2/22/2005

The imperfect parent

The buzz this week is the Newsweek article about moms my age, and why we feel so damned useless and inept. We were the Title IX babies, the girls who were taught as we grew up that we could be whatever we wanted to be. High powered career? You can do that. Raise a family? Sure, no problem. Don't want to choose? That's OK, you can do both, because the enlightened husbands will be equal parents. Except, not so much. Our intentions were good, our parents' intentions were good. And in a lot of ways, we've done what we set out to do. But it's never been as easy as it was supposed to be. I never had the feeling that I had to choose between working and raising my children. My generation was the first wave of the latch-key kids, and even though some of the moms took some criticism for it, we learned about independence and choices and the necessity of balance. We weren't constrained by having to fit into a particular slot. The problem was, the parents of the boys of my generation didn't always pass on the same message. I'm sure that they subscribed to it in theory, but how many parents of boys were instilling those concepts in the future husbands and fathers? My generation, the girls who are trying to have it all, are still being faced with having to balance it on our own. Yeah, dads are more involved than they were thirty years ago. But most of them are involved because their wives are making them be. Stay at home parents: how many of them are dads? When both parents work, who bears the majority of the responsbility for arranging the child care, scheduling the doctors' appointments, signing the permission slips? Ten points if you answered "Mommy." This isn't true for every family, of course. But I've got a lot of friends who are in the same boat I am. Daddy is quite happy to do what need done. If we point it out to him. But the assumption persists; if it needs to be done, if the baby is sick, if the school needs a chaperone for the trip, if it's snowing and the day care has to close early, it's Mommy's duty to figure it out. While the parents of young girls were teaching their daughters to make choices and strive for equality, no one thought to teach the boys how to help that happen. The Mommy wars have been waging for years. If you stay at home, you're "wasting" your education or job talent. If you keep your job, you're abdicating your parental duties to strangers (or to your own parents, if you are lucky enough to have grandparents who want to take care of their grandchildren every day. Which has a myriad of other struggles, but that's a whole other post.) And neither side feels like they're doing the right thing. The upshot of most of the latest articles and books is that there is no "right thing." But we aren't all able to feel proud of the things that we are doing, whether those things involve being involved with our children's school or playgroup or whatever, or those things involve being in a job outside the home, or those things involve something in between (working from home, part time jobs, whatever.) Instead, we look at what we aren't doing, and feel like we don't measure up. We cringe when our children ask why we didn't come to the classroom party on Valentine's Day when everyone else's mom was there. We bristle at the well meaning questions about whether we miss interacting with other adults since deciding to stay home to raise our children, or the remarks about how lucky we are that we don't have to face the work world anymore and we can just relax and play with the kids all day. It's a myth to think we can have it all. But the fact that we've had to make sacrifices and decide which of the options was the best for us shouldn't make those options any less valid or any less "right." The hardest part of parenthood is for us to admit and accept that.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jen said...

Interesting post. I especially like: It's a myth to think we can have it all. But the fact that we've had to make sacrifices and decide which of the options was the best for us shouldn't make those options any less valid or any less "right."
Came across your blog from the comments about this article on Suburban Bliss, and blogged about this same article myself. It sure is taking the mommysphere by storm!

2/23/2005 7:03 PM  
Blogger Peeved Michelle said...

I don't even want it all so it is fine with me if it's unrealistic,

3/04/2005 3:21 PM  

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Who's Who

    Hubby- aka DH My husband since 1995. He is the head of the band department at a college prep school, and dabbles as a wanna-be pop star.

    The Princess- aka DD. Third grader at the local parochial school. Loves butterlies, sparkly things, the color purple and has recently developed a crush on one of the twins from "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody". Is ready for her teenage years, having already perfected her exasperated sigh and dramatic eye-roll.

    Hoss- aka DS1. Kindergartener and resident spirited child. His aunt likes to call him "the evil genius" because of his penchant for letting a lack of intellectual stimulation lead him into mischief. Likes trucks, sports, building things and burping. His current favorite word is "underwear."

    Lil Joe- aka DS2. Born in 2003. Doesn't say much we can understand, but has mastered the important stuff ("eat!", "Wash hands!", "Want chocolate ones!", "Hockey game!") Likes to push buttons, much to the consternation of whoever is trying to watch a DVD. Firmly refuses to use the potty, despite evidence that he is physically ready to be out of diapers, indicating a level of stubborn that eclipses even that of his parents and siblings.

    Me? I'm the Mama. That's all you need to know.

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