Friday, November 30, 2007

Why we're so neurotic

It's not just our imagination - it IS more complicated to be a mother these days. Don't get me wrong, there are all sorts of ways in which life has improved since the 60s and 70s (computers, fat-free microwave popcorn, equal rights, etc.), but being a mom is so much more challenging, no wonder we're so crazed.
- When our mothers were in our shoes, there was ONE book widely available - Dr. Spock. It contained such revolutionary advice as "Feed babies when they're hungry, not on a set schedule". He told parents - trust your gut, your instincts are sound, you know your kids better than anyone, so relax! Now there are over 78,000 parenting books just on, 691,000 websites if you google 'parenting advice', not to mention t.v. shows, magazines, and more. No matter what your instinct is, there will be an expert out there telling you you're wrong, and we are so bombarded with conflicting information that it's impossible to sort through it all.
- More and more women are delaying child-bearing and work before (or during) child-rearing. So you have an unprecedented number of stay-home moms who used to work (and put all that energy, drive, and organizational ability into raising perfect kids) , plus the economic necessity for more women to work while they raise kids. Thus we have the stay-home-vs.-working-mom war (where each side seems to need to show how much better its choice is). Plus older moms have more invested in their kids; women who left the work force need to prove that their kids were worth it; and working moms feel the need to compensate for the games/shows/assemblies they miss. And no matter what your working status is, there are numerous studies and articles to prove you're doing irreperable damage to your kids. (This is a real-life variation on the Jewish mother joke, about the mom who gives her son 2 ties, and when he puts one on, she complains, "So you didn't like the other one?" My grandmother told my aunt that all her kids' problems were because she stayed home with them and smothered them; meanwhile she told my mother that all our problems were because she worked and neglected us!)
40 years ago, a working mother was a rarity, and just 'being a mom' was considered plenty to do. If a woman worked, it was usually either because she was particularly good at something or because the family needed the income, and either way, the neighbors understood and pitched in to help. There was no working vs. stay-home mom war, and also no pressure on women to be amazing executives (or whatever) while cooking gourmet meals, wearing a size 2, and attending every self-esteem-building assembly.
- Then factor in all the pressures on us to be perfect in other ways. For example, 40 years ago, the average fashion model weighed about 5 % less than the average American woman. Now, that discrepancy has exploded, so the images we're seeing in the media are of women who weigh 35-40% less than we do - is it any wonder we're more screwed up (and frustrated) about body image, diet, and attractiveness?

Okay, I can't change all these societal issues single-handedly - hell, I can't usually manage to find my keys on a given day, much less make homemade cupcakes. But at least I can tell other moms - you're not alone!

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