Parenting is More Work Today and Less Enjoyable

Parents spend more time with their children today than they did in 1975. They also have less leisure time and less time with their spouse. The result is a generation of very unhappy parents.

These facts are included within the fascinating cover story by Jennifer Senior in the July 12, 2010 issue of New York Magazine. The article, titled All Joy and No Fun, highlights the downside to parenting.

In a startlingly similar article, The Washington Post ran an article this week titled Helicopter moms, heading for a crash by Margaret K. Nelson. This article also pointed out how mothers suffer when they hover.

Each of these articles point to the fact that middle class parents – mothers especially – feel intense pressure to perfect the role of parent. It’s not only the children who suffer when they are overparented; it is the parents too.

My mother and I recently had a conversation on this topic. We were talking about how expectations of parenting have changed in a generation. One example was that of cleanliness – my mother noted that children no longer have their ‘Saturday bath.’ Rather, the expectation is that you bathe your children daily or at least more frequently than once a week. Then think of the volume of laundry that takes place in a home compared to a few generations ago. Higher expectations means more time required from parents to meet those expectations.

This argument is especially true of the many activities that parents are ‘expected’ to expose their children to – music classes to enrich their artistic side, sports teams to teach teamwork, second language immersion since they learn a language better when they are young, etc. Not that I believe that any of these things activities are inherently negative for a child or parent. But as expectations increase, so does the amount of time required for parents to parent.

Resisting some of these expectations takes courage. However, bravery may be the name of the game if you want to be a happy parent. According to the articles listed above, those with children are less happy than their childless friends. The simple conclusion would be to avoid having children. The more complicated, and indeed courageous, conclusion would be to create an environment where having children is actually enjoyable and doesn’t feel like a burden. And this might mean spending more time in the backyard watching the clouds than doing the laundry or worrying about the children’s intellectual development. It may also mean taking time for yourself. Yes, at the expense of your children.


4 Responses to “Parenting is More Work Today and Less Enjoyable”

  1. 1 MoreThanMom July 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Sounds like a book I recently read – Breaking the Good Mom Myth: Every Mom’s Modern Guide to Getting Past Perfection, Regaining Sanity, and Raising Great Kids by Alyson Schafer.

    Have you read it?

    • 2 Mama Tortoise July 25, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      No, I haven’t read it but it looks great. I’ll have to add it to ‘the list.’ The term ‘myth’ really resonates with me when I think about motherhood as we seem to forget that motherhood is a social construction. Thanks for lead!

  2. 3 Prerna July 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Wow.. You inspire me to take that first step in redefining my parenting strategy. While I have made quite a few changes and offended quite a few people with my relaxed, simple way of life, I still have a long way to go. Thank you for sharing these enlightening articles. I look forward to learning and growing with them.

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Inspiration for free-range parenting or simple living

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