Recipe for Disaster


Second Child Too Much for Working Mums

I think we're seeing in working mothers a change from "Thank God it's Friday" to "Thank God it's Monday."  If any working mother has not experienced that feeling, her children are not adolescent.

- Ann Diehl

Aucklander Christine Keys went back to work when her first child was 7 months old.  But after her second child, she chose to stay home.  "I just felt I could do it with one, but two is double the load and I didn't want to continue in the rat race."

The Glendowie mother is one of many who leave their jobs as a result of "second child syndrome."  According to British research, women struggle to cope with work and 2 children, and instead choose to leave the workforce.  A Kent University study of 400 women shows 75% of mothers return to work after their first baby, but 1/2 drop out of the workforce completely after the arrival of the second child.

Auckland University sociology head Maureen Baker said parents often quit work after their second child because of difficulties with childcare.  Childcare costs here and in Britain were extremely high compared with other countries.  Another factor was the logistics of getting children to and from childcare.

Amanda McIntosh, who operates 3 home-based childcare services in Auckland, said that of the 200 children in her care, fewer than 1 in 10 had a brother or sister also in care.  She said it was a time factor for parents.  "It is not until you get a second child that you realise how much time it takes.  It's the sheer logistics [and] you need a lot of resources."  The fees were about $6.50 an hour for 2 children.  "If you're earning $10 an hour, you have to ask: Is it worth it?"

Television news presenter Alison Mau said she would probably work part-time after the arrival of her second child.  "[A second child] is just harder," she said.  "For many people it must be a nightmare."

Rebecca Abrams, whose new book, Three Shoes, One Sock And No Hair Brush: Everything You Need To Know about Having Your Second Child, identifies this situation as second-child syndrome.  "Most women are totally unprepared for the impact of a second child on their working lives," she says.  "It isn't just the cost of childcare, although that's important.  It's the lack of time, the strain on relationships of having both parents in work, the complex logistics of working life with two children.  All these factors together prompt - and sometimes force - women to re-evaluate their priorities." - NZPA

Source: The Evening Post Monday 26 March 2001

If being able to stay home and do a better job of raising one's children is merely a matter of "re-evaluating priorities" perhaps it's no bad thing...

Source: Funny Times January 2002

This Be the Verse

by Philip Larkin (1922 - 1980)

They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one-another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Less Help at Home: Female Support for New Moms on the Decline

by Frances K Goldscheider and Berna M Torr

How is motherhood different than it was a century ago?  In the past, live-in grandmothers, relatives, and other women were frequently available to assist with childcare.  But times have changed.  New research shows that today’s mothers with young children are getting substantially less help around the house.  Even when other women are living in the household, they aren’t necessarily on hand to help with the kids.  This research appears in Demography.

Providence, Rhode Island [Brown University] - Mothers of young children have experienced a significant decline in the presence and availability of other women in the household over the last 120 years, according to new research by Brown University sociologist Susan E Short.  In addition to Short, the research team included Frances K Goldscheider and Berna M. Torr.

Analyzing US census data from 1880 to 2000, the researchers examined patterns of co-residence for mothers with children 5 years old or younger.  They focused on the household presence of females who traditionally helped mothers with childcare, such as the women’s mothers and mothers-in-law, other female relatives and non-relatives, and older daughters.

"This work adds to current discussion of work-family balance issues - and the ‘burden’ young mothers experience while trying to balance time demands - by looking beyond the young mothers’ own time-demands and the contributions made by fathers," Short explained.  "We focus on the presence and availability of other females in their households who might help out.  Over the last century, the likelihood that they are there has declined.  And it has declined most for women employed in non-agricultural activities."

The findings show that at the end of the 20th century, only about 20% of mothers with young children lived with another female who might help with housework and childcare, compared to nearly 50% in the late 19th century.  The average number of co-residing females in the home also declined over time.

Even when another female was present in the household, the researchers found that the availability of these co-residing women also significantly declined.  For example, in 1880, 24% of mothers lived with a female age 10 or older who was not attending school or employed outside the home (therefore making them more available to assist with childcare).  By 2000, that number had fallen to only 5%.

The researchers then divided this decline into two parts - changes in living arrangements and changes in schooling or work - and found that about half the decline was due to the decreased likelihood of living with other females and half the decline was due to increases in school or work involvement among co-resident females.  The overall decline in having an older daughter around the house to help with the younger children was mostly due to the increased likelihood that older daughters were attending school.  The overall decline in availability of mothers and mothers-in-law is mostly due to the increased likelihood that co-resident mothers and mothers-in-law are working outside the home.

This research grew out of a project funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  The researchers are currently exploring how the decline differs for different groups of young mothers.

Source: 11 December 2006

19 Minutes - How Long Working Parents Give Their Children

by Becky Barrow

A typical working parent spends just 19 minutes a day looking after their children, official figures revealed yesterday.  The startling research shows the devastating impact that working full-time has on children who hardly see their parents.  With less than 20 minutes spent with their parents every day, this is only enough time to eat a quick breakfast together or have a couple of bed-time stories.

