Saturday, March 19, 2005

Cease striving and know ...

Laurel & Hardy under a piano that God is God. That's what the Bible says, but in today's dual-income , high-paced, high-stressed household, that is nearly impossible to do. I came across an article detailing a study recently by the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of families that followed 32 families living in Los Angeles for a week to document their lives. They found some things that were not encouraging about our modern lives. It seems that the Osbournes aren't the only screwed-up bunch of folks in our country.

This study had researchers following the families around with video cameras to document their lives, archaeologists documented all their stuff, and they took spit samples to measure the amount of stress hormone produced in the body during different times of the day.

Here's some of what they found.

Moms working outside the home

This shouldn't be a surprise, but most of the families needed two incomes not only to have a nice house and a car, but also to keep the bills paid and food on the table. The result? Husbands still work as much and wives bear the lion's share of the responsibilities, even if they work. The researchers found that big surprise this erodes the families from within! And what is lost? Play time, conversation, courtesy and intimacy.Cartoon by First Baptist Church of Kenner And the researchers also said that overstressed parents have effectively abandoned the field to their kids! Huh? According to this article the focus has moved from child-centered to child-dominated society because parents have no life after the little darlings go to bed.

Also we have no time for one another. The study found that some families barely talked to one another when they came home from work. Even my dog gets excited when my wife comes home! Why? Because dogs are pack animals and they have elaborate rituals for greeting one another when a member of the pack is gone. He is getting to the point where he barks me a welcome too. Maybe we should learn from him.

No time to dream

This study found that few people have any time to daydream, to visualize or even make time to take a walk with their children. In only one of the 32 families did the father take a walk with his kids. American kids have less time at home, and spend no time in the yard. Play time is organized and scheduled by adults.

One family had four or five after-school activities for their kids, including fencing, and ice hockey, and music lessons. They communicated mostly by pager, Blackberry or cell phone.

We have too much crap!

The study also found that the typical American family owns more than the Egyptian Pharaohs put in their burial vaults for the next life! And most of it is clutter. And we keep buying more stuff and piling it on top of the stuff that we already have and don't use.

Strangers in the same house.

The study also found that we don't spend any time together. Families gathered in the same room just 16 percent of the time. In five of the families studied, the whole group was not in the same room ever! And forget about mom and dad having a little schwerve time when the kiddies hit the rack. In only six out of the 32 families did mom and dad spend more than 10 percent of their waking hours in the same room without a child.under stress by Phillippe Tarbourech Photography

What to do?

The study did not give concrete suggestions on what to do to reduce this vortex of family dysfunction. Some of the research I looked for had some suggestions on how to reduce stress in daily life, but implementing it is going to be tougher than just reading it.
The National Institutes of Health's Medline Website lists some suggestions for both individual stress management and family health. They have a copyright on this stuff, so I won't list it here, but check out their website. It has a lot of helpful information. Whether we can implement any of this stuff is another question. But let's hope it doesn't' take a "shot across the bow" like a heart attack or a car wreck to get us to slow down.

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