Megan McArdle's What Really Scares Helicopter Parents is interesting in itself, and feel free to comment on that. But a trend in parents' use of time jumped out at me. If helicopter-prone parents are spending more time with their children, and working more hours, then what are they no longer doing?
I suggest it is time with other adults, in groups. Dave Barry writes about the parties his parents threw in his childhood - indoor parties, outdoor parties, dress-up, dress-down, themed and unthemed - and how that has not been so great a part of his life. I recognised immediately what he was talking about. My parents often went to largish get-togethers at other people's houses, or held them at their own. It might be the bridge club or curling club or golf club members getting together purely socially, with no curling stone in sight. There were company events. There were enough annual events that they added up. And as every reader of Bowling Alone knows, there were the groups themselves and their own meetings. Barry remembers that children were not invited to many of them, nor was this thought odd. Children were expected to take some job such as bringing in chafing dishes from the kitchen or setting up tables, or get lost.
Tracy and I have done some of getting together with adults, but the children were often in tow. We went to some church parties for the adults when we were a young couple in the 70's.. We initially went to some work parties, but discontinued that. As the children grew up, they stopped coming to what is still called Bible Study, which has met weekly for almost 4 decades, though the Bibles were left behind years ago. But that is a group of four couples. Its annual Jesse Tree and July 4th celebrations were the center of the social year from 1983-2005, but no more. I think our children do even less entertaining than that. Sons 2 and 3 seem to go to large get-togethers put on by others. Whether that will persist when they are married with children remains to be seen.
I think the 25-55 cohort has even less getting together as adults than we did.
There is also the amount of time men (and now women) put into following sports and news as well. No one watched football all Saturday or Sunday, or equivalently followed it on radio or internet. There was A Game on each weekend day, which expanded to two some time in the 1980's. Baseball was followed on a radio playing at the workbench or in the kitchen, in the background while you did something else. That gradually changed as well, but it was simply a different world then. A fanatic follower of sports read three pages of the daily newspaper intently and got a weekly magazine. He watched as many games as were on TV - less than five total, all sports, and he went to an occasional local event, especially if he had a son or friend involved. News was much the same. After you'd read the paper and watched the 6 O'Clock News, there wasn't much else. The 11 O'Clock News was pretty much the same, so that was an alternative, not an addition.
Much of radio was music only, without commentary. Public radio was classical or light jazz. Background music. You did other things.
McArdle's points about the types of jobs and the implications of that also grabbed me. Businesses that could be passed on, where we now have only routes through bureaucracies which must be navigated. That is not an either-or, certainly. Men went off on trains, and then in cars, to work in the cities in businesses they did not own quite far back. But there was certainly more of the family business model then, and it affected how parents treated their children. But even if you have a family business these days, it is probably closing down when you retire. Children learned skills they liked better, they didn't need your shop, and they have careers up and running that they aren't going to change when you decide to cut back on your hours.
I wonder about the old model, and if it was even possible for me to go that route, even with perfect hindsight. What business could I have built that even one of my sons might like to continue? I can't think of any off the top of my head.