performances on "intelligence tests" - being young and foolish, I challenged her. My point was, that while dependent on a minimum of innate capabilities, performances was just as much a question of what kind of environment one had had during the most important years for growth. We never agreed needless to say, she was so enchanted with the idea that she (and we) were superior in intellect. Oh well....

Coming from a family who, as my father-in-law was fond of saying, never held an honest job (they were doctors, lawyers and other riff-raff for generations) it never occurred to me before being at university, that not everyone had a home library, that not everyone had the means to get questions answered etc.

After 30+ years as a physician, father and now grandfather, I now even more convinced that the secret to a well developed child is stimulation, by parents and family in the start if needed, but primarily in exposing the kids to the world around them. Give them pointers, yes, - read for them if they like it - but most of all give them space and possibilities to explore. Allow them to fail in their endeavors (with a safety net), talk with and take them seriously (not as small adults, but as individuals and respecting their age and developmental level).

All of this of cause in a confident environment, where the kids know there are rules and boundaries, which is their safety net. It is not rocket science you know. I have noted that a lot of "blue collar" moms and dads KNOW this, hence their kids do well, whereas a lot of brainwashed college graduates are clueless in this respect. A curious and confident kid with family support is a joy to see, especially when they (with respect) challenge their parents.

People spend too much time on what Richard Feynman called "cargo science" and too little on using common sense. Your child is a different individual with much in common with you, but unique in his and her own way. SWMBO and I would consider us failures as parents if they grew up as clones of us. Needless to say as adults they tolerate with bemusements our quaint ways.

That is happiness, may you all experience it.


Posted by: Hejde at September 15, 2008 07:16 PM

Being a neurologist, who sometimes dabbles in child neurology, I have been struck with the utter nonsense found in what some call educational research.


Education was one of the subjects I was interested in when as a freshman in college. But the first education class I took was so mind-blowingly stupid (and keep in mind that I was a flaming liberal at the time) that I nearly had apoplexy trying to stay in my seat. I lost track of the moronic things that were said sometime during the first week of class and just sat there, stupified.

I think we know many of the things we need to do to be good parents. I see them when I'm out and about.

Children need to be touched, talked to, loved. I loved the comment about being in the post office and seeing the nanny who was ignoring her charge.

I see this all the time, but with parents, and it infuriates me. They strap their children into strollers and wheel them about for hours at the mall, never talking to them or holding them and then are surprised when the child screams. And I see them on weekends it is painfully obvious these people have no idea how to soothe a tired or overstimulated child, or what the various tones in their own baby's cries mean.

It worries me. They don't know their own children. No wonder they are stressed - they haven't any idea how to care for - or interact with - their own kids. Children are absolutely delightful if you just treat them appropriately. But they can be bloody awful if you don't.

Posted by: Cass at September 15, 2008 07:32 PM

On the plus side, I saw a father on a plane recently sitting with his 2 year old son. He was so good at caring for that little boy. And the child was an angel for the whole flight. He was active and engaged, and the reason he was so good was that his father talked to him, explained everything to him, and was keyed into his facial expressions.

He treated his baby son as a small person and consequently his son, although clearly tired and confused about why he couldn't run about the plane, responded with patience and good humor to a strange situation. You could tell Dad had invested time in that child. It showed.

Posted by: Cass at September 15, 2008 07:35 PM

> Why is this always put on the mother?

Early on, the presence of the mother is more relevant as nurturer. Later on, the presence of the father is more important as the disciplinarian and teacher of responsibility.

Yes, that's completely sexist and either one can theoretically do the job, but in human nature it's usually the way it works out. It's a generalization of sex roles which ties to the natural demeanors of the sexes, not a one-size-fits all prescription. YMMV.

Since the time of life being discussed, it's the one which the mother tends to be the most relevant, Cass, and thus it gets put onto the mother.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at September 16, 2008 07:52 AM