by Jennifer Silva and Allison Pugh in Sociological Inquiry

A great deal of scholarship investigates the effects of parenting on adults who parent. While existing literature has identified the ways in which parenting affects parents adversely, the authors argue that more attention needs to be paid to how having children may enhance parents' lives. Thus, we draw upon twenty-four in-depth interviews with young parents in order to investigate this process. First, the authors identify five ways in which parents say caregiving has changed their worldviews, relationships, and expectations, leading them to 1) erect barriers, 2) aspire for more, 3) view parenthood as a second chance, 4) hew a new path, and 5) make connections. Second, the authors uncover two central metaphors that parents rely on to explain the effect that having responsibility for children has had on their lives: the child as witness and the child as tether. The authors also point to future areas of investigation, arguing that only with an adequate understanding of what parenting does to parents can we understand what changing trends in families and inequality hold for ourselves and our futures.