By outsourcing traditional parental duties, modern-day parents feel they are protecting parenthood.

I posted this video on online tutoring on my other blog and it’s typical for an important trend today. Ask any parent raising kids in today’s fast-paced society and chances are they would agree that there are only so many hours in the day. Sometimes it feels as a mom or dad, you’re rather a taxi driver.

Recognizing a need for help, many businesses now offer traditional caregiving services ranging from planning birthday parties to teaching children how to ride a bike. According to a new study, by outsourcing traditional parental duties, modern-day parents feel they are ultimately protecting parenthood.

I do think there are some issues not tackled in this study, the pedagogical question if this is a good thing. Personally I remember the competition that can occur in class groups when organizing birthday parties. Still the research acknowledges that many researchers (eg sociologists) have their doubts on these practices, but the researchers wanted to get the perspective of the parents.

From the press release:

“Parents are increasingly outsourcing caregiving activities. The expanding array of caregiving services is blurring the boundaries between family and the marketplace and raising new questions about what is acceptable to outsource and how parents make sense of these sometimes contentious decisions,” write authors Amber M. Epp and Sunaina R. Velagaleti (both University of Wisconsin, Madison).

To better understand the role of the marketplace in modern-day parenting, the authors conducted in-depth interviews with participants who varied in parenting views, practices, and challenges ranging from income to social class and the availability of help from immediate family.

The interviews revealed that parents are more willing to turn to the marketplace for help once they have provided a strong baseline of activities that allow them to direct how care is given, protect their connections as parents, and assert their role as the primary caregiver. Achieving this balance helps parents maintain their feelings of responsibility, control, and intimacy.

For instance, when deciding whether or not to hire someone to help plan their child’s birthday party, parents might ask themselves if it is their job as a parent to do this (responsibility), how they might feel if the party planner doesn’t do things the way they want them to be done (control), and whether or not they should be the person who has created the excitement and joy on their child’s face (intimacy).

Understanding this can offer insight for companies looking to better market their services to parents. “Our findings run counter to the widespread idea that family and the local community should always be the first and second lines of parenting help. Often times, businesses can resolve parenting tensions more effectively due to the contractual nature of the services they provide,” the authors conclude.

Abstract of the research:

An expanding array of available services allow parents to outsource almost any caregiving activity (e.g., nannies, potty training, birthday party planning). Sociologists document a care deficit—resulting from dual-earner households and distance from extended family—coupled with rising consumerism to account for outsourcing. These studies, as well as those in consumer research, clarify outsourcing motivations, but stop short of explaining the differential impacts of outsourcing tensions parents regularly face when assembling care. As such, consumer researchers know little about how parents navigate such tensions when deciding what is acceptable to outsource. Based on depth interviews with 23 families, our analysis uncovers complex care assemblages that are shaped by parenting discourses and tensions of control, intimacy, and substitutability. The resulting framework explains parents’ strategies for minimizing outsourcing tensions, reveals processes for (re)assembling different types of care resources, and challenges what is known about the relationship between the market and family life.

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