The New York Times recently had a story called “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting” that really struck home. I’ve seen it shared about 15 times on Facebook by friends and others, and I thought it would make a great discussion here. Here’s the subheading: “Raising children has become significantly more time-consuming and expensive, amid a sense that opportunity has grown more elusive.” Yeppppp. Some quotes (with hyperlinks from the original article):
[They quote a professor mom who describes all the different lessons she signed her under-5 kids up for, and then note:] While this kind of intensive parenting — constantly teaching and monitoring children — has been the norm for upper-middle-class parents since the 1990s, new research shows that people across class divides now consider it the best way to raise children, even if they don’t have the resources to enact it.”
They also note that “[m]others who juggle jobs outside the home spend just as much time tending their children as stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s,” explaining further:
The time parents spend in the presence of their children has not changed much, but parents today spend more of it doing hands-on child care. Time spent on activities like reading to children; doing crafts; taking them to lessons; attending recitals and games; and helping with homework has increased the most. Today, mothers spend nearly five hours a week on that, compared with 1 hour 45 minutes in 1975 — and they worry it’s not enough. Parents’ leisure time, like exercising or socializing, is much more likely to be spent with their children than it used to be. While fathers have recently increased their time spent with children, mothers still spend significantly more.
Or here’s a fabulous, fabulous quote from one of the moms interviewed: “There’s this sense that something is wrong with you if you aren’t with your children every second when you’re not at work.” Oooof. YES.
I am grateful to have a husband who wants to be very, very involved with the kids and loves to play with them — but as an introvert I find the expectation to “constantly entertain” my kids to be completely overwhelming. I feel guilty if, on weekend days, we only do one craft project, board game, or other super-focused time. (In other words, when I put my phone down for a solid 15 minutes.) I don’t think this is “working mom guilt” — I think this is just mom-mom guilt. I feel guilty when I know we have 10,000 arts and craft supplies and tools on hand and I can’t find them in the 5-minute window in which my youngest expresses interest in watercolors or a craft project — which makes me feel guilty that I haven’t spent time when the kids aren’t there (like during my working hours!) to research or set up crafts or art projects. I feel guilty when my idea of “mommy time” is trying to sweet-talk one of the kids into running errands with me. During working hours, I already research local classes the kids could do, and during the summer I have to use Excel charts to keep track of everyone’s camp schedules. It’s only recently that I’ve started not feeling overwhelming guilt if I go for a run during the middle of a weekend day.
I sound like a little crazy to myself. In fact, if a friend were talking like this I would give her a hug and tell her to schedule some self-care. But I’ll bet I’m not alone. I don’t know what the answer is — I’ve written before (but cannot find it now!) about how I’m strangely, defiantly anti-Martha Stewart in many ways — no Elf on the Shelf for me! I throw away my kids’ artwork (after I lovingly photograph it to include in a family photo album that I, of course, will make, that no one but me will look at)! My kids wore PJs the entire first year! — but that kind of defiance just feeds right into the Mommy Wars, doesn’t it? After all, it’s one thing for me to choose not to do Elf on the Shelf — but another to roll my eyes at the moms who do, ultimately because I worry that that they make me look bad. (I know, I know — just keep repeating Amy Poehler’s famous quote to yourself: Good for you, not for me!”)
What are your thoughts, ladies? Do you feel like there’s a relentlessness to modern parenting — and how do you deal with it as a working mom? (Side question — I know my husband feels the stress — how do your partners feel about this?)
Stock photo via Shutterstock / Oksana Kuzmina.