I found myself nodding as I read the motherhood column. Wente starts out by describing her own childhood, & how, by today's strict standards, her own mother was a lousy parent. (Mine too, it would seem.) In an age of "helicopter parenting," she writers, "The obligations of responsible mothering have been ratcheted way up." And she's not just talking about the constant monitoring of Junior's grades, friends, after-school activities & playdates. (Or, as I read in a recent New York Times article, cyberbullying, which has ratcheted up traditional bullying tactics to a considerable degree.)
"Once upon a time, the conveniences of modern life (processed foods, Lysol spray, disposable diapers, clothes dryers, polyester sheets) liberated women like my mother from their chains. But now, their granddaughters are clamoring to clap the shackles on again. Someone’s got to mash the organic applesauce, hang the diapers out to dry, and breastfeed the kid. No matter how enlightened the parental units, that someone will generally be Mom.She has a point. You know, as much as I wanted children, I have to admit -- at times, I find myself relieved that I didn't. I know parenting is hard work, but yes, the bar these days does seem to be set incredibly high.
"It seems to me that if you had deliberately devised a plot to oppress women, it couldn’t get more diabolical than this. Highly educated, progressive and enlightened mothers don’t need men to oppress them. They’re perfectly capable of oppressing themselves!
"...it occurs to me that the high moral bar we’ve set for modern motherhood is a tremendous deterrent to motherhood itself. Any thoughtful woman would have to think twice, thrice, or three times thrice before committing to a task with such demanding standards. Can you blame them for deciding not to? If we want to raise the birth rate, perhaps we need to lower the bar."
I grew up in a much more laissez-faire time when it came to parenting -- & I didn't/don't feel in the least bit deprived. Which means I'm more than a little taken aback by some of the stories I hear, in the media & from parents I know.
I can remember dh's cousin's wife telling me, several years ago, when her daughters were in about Grades 7 & 5, that she thought that maybe -- MAYBE -- the time had come to allow her kids walk to school without her. But ONLY if they went with the two next-door neighbour boys -- and ONLY if they promised to go the long way around & avoid the shortcut through the park, where the local teenagers hang out. (The "long way around" is just a few short blocks -- 5, maybe 10 minutes from their house. )
This seemed somewhat bizarre to me. I guess I didn't realize how few kids these days actually walk to school, nevermind unescorted by an adult, even if they do live just a few blocks away. (No wonder childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing.)
I told her, "I walked six blocks. To kindergarten. By myself, usually. Across a highway." & got a disbelieving stare. Of course, I hastened to add, this was smalltown Saskatchewan in the 1960s. (Yes, I am dating myself here, horribly.) Everybody walked to school then, unless they lived in the country & had to be bussed. Even though most of our moms didn't work then, nobody drove us anywhere, unless maybe it was pouring rain or blizzarding outside (& in that case, school was probably cancelled anyway).
I didn't tell her about how my sister, our best friend & I used to take a picnic lunch & head to the playground a few blocks away for the afternoon. By ourselves. We were all no older than 8 at the time.
Or about how, when I was a bit older, I used to ride my bike by myself all over town. I never told my mother where I was going (I probably didn't know, I just wanted to ride around) & she never asked. She knew I'd be home for dinner.
Needless to say, I am incredibly thankful that I grew up at the time & in the places that I did. We had so much more freedom than even the kids in those small towns today probably have. I find myself feeling kind of sorry for them sometimes.
Maybe if I'd had kids right away after we got married, I would have escaped the recent helicopter phenomenon -- or at least had more energy to cope with it all, lol. Had Katie made it here as scheduled, she'd be 11, almost 12 years old, & we'd be right in the thick of things. And yes, I'm sure I would have found a way to cope, somehow (you do what you gotta do...) -- but honestly? I don't think I could measure up to the standards that seem to be required of today's parents. I get tired just reading about it all.
A woman I work with is constantly on the phone with her nanny, organizing her daughter's activities. She's enrolled in gymnastics, dance & drama, plus a few other things I probably haven't thought of here. Not to mention scheduling play dates.
The kid is not even two yet.
It takes guts to buck the trend & face down the disapproval of other parents. One of my friends has, to some extent. For many years, she asked her kids each year -- did they want to enroll in soccer? Hockey? Gymnastics? They weren't interested in doing anything after school, other than hanging out at home or with their friends. And, aside from swimming lessons (a cottage owner who's afraid of the water herself, she has insisted that her children learn to swim), she hasn't forced them to do anything they didn't really want to do. Eventually, they did find their own interests -- the daughter takes piano lessons & was accepted into a performing arts school; her son is playing ball this summer. But she admits, she used to get a lot of weird looks from other parents when they asked her what activities her kids were involved in.
I'm not sure what the answer is. But yes, sometimes it feels good to remind myself: it's not my problem.