I raised you to believe you had to do it all. You were brought up with books like The Practical Princess in which the princess had to rescue the prince herself in order to live happily ever after. You danced to the songs from Free to be You and Me and I encouraged you to get as much education as possible so you could have a satisfying career and stand on your own.
Looking at life through the lens of daughter, mother, and grandmother, I have come to appreciate how much harder it is to be a mother today than it was for my mother in the 50’s or for me in the 80’s. Please don’t be fooled by all of the conveniences of modern motherhood – more mothering blogs, advice books, toys, electronic devices, quick foods, and gadgetry have not made your lives easier.
In fact, you are living in such a complex and fast paced world that it’s hard to keep up with the latest recall (Is your peanut butter OK? Has your baby car seat been condemned?). Add to that the fact that it is really challenging for you to live a life as comfortable as the one in which you were raised. And the fact that you worked very hard for your pre-children careers, which you are both unwilling and financially unable to abandon. You definitely have a recipe for stress far greater than your grandmothers or I experienced.
I feel sad that many of your grandmothers’ generation, and many of my fellow baby boomers, are sometimes so harsh in their criticism of your generation of mothers. Your grandmother can honestly declare, “In my day, children weren’t spoiled by so many toys,” or “Children didn’t watch so much television,” or “We didn’t need DVDs, smart phones, or iPads to occupy our kids,” or “Children didn’t misbehave in restaurants.” Largely this is due to the fact that these things did not exist in her day. She stayed at home with her children, cleaned her house, cooked, and sent her children outside to play or put her babies in playpens to get her work done.
My peers and I would have to admit that we picked up tons of toys every night and let you watch television so we could cook dinner. While many boomer women had excellent educations and meaningful careers, chances are, like me, they could choose to stay at home with their children for their early years. How much easier it was for me to have the luxury of a decade-long break between jobs that took me outside the home while I raised three children.
My younger daughter had to return to her job as a veterinarian after only 8 weeks at home with her third child. Much as she loves her job, it was a painful decision dictated by the limits of the Child and Family Leave Act and her household budget. My older daughter has to work evenings and weekends as a clinical child psychologist, time she would much rather be spending with her three children. And she has another job lecturing at a university that requires hours of prep time. Life is definitely more complicated and stressful for mothers today.
So, my daughters, I apologize for the disapproval you and their peers feel from women who raised their children in calmer and simpler times. Here’s what I want you to know:
If you occasionally feel criticized for your parenting deficiencies and hear the familiar, “In my day…” – please understand that people who say this have repressed so much about the time they spent raising their children (much like the “discomfort” of childbirth fades as the years pile on). Also know that their times were far less challenging than yours. And please forgive me for teaching you that, like the Practical Princess, you have to do it all by yourself and for yourself. Find a village to help you to raise your children wherever you can, and be part of someone else’s village too.
Happy Mother’s Day!
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