parental guidance

Dr. Lendon H. Smith : Parental Guidance is Suggested

“We are a nation of walking wounded. A biological deterioration of American health is thought to be taking place (due to our) food additives, pollution, medical system devoted to drugs and chemicals, foods grown on depleted soils, and vaccination programs.”

–Dr. Lendon H. Smith

When Those Providing Parental Guidance Need Guidance

In a world in which science is increasingly in the service of business, it can be difficult to sort through all the conflicting advice and information regarding our children’s health. Dr. Lendon Smith was a household name in parental guidance during the 1960’s. In addition to having a five minute daytime show called The Children’s Doctor from 1966 to 1969, he appeared regularly on both The Tonight Show and The Phil Donahue Show .

Although much of his work has been discredited, many of his controversial views are still being discussed today. Smith formulated a theory while working at a free clinic for heroin addicts that they suffered from hyperactivity and began prescribing Ritalin for them. In 1975, his medical license was restricted as a result. He later reversed his position on the use of the drug, and argued against its use in the treatment of children with ADHD. Many of his parental guidance theories revolved around nutrition and he advocated the use of naturopathic medicine.

His belief in alternative medicine eventually led to his surrendering his license in 1987. At that time, insurance companies did not cover services provided by chiropractors, homeopaths, or acupuncturists. He signed patients’ insurance claims after referring them for alternative treatments, including nutrition-oriented specialists. Because he had not treated the patients himself, he was charged with an ethics violation by the Board of Medical Examiners. Despite much of his work having been discredited as the result of surrendering his license, many of his theories are still being discussed today.

Parental Guidance Regarding the Importance of Nutrition

According to Smith, proper nutrition is of prime importance not only for physical health, but for mental and emotional health as well. Ahead of his time in many ways, he cautioned against sugar, bleached flour, and junk food. In his opinion, these things contributed to hyperactivity, obesity, allergies and illnesses in both children and adults.

Numerous studies have since been conducted that support his theories regarding nutrition and natural medicine. For example, one recent study revealed that long-term use of Ritalin can affect the brain, resulting in chronic depression and limited impulse control.

Smith also voiced concerns over the use of vaccines, which has become a modern controversial issue. This is partly a result of a loss of public trust in drug companies that often seem to prioritize profits over public health. He authored and co-authored a number of parental guidance books on children’s health and nutrition, including “Feed Your Kids Right“. Most of his work focused on nutrition, hyperactivity, and stress reduction, issues which are perhaps even more relevant for today’s parents.

The Life Balances International Program that he developed proved to be a failed experiment that further discredited his other work. He presented it as a “monitoring method” to determine whether an individual was deficient in a particular nutrient. Responses to a questionnaire and the results of blood chemistry tests were run through a computer program that concluded what dietary supplements were necessary. All of this seems scientifically logical.
However, his claim that individuals’ reactions to sniffing the contents of the bottles would determine which one they were in need of was less scientifically sound. He stated that

“The sweeter or more delightful the smell, the more it is needed. If the contents smell repugnant, it is not to be taken at that particular time.”

The supplemental products were marketed and sold in a package that included an electrolyte solution, 20 bottles of vitamins, and 6 bottles of minerals. The cost of the program was $688.00.

In an interview on the currently popular Dr. Mercola’s website he addressed several issues that have gained greater social awareness in recent years. Among those issues is the depletion of topsoil caused by the use of nitrogen and phosphates in modern farming. Valuable minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and selenium are depleted from the soil, reducing the nutritional value of the crops.

Another issue is the growing number of psychiatric “conditions” that have been added to the DSM for purposes of compensation by insurance companies. In his view, effective parental guidance for many children suffering from such conditions has been replaced by drug therapy to the detriment of children.

One of the most difficult tasks parents face today is sifting through all of the often conflicting parental guidance information now available. Dr. Smith’s legacy seems to be one of reminding parents of the importance of proper nutrition and reducing the need for the miracles of modern medicine.

parental guidance

adolescent and child psychologist

Adolescent and Child Psychologist Stanley Hall: A Man of Firsts

“Gross well says that children are young because they play, and not vice versa; and he might have added, men grow old because they stop playing, and not conversely, for play is, at bottom, growth, and at the top of the intellectual scale it is the eternal type of research from sheer love of truth.”

Adolescent and child psychologist Stanley Hall: A Pioneer of Evolutionary Psychology

Stanley Hall earned the first doctorate in psychology ever awarded in the United States in 1878. As psychology was still in its infancy there, he then studied at the University of Berlin. When he returned, he created the first psychology laboratory in the U.S. at Johns Hopkins University. He started the American Journal of Psychology in 1887 and went on to become the first president of the American Psychological Association in 1892. He also served as the first president of Clark University from 1889 to 1920.

