Admit it: You compare. We do too—it’s practically an automatic reflex. Are our kids hitting milestones ahead of schedule? Behind on reading? Taking advanced classes on pace with peers? Harder to find—but equally fascinating—is info about how we stack up to other parents in terms of the way we go about this parenting thing.
Last month, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center polled a cross-section of American parents with kids under 18 about a range of topics relating to how they feel about parenthood and the role of being a parent.
We’re sharing some highlights from its “Parenting in America” report because, yeah, we’re curious, too.
Among the insights the Pew researchers discovered:
We think we’re doing a good job.
Occasional lost tempers or cereal dinners aside, more than eight in 10 of us say we’re doing a “good” or “very good” job as parents. That’s true across all family incomes.
More moms (51 percent) than dads (39 percent) feel this way. And the younger you are, the more likely you are to say so: More Millennial parents ages 18 to 34 feel this way (57 percent of moms, 43 percent of dads) than Gen Xers ages 35 to 50 (48 percent of moms, 37 percent of dads) or Boomers ages 51 to 69 (41 percent of moms, 42 percent of dads).
Another finding was that just over half of Milennials say they find parenting “enjoyable all of the time,” though only 39 percent of other parents say this.)
We’re not sure who gets the credit for our kids’ successes, though—them or us.
Do you feel personally responsible for your child’s successes and failures? The younger your child is, the more likely you agree, the Pew survey showed. Among all parents, it’s a tossup: 46 percent say kids’ achievements are a reflection of how they’re doing as parents and 42 percent say the successes (or not) are the result of kids’ own strengths and weaknesses. Among parents of teens, more than half say the teens themselves deserve the credit—or the blame.
Moms are the softies.
Mothers were more likely than fathers to say they’re sometimes overprotective, give in too quickly, and praise their kids too much. Overall, almost two-thirds of parents describe themselves as overprotective.
We’re divided about our role in education.
About five in 10 parents say they can never be too involved in their children’s education. And fully 61 percent of Millennial moms say you can never be too involved. But four in 10 say too much involvement in school can be a bad thing. Black and Hispanic parents, regardless of their own level of education are much more likely to believe in the importance of parental involvement than white parents.
Two-thirds of us have attended a PTA or other special school meeting in the past year.
Involved or not, most of us seem to wish we lived in the mythical Lake Woebegone, “where all the children are above average”: More than half (52 percent) of parents in the Pew report say they would be disappointed if there children were (merely) average students.
We read to our kids.
One kind of education we all pretty much agree on being involved with is reading to our kids every day—especially if our kids are under 6. Moms are way more likely to be the reader than dads.
Our kids are busy (and we’re tired).
Four in 10 kids under 6 have participated in a sport in the past year.
One third of kids under 6 have taken music, art, or dance lessons.
One third of parents of 6- to 17-year-olds have coached a sports team.
We’re tired. Perhaps not surprisingly: One third of parents say they “always” feel rushed and another 53 percent “sometimes” feel rushed.
The most tired are those of us with kids under 6.
A lot of us wish we had more “me” time.
A slim majority of parents surveyed felt they spent about enough time with their kids and their partners. But free time? Most wished they had more time for friends, hobbies, or other interests.
This parenting thing is—duh—a big part of our identity.
Only 1 percent of those surveyed felt that being a parent was “not too important” to their identity. Virtually all the rest—parents from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds and work situations—agreed that being a parent is important to how they identify themselves.
But you knew that one already.