Sand in the Gears

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March 26th, 2010 Posted in The Art of Parenting

Husbands, for the sake of your wives’ self-esteem, stop taking your kids to the park.

That’s one conclusion we can draw from this study. A possible flaw in its design: could it be that many fathers who pick up more slack than their counterparts are doing so in response to actual shortcomings in the care provided by their wives, thereby biasing the results?

A better study (though harder to conduct) would control not for the number of hours moms spend with their children, but for their performance during those hours. It would thus examine whether mothers who spend an average amount of hours and perform adequately at mothering during those hours still feel lowered self-competence when their husbands step up their own involvement.

Or we could measure the wrong variable — time spent by mothers with their children — as this study appears to do, and then blame societal gender roles for the guilt we turn up.

Whatever we do, it’s hard not to feel guilty as parents, like we’re not doing enough, like we could do better, like we’re going to turn them into serial killers. This is especially, I’ve found, how good parents feel. Many of us probably could stand to cut ourselves some slack.

On the other hand, especially when both parents are pursuing careers, and then we add all the extracurricular time commitments and the sheer burden of commuting faced by the modern family, maybe that little voice telling us our kids need more — or different — than what we’re giving them has some wisdom behind it.

I suppose in the end it’s better that we feel insecure about whether we’re doing a good job, and at the same time remember to give ourselves some grace in spite of our failings.