Through the generations, every mother has worked hard, no one is arguing that. But today things are different, and moms are living a different life than our mothers and grandmothers did.
There’s just no doubt about it.
When I was born, my grandmother flew from Texas to California to stay with my mother for a week to take care of me, my older sister, and my mother. My ex-mother-in-law (who had 4 kids) also told me how each time she had a child, her mother-in-law would take her kids for a week so she could bond with her new child and get the rest she needed. And I’ve heard this type of treatment wasn’t requested, it was assumed. This is what a lot of parents did, without question.
Many of us who grew up in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s remember roaming the neighborhood, playing outside, and being taken care of by a group of other stay-at-home moms or getting rides to events from other parents.
My mother tells me almost everyone had a village in those days; there wasn’t the comparing, the shaming for letting your child walk to school, or pressure to feed your kids organic meals three times a day. Fast food and TV dinners were acceptable (also, hi Dunkaroos and other ‘90s snacks), and helicopter or lawnmower parents weren’t a thing. You didn’t get criticized for taking a vacation without your children or not attending every baseball game.
We went to the playground by ourselves at the ripe age of 7 and there weren’t laws about how old your child had to be before you left them home alone.
Yes, they had their own hardships, but no matter where you are in life, there are hard parts. And just because your life is different, or appears easier, doesn’t mean it’s not hard in other ways. So no, I’m not saying moms of yesteryear had things “easier” necessarily, just different.
Moms today give birth, come home from the hospital the next day, and are back in action right away, making lunches and getting their other kids ready for school.
Moms today try to squeeze in as much time as they can with their kids before they have to go back to work.
Moms today have parents who are more consumed with their own lives — working, traveling, or dating — and don’t have the time to simply come stay with you for a week after you’ve given birth.
As Dr. Harvey Karp said, “No woman has ever had to do as much, on her own, as the modern mother. We don’t have the same family structure or the same neighborhood structure anymore…It’s really hard, and every woman needs to give herself a break.”
None of that means that the generations before us didn’t have a difficult time. It means things are different, especially the expectations we put on ourselves to build our career, keep up with our kids’ activities, and be the person who oversees it all for our family. Throw in the pressure of everyone else watching and judging, and you are left with feeling like you need to do more without help. It all feels impossible.
Not to mention, it’s making mothers feel alone and isolated.
Many women don’t have the supportive village my mom talks about. There’s not as much playing in the street and coming home when the street light comes on.
Long gone are the afternoons and evenings dedicated to family time. Now we are driving to sporting events, working extra hours to afford said events, worrying about work projects and deadlines — oh, and don’t forget self-care!
It doesn’t mean life is horrible. We are thankful for all the opportunities our kids have and advancements like online grocery shopping, the fact we can check our kids’ grades online, and having access to birth control.
Yes, the generations before us had it hard in other ways, but our standard for how we are raising our children, how we handle our career, how involved we are in our kids’ lives is higher.
Many of us don’t have that elusive village — everyone is too busy taking their kids from lessons to recitals, there isn’t room to drop off the neighbors’ kid. Many of us don’t have parents to help because they are still working themselves and don’t want the role of “grandparent” to dictate their life. And the amount of “stuff” we carry around in our minds blocks out any possibility of staying in the moment (despite the constant messages we get about being present).
But we also put a very high expectation on ourselves. We feel shamed by others’ comments about the way we feed our kids, how many family vacations we are taking, and if we let our daughter dye her hair blue. Not to mention almost 62% of households have two working parents compared to 51% 20 years ago and a mere 31% in 1976.
I think we need to take the doctor’s advice and not be so hard on ourselves. We need to realize this “modern motherhood” standard is bullshit — and exhausting.
We can only do what we can, and that is more than good enough for our children. In the end, that is all that matters. Loving our kids takes priority over organic snacks, clean homes, and our kids being in a sport every season.
Let’s keep lifting each other, cut ourselves some slack, and remember that we’re doing a good job — even when it doesn’t seem like it. After all, this motherhood this shit is hard.
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