Jouissance

There are so many articles* about how parents today spend much more time with their kids than the previous generations. Like how working mothers spend more time with their kids than non-working mothers did in the fifties, or whatever. The explanation is always that this is because it’s harder to remain in the middle classes these days and parents want to make their kids more competitive on the neoliberal job market.

I have a feeling these articles were written by childless folks because they seem unable to arrive at a much simpler explanation that people’s standard of living improved, so they choose to spend more time with kids because they enjoy it. For women specifically, household appliances and food delivery have become more sophisticated, Amazon simplified shopping, and smartphones simplified the management of social obligations. For working parents, travel is easier. Finding information is easier. Finding activities for kids is easier. So people invest the time they have liberated with all this into something they enjoy. Which is being with their kids.

When folks see me take Klara to her dance lesson – which is a whole production because I rush home to make hot dinner to bring with us, then rush to school to pick her up, then drive to the dance school two towns over in bad traffic entertaining her with stories all the way there and back, then change her into ballet clothes, then change her back after the dance, and then do the return in even worse traffic with even more inventive stories because now she’s tired – they think I’m an amazing mother.

But the truth is that I’m not doing it for her. I’m doing this for me. I look forward to the dance lesson all week. Why else would I do all this if I didn’t enjoy it? To increase her chances of succeeding on the neoliberal job market with dancing skills she learned at two? That’s clearly nuts.

But forget me. There is a mom who brings her kid to the dance lesson after 8 hours on her feet in a service job. Another brings all her four kids and entertains three of them while one dances. One mom is heavily pregnant. None of them looks very driven by neoliberal preoccupations. We’ve been going to that school for over a year, and if somebody among the parents expressed any class-based wishes, I would have noticed. I think they simply love their kids.

* I could give links but somebody is transitioning to a big girl bed, so she gets up at the ungodly hour of 7 am and then is cantankerous and pitches fits. So I’m too tired and irritable to look for links.

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3 thoughts on “Jouissance”

  1. Improvement in standard of living? That depends on your frame of reference.

    This is where the experience of an immigrant differs from one who grew up here. Most two-adult families require both parents working now in the US, whereas 25 years ago, that wasn’t true. Among the very affluent, it’s still not true — working is a choice, not a necessity. The stay-at-home partner spends time other than the kids (a heard an elementary school principal in an affluent school district joke about tracking stay-at-home parents down at the local tennis center when they needed to find them during school hours). The average worker grosses $35,000 per year, or about $2,500 per month take-home after taxes. To equal the buying power that I had in my first job out of school in 1979, they would have to make $87,000 per year. Most people work out of necessity, and the proportion that has multiple jobs has skyrocketed. When you’re working 60-70 hours per week, how much time do you have for your kids?

    The current cost of raising a child in the US is roughly $250,000. You do the math. It’s not pretty. Most kids don’t get the chance to go to a dance class, or anything else. The Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy.

    Cost is a major reason both the rate of marriage and the rate of reproduction has plummeted since the recession of 2009, especially among whites. It’s also a reason why more than 10% of children in the US are being raised by grandparents. Having gone through that myself, there are a lot of things that older parents and grandparents aren’t physically capable of doing with children, and that impacts the child’s experiences growing up.

    The US standard of living may still be better than in much of the world, but it’s declining from where it was. That’s the root foundation for most of Trump’s support.

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    1. I’m not the person publishing all these studies about parents spending more time with kids than the previous generations. And I’m sure it’s not immigrants who conduct them.

      I so didn’t want to go look for these links but ok, here they are:

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.economist.com/graphic-detail/2017/11/27/parents-now-spend-twice-as-much-time-with-their-children-as-50-years-ago

      https://www.babble.com/parenting/economist-study-finds-modern-parents-spend-more-time-with-kids/

      https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjvtf7Ixd7fAhXDrIMKHdPJBl8QzPwBegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Fnation-now%2F2016%2F09%2F30%2Fparents-spend-more-time-children-now-than-they-did-50-years-ago%2F91263880%2F&psig=AOvVaw0iYfMxB0EjOaLQLIM1YWE0&ust=1547049215923902

      https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=undefined&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjfsuXJxt7fAhWB0YMKHUuuCi0QzPwBCAM&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2018%2F12%2F25%2Fupshot%2Fthe-relentlessness-of-modern-parenting.html&psig=AOvVaw15hLsox7ijvcrmiRJXGFyD&ust=1547049486209825

      There are at least two more that I saw recently, so I’m not inventing this.

      The dance lesson costs $10, by the way. But there is a ton of free alternatives that people are actively using. And I believe they do that because they enjoy it.

      And if poverty stood in the way of reproduction, India wouldn’t have such an enormous population growth.

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      1. And I got to say, I can’t help admiring this very typically liberal way of shutting up immigrants. Somebody I know recently experienced the exact same thing at a business summit where she was told that she can’t opine on North American life because she is an immigrant (having emigrated 20 years ago as a child.) Of course, if she were a silent, subservient maid at the summit’s venue, she would have had all the support of the liberal attendees.

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