When our kids were babies, my friends and I were all in agreement. We didn’t want to have over-scheduled kids who didn’t have time to just play! No chauffeur life for us!
As our kids grew, things became more complicated. Some of our neighborhoods had lots of families, but not many kids running around wild to play with. Some of our kids kept asking to join those billions of activities. And sometimes we felt worried that not giving them extracurricular opportunities (that we might be able to afford if we budgeted just right, after all) would put them behind their peers.
Claire Miller’s piece for The New York Times speaks to that exact dilemma. “Today,” she writes, “mothers spend nearly five hours a week on [children’s activities like reading, lessons, and homework], compared with 1 hour 45 minutes in 1975.” That difference is even more massive when we consider the increased number of mothers working full-time jobs outside of the home nowadays.
Miller points out that this is largely an American issue, as we view the raising of children as an individual task. We wonder what activity we should sign our own children up for, instead of wondering which activity our community should provide for all local children.
—Modern mothers spend much more time intensely interacting with their children than they did 40 years ago, even if they work full-time.
—Economic anxiety is a strong impetus for this behavior, as parents hope for their children to surpass their economic achievements.
—More interactive parenting has shown to have an effect on the reading gap between students from rich and poor families, but it’s not as clear whether it has as large an effect across social and economic classes.