While president of Clark University, he contributed to the development of the field of educational psychology. He was one of the first to study the effects of adolescence on education, and invited both Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung to participate in a lecture series on that subject.

Controversies Surrounding Stanley Hall

A number of Hall’s theories proved to be controversial. One of those was the theory of recapitulation, first developed by Ernst Haeckel, who said that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny“. Ontogeny is the growth and development of an individual organism, while phylogeny is the evolutionary history of an entire species. According to this theory, which has since been largely discredited, each developmental stage of an individual represents a stage in the evolutionary history of the species.

Some of his theories are more controversial today than they were at the time. For example, he believed that males and females should be separated during adolescence in order to successfully adapt to their gender roles. He believed that men and women had distinctly different physical, mental and spiritual roles, that women were inferior to men and that their education should not include any corrupting influences that would encourage independence.

His influence as an adolescent and child psychologist helped shape educational policies that reflected his beliefs. As an adolescent and child psychologist, he believed that puberty was a time of “storm and stress” characterized by conflict, mood swings and risk-taking behavior. His most well-received book was “Adolescence–Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, and Religion“.

Margaret Mead and Albert Bandura were among his most vocal critics. Bandura believed that his theory about the difficulties of adolescence would create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mead, through her anthropological research of adolescence in other societies, concluded that the majority of the difficulties faced by adolescents is the result of civilization.

Another controversial issue was his belief in the desirability of racial eugenics and forced sterilization of those deemed unfit to breed.

Further, he believed that those who were “defective” whether physically, intellectually, or emotionally would interfere with natural selection and weaken the race. Those who were deemed fit had the responsibility of having more than one child. He once said that

“Being an only child is a disease in itself.”

Finally, he felt that emphasizing individual rights would lead to the fall of civilization.

Lasting Contributions of Stanley Hall

While many of Dr. Hall’s theories seem to lack compassion, he did recognize the difficulty of the requirement of the educational system for adolescents to remain still for long periods of time. He advocated that more physical movement be incorporated into the educational system, and may well be responsible for the creation of both recess and physical education. He was quoted as saying that

“Constant muscular activity was natural for the child, and, therefore, the immense effort of the drillmaster teachers to make children sit still was harmful and useless.”

Ironically, despite his stance on issues of race, Hall served as a mentor for Francis Cecil Sumner , the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in psychology. Sumner served as chair of the psychology department of Howard University from 1928 to 1954. During his academic career, he taught many, such as Kenneth B. Clark, who went on to become highly influential in struggle for civil rights. Because he spoke four languages, he also served as a translator and abstractor for psychological journals.

Despite what his critics called his lack of objectivity and flawed data collection methods, Hall remained highly influential as an adolescent and child psychologist and is still the second most cited “expert” in his field. He agreed with Freud’s theory that children are born sexual beings and should therefore receive sex education. He also believed that the best way to determine what to teach children next was to first determine what they already knew. This educational principle has proven to be effective and is still used in both academics and business training courses.

Fortunately for women, adolescent and child psychologist Stanley Hall may have been the first to advance psychological theories, but he wasn’t the last.

adolescent and child psychologist

rhesus animal mother

The Importance of Extended Family and What We Can Learn From Our Distant Cousins

“In our study of psychopathology, we began as sadists trying to produce abnormality. Today, we are psychiatrists trying to achieve normality and equanimity.”

–Harry Harlow

The Rhesus Animal Mother and Her Contributions to Science and Motherhood

The rhesus animal mother has contributed more to our knowledge of human development than most people realize, and at a great cost. Harry Harlow, a contemporary of Abraham Maslow, conducted research using rhesus monkeys that demonstrated the importance of caregiving and companionship in social and cognitive development. In 1932, he began a breeding colony of Rhesus macaques in order to study their natural behavior. He then performed scientific experiments and noted how their behavior changed under certain conditions.

In nature, the rhesus animal mother is diurnal, and raises her young both in trees and on land. They are mostly herbivorous, feeding mainly on fruit, seeds, roots and bark. Females can outnumber males by as much as 4:1, and they have a separate hierarchy from that of the males. For breeding purposes, they exhibit philopatry, which is returning to the same breeding ground repeatedly. Females have very strong matrilineal hierarchies. Her rank depends upon the rank of her mother. A single group of females may have a number of matrilineal lines within the hierarchy. Unlike other species of monkeys, part of the ranking is based on fitness and fertility, which results in younger females often ranking higher than their older sisters.

