April 13, 2006

Your Turn: Trusting The Times With Child Care


(click for larger view)

At first, I thought it was just me.  When I showed this picture around, however, everyone was a little “creeped out” by it.

This image accompanied a brief “The Way We Live Now” piece that appeared in the NYT Magazine two weeks ago.  Titled “The Time Trap,” it dealt with the amount of time today’s parents dedicate to child care.  First, the article dispelled a few myths.  Citing current research, it reported that working-age men and women have actually gained free time (between four and eight hours per week) since 1965.  Citing other data, it also claimed that the average employed mom in 2000 spent the same amount of primary child-care time as did the average stay-at-home mom in 1975.

One big catch in the data, however, is how contemporary parents define and prioritize “child care.”  Because parenting has come to be seen as a “high status” activity, time spent with a child “in one’s care” is no longer attributed to activities such as “housework” or “chore.”  Also, personal time historically dedicated to “leisure” is now more likely tallied as “child care” because of the tendency to peripherally involve the kids somehow.

Let’s get back to the picture, however.  What is happening in this image?  Who’s with who?  Also, is the girl in the foreground being exploited by the camera angle with her legs separated that way?  (…And if it’s even subliminally supposed to read like that, is it justified for the sake of a cynical commentary on contemporary parenthood?)

(image: Gail Albert Halaban.  April 2, 2006.  The New York Times Magazine.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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