Fast Company Article #1 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Fast Company Article #1 What Parents seem to be in denial about is the effect that their pressured lives have on their kids." In this article, Tony Schwartz summarizes important findings from the book titled Ask the Children: What America's Children Really Think About Working Parents. The book is written by Ellen Galinsky and is based on a study of more than 1000 children from ages 3 through 12. The study also included information from 600 of the children's parents.

According to Schwartz, Galinksky's book is very complex. She states that because fathers are getting involved with their children, working parents are sharing more cumulative time with their children than they did 20 years ago. In Galinksky's book, parents are given grades for their parenting. She is happy to report that a mother's employment is not an indicator of a poor grade. Also, the employment status of a mother does not determine how much time children claim that they spend with their mother.

Schwartz finds Galinsky's statistics disturbing because of the gaping beliefs between children and their parents over the issue of how work affects the quality of parenting. The results of her study show that parents sensationally exaggerate the time they say they spend with their children. Another disturbing factor is what Galinsky refers to as the "spillover" effect; when parents feel stressed at work, their parenting suffers.

According to Galinsky there is little connection to what kids say and parents believe. One question the kids responded to was, "If you were granted one wish to change the way that your mother's/your father's work affects your life, what would that wish be?" Parents assumed that their children would wish for more time together with them. Instead, 34% of the kids said they want their parents to be less stressed. Only 2 % of the parents guessed that this would be their children's highest priority.

Schwartz came to the conclusion that kids who spend less time with their parents will have more trouble than kids who spend more time with their parents. An obvious solution to this problem, as stated by Schwartz, would be for parents to spend less time at work, but he recognizes that this may not be a realistic solution for most parents. Schwartz summarizes five suggestions that he finds most powerful when dealing with the "time" issue. They are: pay more attention to family routines and rituals, create boundaries in your life, be there when it counts, talk more about your work life, and find out how your kids are feeling, even if they seem to resist telling you.

This article hit home for me because I am a working mom who feels the stress around me each day. When I force myself to think about whether my stress follows me home, this analogy comes to mind. I am in a smoke-filled bar slamming down (definitely not sipping) some ice cold beers. I notice time has slipped away from me and I rush home to my husband and kids. My teenage daughter meets me at the back door and her face registers disgust as the smell of smoke and alcohol overwhelm her. This is where my analogy comes in. I believe that the stress of work, completing a masters degree, house maintenance, arena-driver, dog sitter, appliance repair, and the profession of doctor and counselor to my children, hangs on me just like the smell of a smoke-filled bar. The stress is there and I know it by the hurt looks, among other looks, that my children share with me on a daily basis.

I am guilty as charged when Galinsky claims that parents exaggerate the amount of time they suggest they spend with their children. To acknowledge the truth is just too stressful. I actively spend more time in the car with my children than any other place. What is the worst part of this is I pray they will just be quiet so I can have a moment of peace.

One of Galinsky's solution for parents is to find out how your kids are feeling, even if they seem to resist telling you. My older two children are teenagers and I agree with Galinsky that you can not give up trying to communicate with your children even if they walk away from you. The goal is to walk along with them and listen to them while controlling the urge to advise them.

I do not give my children a lot of space when I am at home. ( I guess the key words are "when I am at home".) I bombard them with questions about their day and I listen to their grunts and short responses and watch their emotional facial expressions, which are my only clues to whether they are really OK. I search for ways to better communicate with my kids. I look for group interactions that will strengthen our family. ( Avoid the game Phase 10 - I have tried that one) My goal then, if I take Schwartz's advice, is not only to pay attention to the amount of time I spend listening to my children's stories while telling them a little about my daily stories, but to avoid bringing the big ugly monster "stress" home with me, if that is at all possible.

-- Anonymous, April 23, 2000

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