Males provide resources and protection from predators, so the potential rhesus animal mother attempts to mate with larger males that are most likely to ensure the survival of their young. During the breeding period of up to eleven days, females mate with up to four males. The rhesus animal mother reaches sexual maturity at four years of age, and remains fertile until menopause at age twenty-five. Males, aside from their role as protectors and providers, do not participate in raising their offspring, but maintain peaceful relationships with them.

A rhesus animal mother with an infant and one or more older daughters that have not yet reached child-bearing age often delegate infant care to those daughters. These high-ranking females often reject their infants and mate earlier in the breeding season than usual after having given birth. Some even abuse their infants, investing little time in their development. These behaviors are associated with the increased stress of caring for multiple offspring.

In his study, Harry Harlow reared rhesus monkeys in a nursery setting, rather than with their mothers. This controversial study involved a high degree of maternal deprivation. The rhesus animal mother raised in isolation without its own mother has difficulty accepting contact with infants or exhibiting normal maternal behavior. During these experiments, monkeys were isolated for periods of time ranging from 3 months to up to 15 years, then placed in various settings where their behavior was observed. Abnormal behaviors that resulted from the isolation included blank staring, repetitive motion and circling, and even self-mutilation. Consequently, there was a loud public outcry against the cruelty of these experiments.

One of the reasons for the public outcry is that rhesus monkeys are so close to humans, sharing 93% of our DNA. They also have similar cognitive abilities, including the ability to understand rules, make judgments, and be aware of their own mental states. In 2014, it was reported in India that an unconscious rhesus monkey was revived by another giving it a crude kind of CPR. The results of these studies, although they were obtained in such a cruel manner, provide some important information.

For monkeys that were isolated for six months, it was found that they could achieve complete social recovery by being exposed to younger monkeys that provided peer therapy. It was also found that the experience of touch is extremely important. Monkeys that were touch deprived, in addition to abnormal behaviors, also displayed weakened immune systems. The studies showed an indisputable link between the amount of physical contact such as grooming an infant received in the first six months and its ability to produce antibodies by one year of age. Valuable research is still being conducted with rhesus monkeys, but using far more humane methodology.

One of the most important results of Harlow’s experiments was reducing the influence of childcare “experts” that advocated not spoiling children with too much affection. The human mother owes a debt of gratitude to her distant cousin, the rhesus animal mother, for her sacrifices in demonstrating the true power of a mother’s loving touch.

rhesus animal mother
Rhesus monkey, by Aiwok
cooperative family life

How Cooperative Family Life Can Change the World

“The desire to psychologically connect with others had to evolve before language…We still have to explain why humans are so much better than chimpanzees at conceptualizing what others are thinking, why we are born innately eager to interpret their motives, feelings, and intentions as well as care about their affective states and moods—in short, why humans are so well equipped for mutual understanding.”

–Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

The First Development in the Evolution of Cooperative Family Life: Compassion

There has been a great deal of discussion among evolutionists about whether compassion is the product of the evolutionary process. Charles Darwin, one of the founders of evolutionary theory, argued that humans’ highest moral achievement was concern for the well-being of others. Further, he pointed out that compassion is also found in other species. For example, in one experiment, rats would only be fed if they pressed a lever which would deliver an electric shock to their littermates. The rats refused to press the lever, despite their hunger.

While it may be most common among family members, demonstrations of compassion are often observed in interactions even between members of different species. These demonstrations support Darwin’s theory that compassion begins in the family, spreading outward into the surrounding community, further into a nation, and eventually, around the globe. His theory seems to be proving correct. According to one 2011 article, researchers studied 32 modern foraging societies and found a high incidence of cooperation despite most of their members not being genetically related.

Evolutionary psychologists like Martin Daly and Margo Wilson as well as anthropologists have contributed to our understanding of how human compassion evolved. Anthropologist, professor, and mother of three Sara Blaffer Hrdy is among those dedicated to using the lessons of the past to improve parenting in the present. Her book Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding” sheds new light on the societal evolution of motherhood.

The Evolutionary Basis for Cooperative Family Life

There are several theories regarding how humans developed the compassion necessary for cooperative family life.According to one theory,ape intelligence within stable societies is partially defined by the ability to determine social status, recognize deception, and cooperate. These attributes and skills within a competitive social group help insure reproductive success.

