This week I’ve run into a bunch of posts on blogs, comments in forums, etc. where women discuss how hard it is to have children. Here’s an example:
*sigh* Oh yeah… overwhleming. Its hard not to have any free time. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my two DD’s, they’re wonderful but so much work… the noise, the toys everywhere, the constant demands, the little sibling fights, etc.. I can’t remember the last time i had an hour to read a book or watch a TV show. I do love being a mom but sometimes i really look forward to when they’re older and I’ll go back to work. :-/ I try to rememer to enjoy this time since they’ll be little for only a short time. I know I’ll be happy in the long run… i just need to keep reminding myself of that.
I was surprised to feel a sense of disconnect with friends and other bloggers who wrote posts like the one above. I realized in trying to come up with something to say that I spend far less time thinking about the difficulties of being a parent than I used to, which is odd since my responsibilities as a parent have increased exponentially, and I’m never one to shy away from kvetching about whatever might be inconveniencing me.
It used to be second nature. In my family growing up, the topic of how hard it is to have children came up fairly frequently. My parents told me many times that while having kids is very rewarding, it’s the most difficult thing you could ever do (and they only had one kid!) Friends’ parents often echoed similar sentiments. As I child I was keenly aware of the great burdens of being a parent.
Up until my son was a little over a year old I also spent a fair amount of time pontificating about the heavy weight of motherhood. Not that I didn’t enjoy being a mother, but, like my parents and the woman who wrote the post above, the realization of how much had changed since my pre-kid days and how little free time I had and how much new responsibility I had were always in the back of my mind.
I noticed this week that over the past year and a half or so my thinking has changed. I definitely gripe about bad days here and there and have frustrating moments almost daily, but I give almost no thought to the downsides of simply being a parent and the lifestyle that goes with it. I’m much more at peace with every aspect of being a mother, including the challenges and inconveniences. Why is that? (Hint: it’s not because I’m just a peaceful person or a naturally good mother.) 🙂
I realized that my mentality changed about the time my stance on contraception changed. Once I saw marriage as going hand-in-hand with the creation of life, I realized that I’ll be open to the possibility of new life until menopause which, based on family history, will probably be sometime around age 47. I could be changing diapers when I’m almost 50.
As this new way of seeing my life and my marriage sunk in, I slowly started to think of diaper changing and “terrible two’s” and fussy babies and spitup and mystery Crayon stains not as a fleeting phase to grit your teeth and endure, but as part of life. Just like I don’t spend much time belaboring the disadvantages of being very tall, I no longer spend much time belaboring the difficulties of being a parent. Both are just part of life.
The human mind naturally agonizes more about challenging situations that we perceive to be changeable, temporary or within our control than that which we perceive to be permanent, part of life and out of our control. And I’ve really felt this to be true as I compare my new mentality about motherhood with my old. Again, I’ve always enjoyed being a mom. But back when I had a little clock ticking in my subconscious, counting the days until my last carefully-planned child would enter kindergarten and I’d therefore be finished with the baby/toddler phase, it was hard not be very conscious of all the downsides of this soon-to-be-over time of my life.
I’m interested to hear what others think. Do you think that our pro-contraception culture, in which children are carefully planned and each phase of childhood is fleeting, lends itself to making the little challenges of raising kids be more “felt, ” more painful? Or has there always been as much hand-wringing about the challenges inherent to parenting as there is now?
NOTE: We all know that the topic of parenthood in general, and especially comparisons of parents with differing philosophies, is a super hot hotbutton issue. Let’s make sure to remember that this isn’t about who is a good or bad parent, just a discussion of whether or not certain mindsets make the challenges of parenting more noticeable.
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