Time: it makes you “strong” and “good.”

Time is money. You usually end up with more time, and more money, if you have more education. And if your household is hovering around the poverty line–it’s likely you have a lot less of those three resources than you’d like.

Oh, and if you don’t have a lot of time, money, or education, you are less likely to be a “strong” parent.

Ouch.

“Strong.” It’s all over a new research paper by Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard for The Center on Children and Families at The Brookings Institution. Consider this summary (emphasis added):

The chances of upward social mobility are lower for children with parents struggling to do a good job—in terms of creating a supportive and stimulating home environment. Children lucky enough to have strong parents are more likely to succeed at all the critical life stages, which means policies to help weaker parents do a better job can be investments in opportunity, and equality.

Would it have been technically incorrect to say, in the above quote: “The chances of upward social mobility are lower for children with parents with less time and money?” Or to say “Children lucky enough to have wealthy parents with time are more likely to succeed…?”

I read the full paper. I don’t believe it would have been incorrect. Frankly, I’m pretty sure it would have been more correct. Consider this caveat noted by the researchers (emphasis added):

…any measure of parenting quality rests on a judgment of what constitutes quality. The HOME scale [used by the researchers] is one of the most widely used scales, but it contains items that could favor… more advantaged parents.

I read the inventory of items on the HOME-SF, the scale used by the researchers to characterize whether a parent is “strong” or “weak.” That caveat the researchers offer? I fear it’s a bit understated. (And my fear is a bit understated.) The HOME-SF scale includes several (many?) implicit measures of affluence, asking about the ownership of a musical instrument, or use of at least 5 children’s records or tapes and respective players, ownership of books, outings to museums, whether the home is “dark or perceptually monotonous,” “reasonably clean” and “minimally cluttered,” whether the family receives a daily newspaper, whether the child has extracurricular activities or hobbies, is involved in sports, music, dance or drama. Does the family go to the theater?

Yeah. It covers all that.

Why use subjective, misleading qualifiers of parenting like “strong?”  Is it so hard to be specific? There are resource-rich parents, and their are resource-poor parents.

Not “strong,” not “weak.” Those words sound so static. So final. Words matter. They paint pictures in your mind. They give you ideas. Wrong ones, sometimes. (Remember that parent I wrote about who said that others parents at her Title I school “just don’t care?”)

Put me–a flippin’ lucky, privileged “strong” parent–in a new situation: savings gone, some sort of incredibly costly health emergency that irreparably damages not only my finances but my level of employability, my husband is no longer in the picture, I can’t afford my house, my family lives multiple states away and they have no money to share. Dire, dire straits. I wouldn’t be on the PTA, or on the SAC. I wouldn’t have time to check my children’s homework, or make them healthy lunches. My temper would be short, my stress would be high. I’d hunker down with my kids and get done what absolutely needed to be done, not much more. Because, then, I would be “weak.”

Or would I just, even for a bit, need more resources?

 

 

3 thoughts on “Time: it makes you “strong” and “good.”

  1. What a great analysis. It really humbled me. I’d be “weak” too if all of those bad things happened to me. Resouce rich vs. Resource poor really appears to be the divide. Yikes. Thank goodness for our spouses!

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