One of the most important and distinguishing differences between ape mothers and human mothers is that while ape mothers maintain constant contact with their infants, human mothers allow other people to hold their infants from the moment they are born. The extreme helplessness of the human infant, coupled with their slower rate of growth and development, resulted in the evolutionary necessity for cooperative family life. Since humans take many years to reach adulthood, it was necessary to acquire the capacity to understand others, and therefore determine who is safe to participate in the process of caring for the child.

The Effect of Longevity on the Evolution of Cooperative Family Life
Another important biological difference between human mothers and other species is that human females live for many years after menopause. Female apes don’t survive very long past their reproductive years. That difference led to the “Grandmother Hypothesis“, which postulated that the assistance of grandmothers made longer periods of dependency, and greater social intelligence, possible.

This theory was one of the influences that led to Hrdy’s cooperative breeding hypothesis. Because human babies are cared for by a number of individuals, termed alloparents, they develop skills specifically designed to maintain contact with their caregivers. One of those skills is the ability to effectively read and respond to particular facial expressions. That ability, developed over the many years of human dependence upon other members of the community for survival, provided the basis for the human trait we know as compassion.

Another feature of the cooperative breeding theory in the animal kingdom is that some members of the community forfeit their own reproductive success to contribute to the reproductive success of others determined to be more reproductively “fit”. That fitness is determined by those having genetic traits most conducive to the continued long term survival of the group. Those forfeiting become helpers. Generations of exposure to a variety of caretaking helpers ensuring their survival led to the natural selection of humans with a greater capacity for successful interpersonal engagement. This could be called the survival of not only the fittest, but the kindest.
Compassion leads to cooperative family life, which then expands to include others. Hopefully, it will one day expand towards the creation of a cooperative global society.

cooperative family life
Andromache and Astyanax, Pierre Paul Prud’hon, (French, Cluny 1758 1823 Paris), Artist completed by Charles Boulanger de
developmental parenting styles

Arnold Gesell’s Contribution to Modern Developmental Parenting Styles: The Freedom To Be You

Arnold Gesell’s Lasting Contributions to Modern Developmental Parenting Styles

“The child’s personality is a product of slow gradual growth. His nervous system matures by stages and natural sequences. He sits before he stands; he babbles before he talks; he fabricates before he tells the truth; he draws a circle before he draws a square; he is selfish before he is altruistic; he is dependent on others before he achieves dependence on self. All of his abilities, including his morals, are subject to laws of growth. The task of child care is not to force him into a predetermined pattern but to guide his growth.”

–Arnold Gesell

Today’s parents have the benefit of utilizing information and experience from a wide variety of developmental parenting styles. One of the pioneers of child development theory and a champion of individuality, Arnold Gesell introduced an entirely new view of child development.

Arnold Gesell is most well-known for his popular book “Infant and Child in the Culture of Today: the Guidance of Development in Home and Nursery School. After receiving his Ph.D from Clark University, in 1906, he served as an assistant professor at Yale University. While there, he developed an interest in physiology and continued his studies and received his M.D. in 1915.

Among his primary interests were the causes and treatment of childhood disabilities. His outstanding research in that field led to the creation of the Clinic of Child Development and a full professorship at Yale. In order to improve observation techniques, he invented the Gesell dome, which was a one-way mirror named for its shape. Under this dome, children could be observed without the distraction of seeing their own reflections. He was one of the first researchers to combine the use of a one-way mirror and a movie camera to record and study children’s responses to stimuli in a controlled environment.

Through observation of approximately 12,000 children, he reached several conclusions. One of his conclusions was that all children experience specific stages of development. Gesell was the first to conclude that children develop not by age, but in stages. His research led to his belief that while those stages are the same for all children, the pace at which they reach each stage of development is not dependent upon their ages, but a combination of internal and external factors. Internal factors include genetics, physical development, and personality. External factors include environmental influences such as parents, peers, and society. His research also led to many of the developmental parenting styles of parents today.

Controversy Surrounding the Maturational Theory

Gesell’s Maturational Theory of child development led to the publication of the Gesell Developmental Schedules, which summarized descriptions of each developmental stage and its sequence. Critics of his theories maintained that he relied too heavily on genetic factors to accurately account for the complexity of perception, learning, and behavioral processes. The controversy surrounding his maturational theory still continues. However, Gesell himself was the first to recognize and acknowledge the difficulty of distinguishing between nature and nurture as the primary cause of a developmental delay.

One of the greatest benefits his research had on modern developmental parenting styles was freeing parents from the anxiety caused by rigid, age-based theories of development. Age based theories often had the effect of causing parents to panic or feel that there was something “wrong” if a child did not, for example, take its first step by the age of one year. Famous examples, such as Albert Einstein, who did not speak until the age of four, clearly demonstrate the vast range of differences in stages of development that can occur. Gesell’s theories also helped reduce the social stigma from children whose developmental schedules deviated from what age-based theorists decreed as “the norm”.

