A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big Brother in Your Home

Would you let a camera crew come into your home and film the goings on in your household?
I wouldn't.
Not for a thousand dollars anyway.
(I may be tempted, however, if it means wiping off our mortagage overnight.)

In the period from 2002 to 2005, researchers from University of California, Los Angeles recruited 32 families living locally, recording almost every waking, at home moment during a period of a week.

The U.C.L.A. project was an effort to capture a relatively new sociological species: the dual-earner, multiple-child, middle-class American household. The investigators have just finished working through the 1,540 hours of videotape, coding and categorizing every hug, every tantrum, every soul-draining search for a missing soccer cleat.
“This is the richest, most detailed, most complete database of middle-class family living in the world,” said Thomas S. Weisner, a professor of anthropology at U.C.L.A. who was not involved in the research. “What it does is hold up a mirror to people. They laugh. They cringe. It shows us life as it is actually lived.” [...]
Mothers still do most of the housework, spending 27 percent of their time on it, on average, compared with 18 percent for fathers and 3 percent for children (giving an allowance made no difference).
Husbands and wives were together alone in the house only about 10 percent of their waking time, on average, and the entire family was gathered in one room about 14 percent of the time. Stress levels soared — yet families spent very little time in the most soothing, uncluttered area of the home, the yard.
“I call it the new math,” said Kathleen Christensen of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which financed the project. “Two people. Three full-time jobs.” Parents learned on the fly, she said — and it showed.
This month social scientists have gathered in Los Angeles to follow up and to close the study...

But honestly I don't need to read the study... which is probably riddled with academic gobbledegook...
I've lived it. Except I worked part-time which was hard enough... and volunteered part-time. At least in those days, I had Grandma (my mother) on hand to provide that extra care.

It's true in our case that we spent very little time outside and our backyard was very neglected.Months after I left my job last year, got the children a trampoline. Earlier this year, we started a herb garden, and planted a few vegetables.

I used to wonder why almost everyone with children that we knew had a trampoline. Now I'm a little wiser. It worth saving for...  is a great way to get the children outside and doing something active. And they don't bring in sand either.

Unless one has a cleaner coming in regularly, housework goes by the wayside. Homework... we're not going to go there today... it's tough to get on top of that too without having to keep the child in question up till late. Ironically, it's probably easier to be a working mum when the children are toddlers than they start school when their interests expand.

There are times when I miss my old job... I liked the adult conversation... I liked the short-term gratification of being able to help others and being appreciated... but it was very stressful trying to juggle a whole lot of balls. Inevitably, I was dropping a  few. Sadly, there was no Grandma to pick up the slack.

I couldn't have it all and do it all. I had to choose.

Modern life is very complicated and not all good.


  1. Modern life is very complicated. But, we do it to ourselves. If only we simplified things, we would find life a lot less stressful; relationships would improve and we would find more enjoyment in the everyday. Spending time outdoors does wonders - if my kids are climbing the walls inside, we all go outside for some fresh air and a run around. My grandmother says that life these days is often a lot harder than when she was growing up.

  2. True enough. I think many of us have swallowed the lie that we can have it all.
    Money is a big factor and the temptation to keep up with the Joneses.

  3. Ah, yes, the constant juggling battle. I've touched on it a little in this post:

    It's tough, the modern world. The cost of living seems so high (is is just me??)

  4. Definitely... inflation and what not.
    But there're also a lot more "toys" out there to tempt people with and everyone's probably consuming more than previous generations.


Let me know what you think!