Hyperparenting and the upper-middle (striver) class. This essay is about the book The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World by Alison Wolf.
See also Kids these days and Having it all.
NYBooks: ... What most differentiates them is their total absorption in two things—their careers and their children. They devote extremely long hours to their professions, which often require them to be electronically available at almost all hours. According to Wolf’s data, upper-middle-class couples now work on average more hours per day than the rest of the population, and unlike the lower classes, they have no more leisure time now than they did in the 1960s. Contrary to what one might expect, upper-middle-class women usually return to work full-time after childbirth, whereas other women more often stop paid work at least temporarily or return only part-time. As Wolf points out, for upper-middle-class women to interrupt their careers means large sacrifices of opportunity. Moreover, their income is usually sufficient to cover the considerable expense of hiring nannies or other forms of child care. But even more important than the money is the fact that for these women, their sense of identity is tied to their professions. They are full participants in what James Surowiecki recently called “the cult of overwork.”
The commitment of power couples to their professions is outweighed only by their extraordinary involvement with their children. Wolf titles a section on children “Willing Slaves,” and begins with a one-sentence paragraph, “And then there are the children.” The next paragraph starts, “Young children dominate the lives of their parents not just emotionally but by completely upturning their lives.” Against all logic, as documented by Wolf, upper-middle-class couples somehow manage to spend more interactive time (not just being in the same room) with their children than any group in history—with or without careers, rich or poor.
True, they have fewer children; in fact, their fertility rate is so low that they don’t even replace themselves. But the few children they have are at the center of their lives, and fathers are often just as much involved as mothers. They spend enormous amounts of money on them, and employ a vast network of experts to help—beginning with childbirth classes and lactation consultants, and continuing through tutors to help them get into the best schools, athletic coaches to help the children make the team, teachers to help them develop their musical and dramatic talents, and so forth. Nannies alone cost on the order of tens of thousands of dollars per year. Children are also incorporated into their parents’ social lives ...
... The consequences of hyperparenting are unknown, since the phenomenon is only a few decades old. My views are shaped largely by observing my own family and friends, and that is not much to rely on, but I will speculate anyway. I see great advantages for the children, but also some warning signs. Young upper-middle-class children are, indeed, remarkably precocious. Since they have been exposed to adult conversations almost constantly from birth, they are much more articulate and broadly knowledgeable than children were a generation ago. They are also remarkably at ease with other people, both adults and children, because they are with them so much—with their parents’ friends, in early preschool, and in playgroups often organized among nannies. And having endured little frustration or isolation, they seem to me happier and more affectionate than children were in earlier generations. They love being with their parents (and why not?). They don’t go “up the street” to do “nothing,” as my friends and I did. They stick close to home, and their best friends are their parents.
[ Italics mine ]