The Gesell Institute of Human Development, named after him in 1950, was started by his colleagues from the Clinic of Child Development. One of them was Dr. Frances Ilg, with whom he co-authored two books about developmental parenting styles. Although he was already retired by 1948, his theories are still highly respected today. In addition to championing equal rights and education for those with developmental disabilities, he was also ahead of his time in advocating for a universal childcare system. His theories also remain relevant regarding the current controversy over standardized testing and the development of educational curriculum.

Societies seem to be notoriously slow when it comes to implementing new scientific knowledge. However, there is increasing evidence that his research is resulting in developmental parenting styles that celebrate the unique individuality of every child.

developmental parenting styles

parental ego

Parental Ego: How Children Are Living Mirrors of Self-Discovery

“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”

–Dr. Shefali Tsabury

Letting Go of Negative Parental Ego

Most of us have heard and even laughed about stories involving extreme parental ego. The Little League father who gets into a physical altercation with the coach who calls his son out at home plate is a good example. When parents see their children as reflections of themselves rather than as separate individuals, it may be a manifestation of parental ego.

To be sure, many societies encourage such a view by making parents responsible for the consequences of their children’s behavior. When a child displays behavior considered socially inappropriate, the parents are judged and even publicly blamed.

In the face of so much social pressure, it is no easy feat for parents to recognize and assist in developing children’s separate and unique identities. It is this very social pressure to conform that parents pass on to their children, making it difficult for children to express their true emotions. The inability to do so often results in unhealthy and inappropriate acting.

In extreme cases this can mean self-injurious behavior like cutting. According to Dr. Tsabury, author of The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children“, the preface for which was written by the Dalai Lama, there are some things parents can do to keep their sense of parental pride and responsibility from becoming toxic parental ego. One of those things is for parents to identify those issues within their children that they themselves may be struggling to accept within themselves.

How Parenting Ego Results in Less Social Support

In a recent interview with the Dalai Lama Center for Education, Dr. Tsabury called for a radical modification to parenting methods she referred to as “archaic”. Rather than the current hierarchical system, she believes that society should play a larger role in supporting, rather than judging, struggling parents.

That social support would include stress-relieving economic assistance for new parents in the form of paid parental leave that would allow parents the time necessary to establish strong familial relationships. Currently, parents are told that they should be able to do it all themselves, then made to feel inadequate when problems arise.

With so many child care experts giving opposing opinions, most parents can be assured that no matter their parenting philosophy, there is an expert who will tell them they are doing it wrong. One of the reasons for the popularity of this book is that rather than expecting parents to already possess all the right answers, the author acknowledges without judgement that parents as well as children continue to learn, heal and grow throughout their lifetimes. Parents refusing to be controlled by parental ego makes it more possible for them to unite in demanding that social institutions become more supportive of children and families.

Mindfulness Versus Parenting Ego

Self-knowledge is the key to conscious parenting. Instead of being expected to be completely well-adjusted themselves, parents are encouraged to identify their own unmet childhood needs. Through doing so, the pain associated with those unmet needs can be expressed in ways that will ensure that unhealthy generational patterns are not repeated. Defining the individual traits within children that parents are themselves struggling with is a way for parents to accept both themselves and their children more fully and completely.

Conscious parenting, unlike parental ego based parenting, is rooted in the eastern concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation has even been proven to have the ability to change adult brain structures. In one study, participants spent only 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises. Brain scans performed before and after the study show increased density in the hippocampus. That part of the brain plays a big role in memory and learning, as well as one of the most important aspects of parenting—self-awareness and compassion. An additional important benefit was a significant reduction of stress. As every parent knows, stress can make demonstrating exemplary parental behavior under difficult circumstances not just equally difficult, but nearly impossible.

Through the miracle of mass media and the internet, many of Western civilization’s positive contributions, such as women’s rights, have positively affected many societies around the world. It comes as no surprise that equally valuable contributions from the east should affect Western civilization as well. For perhaps the first time in history, humanity has the opportunity to take the best that each civilization has to offer for the benefit of all children throughout the world.

parental ego
An Egyptian Peasant Woman and Her Child, Léon Bonnat, 1869–70, Credit Line Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Bequest
evolving parenting styles

Motherhood and Evolving Parenting Styles in a Rapidly Changing Society

Compared to the rapid changes in technology, which one might suppose would contribute to evolving parenting styles, motherhood hasn’t changed much during the last century. New inventions such as disposable diapers and processed baby food designed for convenience have been incorporated into daily life. However, child care theories have been slow to incorporate important technological changes such as the way we travel. One hundred years ago, without the benefit of cars, planes and high speed trains, travel was relatively inaccessible to most mothers.

