The Challenges of Parenting in a Time-Starved World
Do you ever feel like you are stretched in so many directions you can't keep your life in balance? Many parents live that way perpetually. There was popular book published several years ago by sociologist Arlie Hochschild called the Second Shift. After the daily grind of the workplace, we would come home to start the "second shift," which involved more errands on the way home, fixing and cleaning up from dinner, kid's homework, an evening school activity or soccer practice, bills, emails, and getting ready for the next day. I feel tired just talking about it.
The loss of leisure
Not that many years ago life was more easily divided between the hours we "worked" and the hours we didn't. Those non-work hours were typically thought of as leisure. Meaning you had space to relax, think, play, and maintenance life. But I don't hear people talk about leisure very much these days. They refer to their "leisure time" in much the same way as they talk about their work time. "Leisure now has the same ethic of productivity and accomplishment that governs work time. In other words, the same mentality that we use at work now is applied to our "free time."
Parents are among the busiest people in society
We try to split ourselves in so many directions: nurturing a marriage, children, keeping a home maintained, work/career, friendships, church activities, community/neighborhood involvement; not to mention involvement in larger causes like charities, government, etc.
In other words, we are in perpetual motion. And we've become so accustomed to this pace of life that when we have discretionary time, we fill it with another activity. It is as if we are afraid having down time.
Our 21st century conception of time emphasizes how time can be saved, maximized, stretched, qualified, and quantified. This is very different than preceding generations. People in previous centuries embraced the time limitations as the essence of the life they knew. A farmer planted his seed expecting it to take exactly the number of days known for a particular crop to mature and bear. Today we enhance our crops with hybrids and chemical additives to produce larger yields in less time. We want to do things faster, more efficiently, bigger, etc.
Two contributing factors for this perpetual activity
1. Limitless Choices. Unlimited choices in a consumeristic culture where the message is consume to excess.
2. A denial of our finiteness. We don't heed the natural signals of our limitations. For example: We don't sleep enough because we try to squeeze more into our limited amount of time. What do we do? We survive on caffeine.
What are the consequences of this perpetual activity on our own life and our ability to parent effectively?
1. Diminishes meaningful interaction with people, especially our children. We are always in preparation for the next event. But this also means that we are not living fully in the present moment. We interact with more people in one day than a person in 1900 would in weeks. Yet we have more depression, loneliness, and feelings of social disconnectedness than ever in our history. This shows up in our children as well. How do we develop meaningful relationships with our children when we have to do it quickly or squeeze it in between all of these tasks and distracting choices?
2. Little time for reflection or to learn from our mistakes.
- We aren't spending much time learning from the choices we make.
- Having unscheduled time fosters the use of the imagination. Most of today's children fill up their time by engaging in passive activities more. The average child spends 6.5 hours a day engaging with electronic devices (computer, television, video games, digital music, cell phones, text messaging, etc.) But the imagination goes largely neglected (reading, writing, art, drama, invention)
3. We set a precedent for our children as they grow up. Many children are growing up assuming the "fast" is the pace at which a "normal" life is lived. But fast is not always good. When we model perpetual activity as the norm, we convey unconsciously that this is the standard by which things are valued.
So, how can we combat these fast-paced trends and stay connected to our children in a meaningful way? See part two of this topic entitled: Ways to Connect with Your Child in a Fast-paced World.