Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

With privileges like that…

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 12, 2008

Instapundit:

NO POLITICAL ANGLE HERE: Newsweek: Working Moms Bad for Kids. “A new study finds that children of privileged families fare worse when the mother works outside the home.”

Fair enough questioning the timing, Glenn.  But probably not much to question about the conclusion.  It’s hard making it on one income these days, but it’s probably harder on kids to be “privileged” in terms of household income but having to “do without” their own mom most of the day.

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2 Responses to “With privileges like that…”

  1. Ara Rubyan said

    Well, getting a government per diem for living at home is good work if you can get it. And you can get it if you try.

  2. Jack said

    “Why do mothers’ choices have such different effects on kids, depending on their socioeconomic situations? Most likely, says Ruhm, the low-status kids get more intellectual stimulation in day care or with other caretakers, such as grandparents, than they do at home. Meanwhile, the high-status kids may find day care less enriching than being with their highly educated mothers. When these moms go back to work, “you’re pulling the [high-status] kids out of these really good home environments,” says Ruhm, “and a lot of the alternatives just aren’t as good.”

    That’s an interesting observation and conclusion, but without seeing the actual factors involve din the study and analyzing the variables tested and studied it’s hard to assess the accuracy of this conclusion. However if the mothers are highly educated then it seems likely that the loss of an educational enhancement (that is someone who positively augments whatever other educational venues are pursued) is likely to be detrimental at least to academic performance, and maybe also regarding patterns of diet, self-discipline, etc.

    Anyways, and here I will no doubt stir up opposition (but so what), I have never understood the idea of the stay-at-home mother (or father for that matter) as popularly conceived, that is the mother who does nothing but stay at home and tend the house. I do not intend to elevate myself as an example, but the idea of me staying at home (and I work from the home as a freelance writer, among other things) and doing nothing more than household chores and retrieving the kids from school is repugnant. And it would bore me to near suicide. In my case I wake up about 6 to 6:30, round up the kids, homeschool them til about 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon, work out and train, tend the home and grounds (cut grass, cut down trees, make repairs, tend the animals etc.) spend the rest of the after noon writing or conducting business, cook dinner (I used to be a cook as a kid, and whereas my wife is okay, I’m far better), then give the kids to my wife, and I use the rest of the evening to write, compose, work, do analyses, and so forth til bed.

    The idea of doing nothing but staying home and being basically unproductive repels me. (Now I am not saying that is what most stay at home mothers do, I do not know most stay at home moms, and the ones who homeschool their kids, they’re busy enough right there, but I have known mothers who do nothing but stay at home and do a few inside chores.) I do not see how the boredom fails to kill them.

    And with modern technology, the idea of a mother, or father, staying home and engaging herself or himself in nothing more than child-care (child-care is the most important thing a parent can do, but it is not the onion thing a stay at home parent can do, and should not be the only thing they do) is just, to me, a terrific waste of potential and a sorrowful example for the kid. My grandparents worked the farm, tended the children, took care of the animals, did work in the community, built the church, helped build barns and houses, and in later life also worked jobs to supplement earnings and savings. And instead of just taking care of kids, the kids were in the thick of it with them learning their duties, responsibilities, chores, books, and even playing to boot. Being together meant far more than watching TV and doing homework. Everything you did was part of your education and upbringing. Whatever happened to working from sun-up til sun-down at something productive and important? And to learning to be productive at something more than video games.

    I don’t believe these modern assumptions that staying at home in and of itself is some kind of privilege. (That if you can afford the privilege of staying at home that means you are absolved of the responsibilities of being productive at other things. If anything the additional wealth should mean you have opportunities to be more, not less, productive at a greater variety of things than less privileged people. Modern connotations about the meaning of privilege are shallow and petty. And modern ideas about the home are likewise vapid and small.) The privilege, or lack thereof, is determined by the value of the example you set for your children when you are around. If you stayed at home all day and all you did was watch TV and feed your kid Twinkies (and I’ve seen this with my own eyes) then your kid is about as smart as a modern actor, and about as trim and useful in a pinch as the local dairy cow. If you stay at home but work and exercise your kid, teach them things, and expect them to fulfill their duties and responsibilities, to grow great instead of just fat then you get an entirely different kind of kid. Methodologies and techniques count at anything you do in life. The point is if you’re gonna be at home much of the time that doesn’t mean you gotta sit on your lazy spread and watch yourself grow gargantuan with inactivity. Home used to be a base of operations for getting important things done. Nowadays too many people think it means, “the place where I can sit on my ass and do nothing.” What kinda home is that? What kinda example is that? If you’re gonna be home then let it be a worthwhile example, a microcosm of the way the world should work. And the world doesn’t stop spinning cause you got nothing better to do than sit on the couch. And your kids have better things to learn from you than the idea that sitting on the couch is an objective or achievement in life. Home is not an escape from the world (though it can and should be from time to time a sanctuary), it is a place in which you reshape the world. It starts at home and then spreads outwards. It doesn’t start at your gut and then spread downwards.

    As for the study, these are also some excellent points concerning how the study is assessed.

    “This is not the natural sciences, where we can replicate things,” he says. “If you’re of a particular ideology, you’re going to say about any given study, ‘I don’t want to believe this’.”

    There are certainly ways to pick apart Ruhm’s results. While the study is well designed, it’s missing some data, including one big part of the equation. The statistics he analyzed didn’t provide much information on who was taking care of the kids while their mothers worked: whether there were stay-at-home dads or other family caregivers around, whether the household employed a nanny, whether the child went to day care and, if so, how good that day care was. “The overall quality of the care, as indicated using national standards, is the key factor affecting child outcomes in terms of learning and social behavior,” says Vivian Carlson, a professor of family studies at Saint Joseph College in Connecticut. “The major flaw here is that the study doesn’t look at the type or the quality of the care, so I would find these results rather meaningless.” Ruhm himself admits that the care factor is a big one, even for school-aged kids who don’t need someone to keep an eye on them every minute: “As we get to older kids, are we looking at after-school care versus being a latchkey kid? That could make a huge difference.” – No duff. You mean just because all cars are cars it doesn’t mean all cars are racecars? Well, I’ll be durned. You learn something new every day.

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