Many mothers now have home entertainment systems, digital TV, micro ovens, and washing machines. Some of the results of evolving parenting styles are that many mothers now never leave home without sophisticated communication systems like navigation systems , mobile phones or portable PC’s. However, traveling alone with babies remains difficult in spite of hi-tech gadgets, strollers and car seats. As any mother can attest, even a simple trip to the grocery store can become a major nightmare of logistics.

Evolving parenting styles

Despite technological advances and slowly evolving parenting styles that accommodate them, modern women are often as confined in their homes with their young children as the servants, wet nurses or nannies of the last century were. However, unlike the majority of women in the past, today’s mothers often have college degrees, have traveled in many countries, and most of them have worked and enjoyed some degree of financial liberty. In a very real sense, it is more frustrating to be confined now then it was fifty or one hundred years ago.

The more the child and mother are cut off from the outside world, meaning not only the economical world but also the world of people, countries, information, knowledge, culture and entertainment, the more estranged from it they become. The most tragic result of this estrangement caused by isolation is that the limitless potential of our infants and children is not being fully developed and utilized for the betterment of humanity as a whole. It also transforms motherhood into a social pathology rather than a joyful natural state.

Theories on child care have not progressed much in terms of allocating fathers equal responsibility for successful attachment bonding as well as continuing contributions to social growth and development. Even the language reflects the fact that the majority of child-rearing responsibilities are still assigned to mothers. Terms like “soccer mom” exist, while there is no “soccer dad” linguistic counterpart. Happily, the term “stay-at-home dad” is gaining social acceptance as unemployment rates continue to skyrocket.

Parenting, however, continues to be viewed primarily through the lens of society’s definition of motherhood rather than the slowly emerging newer definition of fatherhood. Fathers are capable of revolutionizing child-rearing by providing them the access to the outside world that women too often don’t have while staying at home to care for them. With more involvement by fathers, children could benefit from the daily interaction with the world outside without having to forfeit any parental time, protection, warmth and care.

Our adult world has gotten smaller in terms of distances, languages, information and knowledge. Men becoming more involved in the child-rearing process would serve to increase children’s sense of security. It would also multiply the dimensions from which they are able to view life as well as increasing the development of the skills necessary to navigate those dimensions. Evolving parenting styles must include exploration of the many facets of society that cannot be learned about at home.

Greater mobility for parents means a greater number of potentially beneficial learning experiences for the entire family. To accommodate evolving parenting styles with the goal of decreasing the social isolation of parents, museums, libraries, swimming pools, and even vacation destinations have changed during the last ten years. More places once reserved for adults are being advertised as “family friendly”.

One of the major contributing factors to evolving parenting styles is the global evolution of kinship. According to anthropologists, the fast-growing inclusion of all global societies into a single capitalist economic system may result in the biological family no longer forming the basis for society.

Already, we are seeing not just evolving parenting styles, but an evolving definition of what constitutes a “family”. While the definition of “fatherhood” is expanding to include many of the parental instincts and responsibilities once believed that only women were capable of, the definition of “family” is also expanding. One day, we may all be pleasantly surprised to find that find that it has expanded to include the whole village.

evolving parenting styles

Inspirational Women

The view of one of the most inspirational women in combining motherhood, multiculturalism and ambition

“I usually make sure that my stories are from Africa or my own background so as to highlight the cultural background at the same time as telling the story.”

Inspirational Women

Some of the things that make inspirational women inspirational include overcoming hardships and succeeding despite nearly impossible odds. Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta OBE writes what she knows, and has described her stories as

“stories of the world…[where]… women face the universal problems of poverty and oppression, and the longer they stay, no matter where they have come from originally, the more the problems become identical.”

Engaged to be married by age 11 and a child bride with a child of her own by the time she was 17, she left Nigeria and her native Igbo culture to follow her husband to England. There, after having four more children within five years, she left her husband, choosing the difficult life of a single mother. His response to her having written her first book was to burn it after refusing to read it. She began attending University when she was 22, earning a degree in sociology while working at a library and caring for her five young children. She was already in the league of inspirational women at that young age.

