After an exhausting evening of parenting, I stood in the shower thinking of all the things I needed to do. Some of them were practical household tasks that needed to be completed before a holiday party, some were errands that needed to be run, but most of them involved my computer or phone.
I work part time, and while it often seems like the best of both worlds, there are moments when it feels like the worst of both worlds. I struggle with the fact that I feel pulled in so many directions. I genuinely love teaching my classes, and my writing and blogging make me feel extremely fulfilled, but adding them into the already precarious balance of spending time with my kids and maintaining some kind of a social life is not always easy.
I have been thinking lately about what it must have been like for my mom to be a SAHM in the 80s. Was she as fulfilled as I am? Happier? More stressed? More relaxed? Sure, we lived in the same house, but my perspective was that of a child, one who enjoyed a relatively happy and drama-free childhood, and how much can we really understand about our parents when we are growing up?
My mom stayed home with us, but she was very busy with volunteer activities, PTA, Junior League, etc, and she had plenty of friends that she spent time with regularly. We had great neighbors, and had frequent “play dates”, though nobody called them that back then.
But there was no worldwide web where moms could anonymously air their grievances about parenthood. There were no online resources or support groups where a mom could vent, complain, or cry with relief when reading about another woman’s similar experience.
There were no parenting blogs where one could feel connected to another mom she had never met.
It was perhaps not as socially acceptable to express one’s feelings of ambivalence about motherhood.
But on the flip side, I think of how much of my time I spend tweeting, posting on facebook, reading blogs, returning texts, and perusing online parenting communities. Sometimes I am embarrassed by how much time I spend clicking away at the keyboard or on my iPhone.
Sure, the phone rang at our house when I was growing up. And sometimes my mom talked to people on it. But she was never attached to it, and we didn’t have a computer until I was in high school.
Is this new era of parenting (or even just living, with or without children) in the modern world a blessing or a curse?
I feel I am constantly returning text messages or replying to a comment someone left on my blog. These seem like meaningful interactions to me; I find I feel strangely connected to my online friends, through their hilarious tweets, relatable posts, and virtual camaraderie.
But I think it is problematic that in addition to spending quality time with our children, maintaining a vaguely habitable home, and interacting with actual people we know, we are now torn between reading our Facebook newsfeed, composing clever Tweets, pinning awesome sh*t on Pinterest, and searching the web for the latest breakthrough in parenting strategies.
So what did the 1980s moms do to relieve stress? How did they cope with their parenting frustrations? I don’t even remember my mom drinking wine when we were little kids. I didn’t notice it until we were older, nearly teens, and then we would tease her for drinking her white wine out of a plastic I Love Jesus Cup. Moms back then certainly didn’t brag about wearing yoga pants everywhere. I don’t recall my mom tossing on her pajama bottoms with relief the second the clock struck four, like I so often do.
So here is my assertion: perhaps moms back then were more isolated in some ways, had less emotional freedom, but I think they had fewer distractions. Maybe in some ways they were less overwhelmed.
But I can’t decide if there is more or less pressure now. Perhaps then there was more pressure to be perfect, to maintain the facade that you had it all together. But things were certainly simpler in many ways. Right now I feel like I have so many plates in the air sometimes, and it seems impossible for me to determine which of them are acceptable to break. Or at the very least, set down.
All of this is speculation, of course. Perhaps I will interview my mom and return with a follow-up post.
|Four generations. My aunt likes to say, Each generation does one better. We try, I think.|
*How does that sound, Mom? Oh, and by the way, thanks for reading. Love you.
A nice meditation on the various generations. And a wonderful four generation picture. Lovely, lovely.
I love your generational photo! Thanks for sharing.
I think that most problems in life are relative to the times . . . the problems themselves might be different, but in ratio to the “good”? Maybe about the same. Excellent question — and I hope you do interview your mom and write a follow-up!
Thanks for reading, and for such a thoughtful comment. I think you are right!