The Office for National Statistics looked at nearly 4,950 people over the age of 16 in Britain to find out what they do all day.  The findings make grim reading for working parents who already worry that they spend too much time at work - and too little at home.  Parents who work full-time spend just 19 minutes every day "caring for [their] own children", according to ONS's "Time Use Survey", published yesterday.  A further 16 minutes is spent looking after their children as a "secondary activity", but this means that they are doing something else - such as the weekly supermarket shop - at the same time.

The findings come at a time when record numbers of women are working as huge mortgages and soaring household bills force them to earn a living.  Official figures show that 12.6million women have a job, compared to just 8.5million in the 1970s.  The ONS looked specifically at working women in Britain and what they do during a typical 24-hour period to create a typical "Diary of a Working Mum".  They sleep less and work more than any other "type" of woman - and still have to do about 2½ hours "domestic work" every day, it reveals.  A typical working woman gets nearly 40 minutes less sleep every night than a full-time mother who gets more than 9 hours sleep every night.  This is because she gets up earlier to travel into work every day, or spends time every night doing a long list of domestic chores before going to bed.  On average, a working woman toils at work for over 5 hours a day, although this figure appears low because it includes holidays and weekends when no work is done.

Recent research showed that most mothers with young families would prefer to stay at home and look after their children.  A survey of working mothers found that just 6% wanted to work full-time, according to Prima magazine.  Half wanted to combine bringing up their children with a part-time job, while more than a quarter wanted to be a full-time mother.  They were asked: "In an ideal world, what would you like to be?"  26% said they wanted to be a "housewife and mother".  The most popular response, given by 50%, was to be a "mum who works part-time".  Maire Fahey, editor of Prima, said: "In the 1980s, we thought we could have it all and aspired to high-flying careers and happy families.  But the cracks are starting to show.  Family life is suffering and something has got to give."

The new ONS survey shows that life is also extremely tough for fathers with young families, particularly those whose youngest children is under the age of 4.  They sleep less, works more and do more "domestic" work than any other "type" of man, such as one with older children or one with no children.  A typical father whose youngest child is under 4 gets less than 8 hours sleep a night and does more than 3 hours of domestic chores every day.  They are also working more than one hour a day longer than their male colleagues who do not have children.

Overall, the ONS found that a typical person's 24-hours is mostly spent sleeping, working and watching television, which are the top three activities.  A woman will spend 8.3 hours asleep, 2.4 hours watching television, DVDs or videos and 2.2 hours working.  A man will spend 8 hours alseep, 2.8 hours watching television, DVDs or videos and 3.5 hours working.  Just 24 minutes in 24 hours is spent reading, a figure which drops to just 10 minutes for younger people.

Source: 19 July 2006

In a choice between watching TV or spending time with the kid(s), it is clear which is more important.  But there is now an alternative!

Child Robot Makes Debut

A child-sized android stands up with assistance.
Is this better than having a dog dressed in a cape and booties?

A child-sized android with flexible joints and soft skin developed by the Japan Science and Technology Agency was unveiled Friday at Osaka University, where the agency's research and development team is based.  The 1.3-meter-tall, 33 kilogram humanoid robot has optical, auditory and tactile sensors.  51 actuators inside its body run on compressed air and enable the robot to make complex movements smoothly.  About 200 tactile sensors are embedded in the robot's gray skin, which is made of silicon and other materials.  The robot can react to its surroundings by blinking and altering its facial expressions.

The robot, which has the physical ability of a 1- or 2-year-old toddler, can turn over and stand up with assistance.  At the news conference Friday, the humanoid moved its hands and feet and turned its eyes.  Its name is CB2, an abbreviation of Child-Robot with Biomimetic Body.

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun 2 June 2007

Artifact Children

Term invented (or at least popularized) by the late musician Frank Zappa to describe children conceived primarily for the experience of having them.

"There seems to be this trend for the young modern parent to have a child for these reasons: For the woman to experience the miracle of childbirth and for the young couple to raise their precious child to be this immaculate artifact of modern society. If people think today's punk kids are repulsive, wait until they see what these little artifact children are going to do."

- Frank Zappa


What Is Walter Miller Jr’s Short Story "Conditionally Human" about?

This story imagines a future world where over-population has created a need for drastic social measures.  The only people allowed to breed are "Class A" - those with an impeccable health and genetic record.  To comfort them in their childless state, the rest of the population are allowed to have specially engineered pets which look more or less human and can utter simple words.  Their intelligence is kept at the level of a small child, and their lives are short; if they don’t die, they are rounded up and quietly disposed of.

A man whose job is to arrange this disposal finds himself in a dilemma.  He finds one of these "pets" being concealed by her adoptive grandfather, who has taught her to pretend to be like the other mutant children.  In fact, she ... has intelligence as great or greater than that of a human child.  To kill her would clearly be murder...

Source: 6 December 2006

See also:

bulletThe Hectic Life of a Working Mother - Describing Diane's life as hectic is an under-statement - especially when you are organising two full-time working adults and 3 children under 7 years old.  Diane is the administration manager for a radio station, and when she's not organising her household she's organising the professional lives of the 6 staff...
bulletProfessional Mothers - Mothers at home suspect that mothers who work regard them as vegetative; uninteresting and unhappy.  Mothers who work suspect mothers at home regard them as not very good mothers.  "If you choose to work," one friend complains, "you pick up this undercurrent from other mothers that you've taken the more selfish option"...

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