Speaking of the decline in time spent by fathers with their sons in my last post, let’s look at what takes place with mothers and daughters in America, only beginning much later. Daughters, who spent their lives “apprenticing” with their moms at home, were now seeing more and more of their moms entering the workplace. This shift begins during the depression, grows during WWII, with women flocking into the factories (“Rosie the Riverter”), and then continues in the post-WWII years.
For many moms this was an economic decision. In particular, lower income families didn’t have the option of mom “staying at home.” Yet with the post-war economic boom for higher economic families, staying at home becomes a choice, as well.
For many, a mom working becomes, not so much a sign of economic necessity, but a cry for freedom and liberation from the grinds of being a “housewife.” It was about being free to be your own person, and this message was usually given by those who self-identified as “Feminists.” Working outside of the home becomes a badge of honor; a statement of liberation.
So, let me see? When fathers started spending less time with their children, especially their sons, we didn’t even blink. But, take mom out of the home…Watch out!
“A woman’s place is in the home…”
“Letting preschool/daycare raise your kids…”
Yes, there is virtual silence in popular culture with the decline of father/son time, but when mom starts “doing her own thing,” she hears about it! So, what is a mother to do? The feminists tried to come to the rescue, but their message wasn’t always helpful when it comes to time. Not helpful for sons or daughters.
You see, right about this same time, a new term was coined, “Quality time.” The earliest we see this in print is in an article from the Maryland newspaper, The Capital, January, 1973.
The major goal of each of these role changes is to give a woman time to herself, Ms. Burton explained. “A woman’s right and responsibility is to be self fulfilling,” she said. She gives “quality time” rather than “quantity time” to each task, whether it be writing, cleaning the house or tending the children.
“Quality time” doesn’t take into consideration how learning takes place. The assumption is that intense focused time with your child is going to be as influential as “Quantity time,” perhaps thought of as “large amounts of time simply being present with your child in an unstructured, unfocused way.”
Even thinking this way you realize how this advice is easily misguided. First of all, the more time spent with someone the more opportunities there is to learn from imitation. Remember, what I said earlier? Imitation is just as important a learning tool as information. A son has always learned more than a trade or skills in living life with his father. Spending time with his father is a primary “classroom” for what it means to be a man.
Second, who is to say that by spending lots of time with your son is always unstructured and unfocused, and even if it is, who is to say that this is, necessarily, a bad thing? Unstructured, unfocused time can be the source of some real connection, can’t it? Just “hanging out with your dad” doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Actually, even for a “quality time” advocate, if you intentionally seek to be more attentive to your son during “quantity time,” you have just given them more thorough “quality time”, anyway! Then, it is time to feel guilty, once again!
There is at least one thing we do learn from the concept of “quality time” that is helpful for fathers, however. Intentionally scheduling time to be with your son. Throughout their childhood, dads can learn to schedule activities, both structured and unstructured to invest time in their sons. Next we look at what this might mean at different stages in the life of dads and sons.