Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NEWSFLASH: Parenting is hard.

Is it just me, or are there a lot of articles out there these days that sound like this. Or this.

I'm going to be perfectly honest here. When I see these headlines, my very first instinctual reaction is: Tell me about it. Then, of course, I feel guilty and think about how much I love my kid and how lucky I am and all that yadda yadda that people do when they're afraid they've revealed their true inner monster.

Today I got to thinking...what is it about our generation that is so terribly ambivalent about parenthood? The obvious answer is that roles have changed over the years, and you now have women with careers and men with more paternal responsibility, and it's only natural that living in our "want it all" culture leads us to inevitable disappointment and frustration when we can't have it all.

But then I started thinking more (I had 2 1/2 hours of alone time today. My brain surprised me with all kinds of thoughtful thinking.) and it struck me that people probably haven't changed all that much over time. Fifty years ago when women were almost exclusively in the home, running a household and raising children, I don't really think that every single one of them felt completely fulfilled and at peace with their lives. Or anyone else for that matter. I think that from the beginning of time, people have been frustrated by their situations and longed for better circumstances. In fact, I'd say that's the only way a species can advance.

Sooo...(Seriously, my brain hasn't had this much exercise in...a long time), why do you suppose that we hear so much more about parental dissatisfaction these days? The moms and dads from my childhood, including my own, seemed happy enough, and by all accounts our grandparents were the picture of domesticity and hard work. So what happened to us? I'll tell you. We're whiners.

Yes. You. Me. We complain to our friends, we complain on Facebook and on our blogs, we complain to our children and to our bosses. We complain to our mothers and fathers, we complain in books and newspaper articles. We are obsessed with venting every feeling and frustration we experience in an effort to a) gain sympathy and b) be reassured that we are not alone in our self-pity.

Our parents didn't do that. Okay, maybe they did it a little, but they didn't have the internet to fan the flames. I'm fairly certain our grandparents didn't do that. Who had the time, with ten children and no washer and dryer? I'm quite confident that from the beginning of time, moms and dads have felt put upon and underappreciated for their own, unique familial roles, regardless of how those roles have changed. But we are just now becoming comfortable voicing our displeasure and feeling justified in our malcontent. We feel that we should be happy all the time, and when we aren't we need a scapegoat. Those damn kids. If I wasn't saddled with them I'd...I'd...

Well, guess what? The childless are unhappy too. As are the employed, the unemployed, the wealthy, the poor, the blondes, the get the idea. Maybe if we all stopped buying into this mass pity party, we could take that energy and focus it on improving our situations. Who's with me?

Maybe I'm being alienating here, and it's not my intention to be, but I also think that people need to form opinions and not be afraid to state them at the risk of offending others' sensibilities. There's tolerance, there's respect, and I'm all for both of those things. But there's also two sides to every story, or perhaps more, and a whole lot of perspectives to consider. I'm just sayin'...

1 comment: