Saturday, January 3, 2009

Neurotic Parenting Makes You Fat!: Relevant Parental Analysis


The new year is barely three days old, and look how many expectations we have heaped upon it! Sound familiar? Sound like...parenthood? There's a lot of pressure we put on ourselves and our offspring to "get it right." As a bookseller in the age of the exploding superstore, I watched the family and childcare section similarly expand. There is advice from every which way. Perhaps because it is so crowded, the authenticity/authoritative badge is highly coveted, and those seeking to stake a claim delve into the subject with analytical zeal, to match the thirst of women who had been going full tilt in the career world for three decades, and now sought to reclaim a piece of the "having it all" pie that mysteriously went missing on the windowsill. An interesting post on the Stats Blog, which analyzes "the numbers behind the news," asserts that a "scientizing impulse" of the parenting genre has fundamentally separated us from the more intuitive community based parenting behavior of our pre-techie selves. Now we require irrefutable proof that what we are doing or not doing is the right thing to do. Trevor Butterworth writes,


"Where once common sense or the shared wisdom of a community guided
parents in raising children, and for good or ill they just got on with it, the
scientizing impulse requires that everything be interrogated and justified with
a certainty that actual science often can’t supply."



But here's the problem--we actually lack basic community in many ways as well. When you do not have these connections, don't have parents that provided a particularly good example, what do you do? You research. Like cookbooks enabled a amateur cook to capture a bit of Julia Child, the Internet allows the modern parent to access on demand a bit of Dr. Spock, or these days, Dr. Sears.



Others just hire their own expert all together. A growing subset of the "life coach," industry is the "family and parenting coach." You can hire a professional chef to teach you to cook in your home, and you can also hire a parenting professional to teach you how to parent in your home. There are those that will also offer you strategies about how to be a more "likeable" parent.


And it's not just the U.S. that recognizes a niche in helping parents parent better, particularly fathers. Jamaican fathers and fathers in Bahrain are both the subjects of new programs to develop men into more effective parents. And talk about scientizing, we now are told that there is evidence the dinosaurs were actually inclined to be stay at home dads!


Religious leaders also weigh in with their perspectives as well. In the U.K., a system with relatively generous (in comparison to the US) family policies, a move to penalize those that chose to stay home with their kids is inspiring debate around the country about what a parent's duty to society is at its core. And don't forget international socio-political organizations! Unicef tells us that putting a child in childcare during their first year of life is, well, bad about sums it up. Even a cell phone carrier can be judgemental about your parenting choices, as a woman in Australia discovered when they wouldn't sell her a cell phone because she was a stay at home mother, and was therefore "jobless."


Little wonder that in a world where we are told that our happiness depends to some significant degree on those around us, we're positively neurotic!


Oh, and to top it off, apparently thinking makes you fatter. Great, just great!


Photo courtesy of Shockmd.com (a very interesting site by the way)

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