Academic journal article VAHPERD Journal

Family Recreation: You're Doing a Great Job, Mom!!

Academic journal article VAHPERD Journal

Family Recreation: You're Doing a Great Job, Mom!!

Article excerpt

The familiar old cliche assigned to women's leisure time, "Leisure....what leisure!", holds as much importance in family life and family relationships today, as once acknowledged by feminist researchers (Deem, 1986; Henderson, Bialescheski, Shaw, and Freysinger, 1989; Taylor, 1990; Wearing, 1990; and Wimbush & Talbot, 1988). The focus of early research has been to understand the meaning of leisure for women within the context of their lives; including family and the workplace. If leisure was identified in the mid-1980's as a "problem" area of women's experience, it is further complicated by the multi-dimensional nature of women's lifestyles today.

Literature on play recognizes the universality of the play experience. Therefore, one can question: within the wider realm of recreation and leisure, including play, is there a commonality of experience for western women, given the context of their varied lives? Thus this paper will address the literature and the "lived experience" in relation to the work women do which facilitates and serves participation in sport and recreational needs of others; in particular those persons of their immediate family (Thompson, 1999). Further, a discussion of sport participation for New Zealand women, while facilitating family needs, is contrasted with an brief exploration of the leisure lives of a cohort of women from the United States of America.

An acknowledgement is made that this paper addresses the lives of Caucasian women. However, with recognition of "woman's" experience, there are many similarities to the lives of women of color and other ethnic groups. To do justice to those women, any glimpse into their lives must be recorded within their cultural experiences, and preferably by indigenous researchers (Smith, 1999).

With women now being engaged in the wider realm of education, paid work, and the acceptance of multiple styles of parenting or motherhood, one must recognize the ever increasing importance of establishing, or maintaining a full and active leisure lifestyle. This is where the tension arises: balancing the needs of ones own, with those of one's family. Particularly, as women appear to be the social organizers of their family.. ..women do most of the work in preparing for holidays, vacations, family gatherings and social leisure. (Freysinger and Kelly, 2004).

As a reminder, no matter whether a single-parent, dual-career parent, or a parent who is raising one's children, or care giving elderly parents, whatever the configuration of one's family .... the similarities of the constraints to pursue one's own leisure may ring true. For example, from a single parent's journal

(Taylor, 1998):

   ...participate with my 4 year old at pre-school 1:00 - 3:00
   pm; rush to pick up 7 yr old son after school, for field hockey
   practice; pick up 12 year old daughter late afternoon from her
   field hockey practice; drop the eldest 14 years old and friends
   to their basketball game at 6. 30 pm...she will be returned home
   after the game by another mother. Fit in supper.... wait for the
   baby basketball game 9:00 pm. Arrive home at
   11:00 pm (somewhat elated, we won) clean up from supper,
   children, do laundry, prepare lunches.
   Do reading for university lecture tomorrow....bed at I:00am.
   (New Zealand participant #11)

Familiar? It was for me, as I reminisce those periods in my life, and cry with exasperation at the stories of Australian women, in Shona Thompson's (1999) text, Mothers Taxi. Thompson identifies the extent that women are incorporated into the institution of sport through their domestic labor .... and how this labor contributes to the maintenance and reproduction of sporting structures and practices.

As a young mother, athlete, and recreational tennis, squash and softball player, I juggled life to accommodate my passion for active sports. I would often relate to my friends, that I needed to hitch a caravan on the back of the "pickup" and we could live like that, particularly during basketball season. …

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