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.