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Capitalism has brought drastic changes to American society, particularly in the evolution of family. Before capitalism arrived and shook the society, the family was the core of both the economic production and political institution. Parents work around their farms and work production was based primarily for household survival. Since labor methods were purely physical, the larger the family sizes the better. Capitalism came, and suddenly “work” was detached from “home”. With the birth of capitalism, job opportunities gave a way for fathers and mothers to leave home and work for factories and business establishments.
One hundred years ago, people get married, because they belong to the same class (Horowitz, 2007). In those times, leaving a marriage was apparently not a great idea. However, capitalism gave people certain liberation from the strict social strata, therefore choosing love and emotional fulfillment as basis for marriage. At present times, when a marriage is not equally satisfying anymore, divorce papers, more often than not, are on their way to be served. Parents place their self-actualization needs as a priority.
One necessary and vital component of families is parental quality time with children. Various studies have shown of the positive influence of time spent with kids on child outcomes. With ample amount of parental time, better academic performance and less behavioral problems are predicted to occur in childhood (Bulanda & Lipman, 2009). Quality time with parents provide an avenue for kids to grow socially, cognitively and emotionally. In the pre-industrial times, the time parents spent at home was not necessarily focused around the kids. Mothers were cleaning the house and helping their spouses if possible; fathers were working on the farms. Older kids were expected to take good care of their younger siblings. Childhood back then was more of helping their parents and not the other way around. But this culture has been modified ever since and right now, parents are seen to be much involved with their children compared before.
Typical modern heterosexual families usually are smaller in size, with highly educated parents sharing household responsibilities and familial obligations. With both parents out in the paid labor force, one can assume right away that working parents often neglect the needs of their children, leaving them to babysitters and daycare centers. While it is true that parents are required to work longer at present than in the past, the contexts of parenting have dramatically changed too.
In an article written by Tara Parker-Pope published in New York Times, she states that family time has considerably increased in the present than the time spent of earlier generation parents with their children in the past, as based on the research study by two economists at the University of California. The study reports that the quantity of child care time spent by American parents at all income levels — and particularly those with a tertiary education — has risen radically ever since the mid-1990s. This simply means that parents of modern and industrialized America, although burdened with much harsher working hours, have utilized their free time mostly around and with their children. The data shows that by 2007, college-educated mothers spend 21.1 hours a week attending to the needs of their kids, while a total of 15.9 hours are spent by mothers with less education. That is roughly 4-9 hours higher compared to the pre-1995’s 12 hours a week of quality time between mothers and their children. Men are also on the rise of statistics, spending 9.6 hours a week for college-educated fathers and 6.8 hours for the less educated fathers. Fathers before 1995 were spending 4.5 hours for the educated and 3.7 hours for the less educated men. The data above clashes the popular belief of scholars that with the increasing rates of mothers entering the labor workforce implicates that less time is spend with the children. The obvious point is when parents spend more time at work; they are spending less time at home. But why the statistics is saying otherwise? Moreover, where is the free time coming from?
Working fathers and mothers have been in pursuit of balance between work and family life. Scholars have been greatly promoting flexible working hours to employers. While this may sound totally reasonable and a win-win situation, a parent’s work-life balance can be another colleague’s work-life overload. Therefore, not all firms and institutions can adapt flexibility of working schedules among employees. One scenario was clearly expounded by Anne-Marie Slaughter in her recent article in The Atlantic. When she was in holding a high-level State Department job, she found herself unable to attend the needs of her two adolescent sons. Flexibility in the workplace is highly advocated by the scholars and the implementation of such will tremendously help to add parental quality time with children.
The key is a flexibility of schedules. Working fathers can swap overtimes with co-workers that have no kids, and mothers can get part-time jobs instead of a full time one. Flexibility around employment area, although, needs more research and careful analysis for methodologies that actually work, is not impossible to achieve. If strived hard for, working schedules can be molded to fit in the personal lives of a working parent. As long as there is a clear line of communication between employees and employers, a flextime is feasible.
Modern quality time is seen as a combination of direct parental time spent with children and parental accessibility. The former is visible when parents help in their kids’ homework, attend PTA classes, or are having a family dinner in a nice restaurant. Parental accessibility means simply being there when your child needs you. Mothers can cut cooking meals and cleaning the house when at home, and fathers can also save the weekends specifically for spending time with the children. Even a simple gathering together in the couch on a Saturday night watching a family-oriented movie can add visibility of parents around their kids.
In conclusion, the growth of the economy has provided parents a way of supporting their children economically. Parenting has certainly evolved along with the revolution of industrialization. With mothers participating in the workforce and fathers more actively involved in the child rearing, the future of the next American generation is not clear. To balance their jobs and maintain a favorable environment inside their homes is certainly not a walk in the park. But parents these days are doing their best to raise their children the best way possible- providing food in the table and sufficient parental time at the same time.