Upon graduating, she then worked for several years as a youth worker and sociologist before becoming a community worker. While those accomplishments alone would qualify her as an inspirational woman, she went on to become the author of more than 20 books, winning critical acclaim in the form of the Order of the British Empire in 2005. After having achieved success as an author, she became a lecturer and visiting professor at several universities in the United States, including Rutgers University. This allowed her to combine her writing with the oral story-telling tradition of her native Nigerian culture.

The Joys of Motherhood

One of her most popular books, “The Joys of Motherhood, was originally published in 1979. The 2nd edition of this work of literary fiction was published in 2013. The book explores the value multi-culture places on motherhood as compared to the value it places on women as individuals. A literary analysis of the book raises many issues surrounding motherhood, such as social status, economic security, familial obligations and competition between women.

Examining the many complex reasons that women choose to become mothers, several more layers of complexity are added by the vast differences in the political and geographic environments the protagonist must adapt to, as well as the power of foreign influence. Some of her other books with similar themes include Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), and The Slave Girl (1977). She’s also written several plays for the BBC.

Further Contributions

Her literary accomplishments are not the only things that qualify her as one of the world’s most inspirational women, though. In addition to having lectured at Yale University and the University of London, she has also lectured at the University of Calabar in Nigeria. She returns to Nigeria for three to six months each year, where she supports 31 extended family members. Because she wanted to help other black authors give voice to their experiences, she and her son Sylvester, a journalist, established the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company in 1982.

While she has been criticized by her some African male writers, who say that her work has been contaminated by European views, she remains dedicated to giving expression to aspects of both her native Nigerian and her adopted British cultures. Many feel that in order to achieve real understanding of the work of a writer within its cultural context, it’s necessary to first familiarize oneself with some cultural background. This can be especially helpful when reading works that deal with the challenges presented by cultural assimilation.

However, despite the differences in cultures, this author’s most important qualification as one of the world’s inspirational women is that her message of hope for women’s equality through cooperation rather than competition is universal.

Inspirational Women

Parental Work

A United Front on Second Shifts: Working Models of Parental Work

Arlie Russell Hochschild’s book, The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home” originally published in 1989 and republished in 2012 is even more relevant today than it was then. This author, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, was one of the first to challenge modern economic theory, the roles of parental work and and structure in terms of gender equity.

“Men who shared the load at home seemed just as pressed for time as their wives, and torn between the demands of career and small children…But the majority of men did not share the load at home. Some refused outright. Others refused more passively, often offering a loving shoulder to lean on, an understanding ear as their working wife faced the conflict they both saw as hers.”

Hochschild asserted that for women to assume “parental work” and housekeeping without financial compensation resulted in increasing women’s dependence and diminishing their power in all areas of life.

The Double Burden of the Second Shift

Partially as a result of the book, another popular term, “double burden” was coined to describe the amount of unpaid domestic labor and parental work being performed by working mothers. When economic conditions made it necessary for mothers to seek paid work outside the home, men did not assume a portion of their unpaid domestic duties and parental work. A great deal has been written about the effects of this inequity on individuals, families, and societies worldwide.

Hochschild argues that care, or emotional labor, is a valuable form of work (second shift) that provides the basis for all other human endeavor through the transmission of language, culture, and social organization. She drew attention to how these kinds of tasks of the second shift were demeaned and devalued by both men and the economic system. Further, she predicted that the consequences of a second shift and the economic devaluation of these important but unpaid contributions to society would include class stratification, unsustainable consumerism, and a reduced sense of well-being of society as a whole.

Criticisms of Second Shift Rhetoric

Some feminists present the argument that the rhetoric of the book endorses capitalism by commercializing interpersonal relationships and parental work, and therefore undermines the value of cooperation in caregiving. Reducing the definition of parenting to a form of “work” associated with financial compensation does not adequately account for the complex set of responsibilities and rewards associated with parenting, or the reasons for them.

Additionally, most single people cook and clean for themselves, rather than hiring someone else to do it, yet are not considered to have a second job. Modern feminists suggest that time spent estimating the economic value of housework to apply to a possible future economy which recognizes the true value of human connection might be better spent in other ways. Some of those other ways include exerting the same amount of social pressure usually reserved for battling racism to common manifestations of sexism, such as pretending to be unable to learn how to load a dishwasher.

Economic Structure, Parental Work or the Second Shift

Although this influential book was considered feminist, it also raised awareness of inequities built into the economic system and challenged those inequities. Unfortunately, the economic system has changed very little from the first publication of the book to the second. According to the U.S. 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics the average pay of child care workers is still abysmally low, a reflection of the low priority of children, parental work and caring for them, is given by our economic system, and by extension, society.

