It was probably around the time that parenting became a verb that it became harder than it was meant to be.
When parents began to overthink it and over analyse it.
When we began to google it and label it. Probably around the time we began to second-guess ourselves that it began to make us miserable.
Miserable? This wonderful experience of raising children we are meant to be so grateful for.
That’s exactly what a new study in the Child and Family Blog has found.
“There may be a link between what are regarded as the best parenting practices and more miserable motherhood,” Professor Almudena Sevilla says.
Those of us who are using these so-called “best parenting practices” are parenting ourselves into the ground, as opposed to those who are just raising kids.
Her study has proved what many of us have long suspected, the more intensively you focus on whether you are parenting “right”, the more you focus on intensive child-centric motherhood, the unhappier you will be.
These parenting skills involve "lots of conversation, reasoning and intellectually stimulating activities such as reading and support with play and homework.” Via iStock.
Prof Sevilla found that better educated mothers are the ones who tend to parent intensively and in studies they have consistently reported lower levels of well-being when caring for their children.
Better-educated mothers spend more time with their children than ever before and all this extra time isn’t making them happier – on the contrary it’s making them miserable.
“In the US, even after controlling for a wide set of socioeconomic characteristics, women with less than a high school degree spend about 12 hours per week providing child care, while college-educated women spend 16 hours. In most advanced economies, mothers in general increased their time with children from about one hour per day in the 1970s to about twice that much by 2010,” Prof Sevilla said.
And what do they do with all this time?
Well they “parent” don’t they?
They dedicate their time to “developmental child care activities”.
The paper says that these mothers tend to be “pioneers of focused mothering”, the type that” involves lots of conversation, reasoning and intellectually stimulating activities such as reading and support with play and homework.”
But it is impacting their mental health - better-educated mothers “have less leisure time than other mothers” and are “less happy.”
Not much time for drinks with the gals when you're busy at baby spelling classes.
Prof Sevilla explains that many of the activities we stress ourselves out over may not be helping us or our children at all.
“In short, it may not be good to advocate extra reading with the children if that produces stressed-out parents who end up yelling at the kids.”
She found that better educated mums found themselves under “more pressure” that less educated mothers, she said they felt a “social expectation” that they practice a more intensive, more interactive style of parenting.
But it’s not just the mums. Her research found that also the most highly educated fathers those with post-college qualifications “are finding less meaning and happiness in childcare than that reported by less-educated fathers.”
Who is your favourite TV mum? Post continues after video.
Margaret Nelson said in The Washington Post that it’s the child-centric helicopter parenting that is making us miserable. The constant hovering, the always there, its time consuming and more emotionally demanding than other parenting styles.
She points out that these intense relationships women have with their children leaves little time for other relationships.
“Many of the helicopter mothers I've spoken to have told me, often with pride in their voices, that their daughters are their best friends. At first, I wondered why these women -- some of them in their late 40s or 50s -- wouldn't prefer to spend their free time with people their own age. But as I looked more closely at the way they are tackling parenthood, I understood: They have no free time,” she says.
It’s the obvious by-product of devoting so much time to our children – we lose ourselves.
But what this latest research paper points out is that also impacts our kids.
“We know parents' mental health can make a big difference to children’s well-being.”
Maternal well-being is a long overlooked party of child rearing and child development. This research shows that all this time spent focused on the well-being of our children may not be doing them as much good as we thought it would.
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