Perhaps this difficult reality served as one of the motivations for her latest book, titled “So How’s the Family? And Other Essays“. The book is described as a global exploration of the many ways people manage their own emotions while performing the emotional labor of caregiving. She has written several other books in the last few years and expanded her expertise even further.

Luckily for humanity, despite the continued second shift and inequity of an economic system in which the financial compensation for caregiving does not reflect its true social value, mothers continue to perform labors of love. Modern feminism is successfully encouraging men to do more of the same. By focusing on the joys that money can’t buy, both men and women are spending less time and energy acquiring and caring for things, and more caring for one another and their children.

 

Parental Work

Adrienne Rich

Of Woman Born: Recognizing the Creative Power of Motherhood according to Adrienne Rich

To say that feminist author and poet Adrienne Rich is award-winning would be an understatement. The list of awards she has been honored with is truly impressive, as was her 1997 refusal to accept the prestigious National Medal of Arts, in protest of a vote to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

“I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration…[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage”.

You can read her complete statement regarding her reasons for declining the award, as well as some other online essays here.

Born to Arnold Rice Rich, a pathologist who served as Chairman at Johns Hopkins Medical School and Helen Elizabeth Jones, a composer and concert pianist, Rich was something of a child prodigy. Home-schooled by her parents, who had an extensive library, until the 4th grade, she was well-prepared for Radcliffe College. While still in her last year there, her first collection of poetry was chosen by poet W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, followed by a Guggenheim Fellowship award to study at Oxford.

She married Harvard economics professor Alfred Conrad in 1953, and became the mother of three sons. Her work soon began to reflect her experiences as a mother and how those experiences affected her identity as a woman, both personally and within the larger society. Because it also reflected her anger at the social injustices suffered by women as a whole, and mothers in particular, she was somewhat censured by the literary community as a result. In response to those who called her work radical, she stated openly that

“The experience of motherhood was eventually to radicalize me.”

One manifestation of that “radicalization” was her becoming politically active in ways which led to her husband questioning her sanity and a divorce in 1970. Her causes for political activism included racial, as well as gender, equality. She would become one of the first modern female authors to publicly acknowledge their homosexuality, and to question the validity of “compulsory” heterosexuality.

Adrienne Rich had already won the 1974 National Book Award, along with Alan Ginsberg, by the time her highly influential book Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution was published in 1976. That was the same year that she began her life-long partnership with novelist Michelle Cliff. The subject matter remains so relevant that the book still receives five star ratings on Goodreads today. Excerpts from the book were also included in Brenda Hillman‘s 2003 anthology, The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood.

Some of the themes that Rich felt it was important to address in the book include rape, childbirth, the effects of economic dependence, laws regulating contraception, and the lack of social benefits for mothers. According to her,

“motherhood is more fundamental than tribalism or nationalism in that every human is born of a woman.

She questions the extent to which women have been robbed of the natural experience, and creative power, of motherhood. For example, she questions the practice of replacing midwives with doctors in hospitals.

The book presents a historical overview of motherhood while demonstrating the ways in which patriarchal culture

“has created images of the archetypal Mother which reinforce the conservatism of motherhood and convert it to an energy for the renewal of male power.”

She asserts that the modern division of labor gave mothers almost exclusive responsibility for child-rearing, while limiting the rewards, both social and financial.

Adrienne Rich sought to liberate women from the unrealistic aspects of that responsibility by pointing out that much of what women have been taught to believe is part of their nature is actually the result of social engineering. One of the most compelling concepts in the book is the argument for increasing awareness of the connection between the experience of motherhood and artistic creativity.

Feminist author and intellectual Susan Sontag, in the afterword to the book, said

“There are ways of thinking that we don’t know about. Nothing could be more important or precious than that knowledge, however unborn. The sense of urgency, the spiritual restlessness it engenders, cannot be appeased . . . “

It seems that the process of assimilating that precious knowledge is still ongoing, as evidenced by this page of quotes from the book.

A champion for social equality, Rich worked tirelessly for positive change in societies’ treatment of women around the world. She was an active member of many advisory boards, like the Boston Women’s Fund, the Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa, as well as the National Writer’s Union. When she was awarded the 2003 Yale Bollington Prize for American Poetry, the panel of judges applauded her

“honesty at once ferocious, humane, her deep learning, and her continuous poetic exploration and awareness of multiple selves.”

We owe her a debt of gratitude for reminding us just how complexly and powerfully creative mothers really are.

Here is another article on Rich and Maternal Ideals.

Adrienne Rich
By Adriane Dizon, Flickr, CC 2.0