Wednesday 30 April 2014

Are modern mums just a pack of whingers?

I've said it before and I'll say it again - parenting is so much harder than I ever thought it would be.

Amongst the toddler joy and laughter there's the constant battles, questioning your decisions, debating with your partner over tactics, berating yourself when you do the wrong thing...the list goes on.

And like many of my friends, I've turned to my own mother for advice and to vent.

"Was I ever like this at 3? What about my sisters? I don't ever remember refusing to go bed, how did you get me to sleep? How did you cope?"

Frustratingly Mum apparently never went through half of the stuff myself and my sister (who has three boys) are currently in the thick of. Unlike me, she also had a husband who didn't cook, clean or wipe bums; and she didn't use modern conveniences such as disposable nappies, ATMs, online shopping or iPads to get more things done. Oh and she also did secretarial work for my father's business until 1am while we were all in bed, so she was a working mum too.

Basically she had a lot less help than me, yet seemed to get through the toddler wilderness years relatively unscathed. How, how I ask??!

Mum believes the reason is perhaps because my sister and I both have boys and she had three girls - because you know, "girls are easier". Bulldust! I have friends with daughters who pull their hair out on a regular basis just like me. So it can't be that.

A lot of my friends have asked their mothers too, who all seem to have similar memories of rearing their toddlers - "No I don't remember you doing anything like that."

So what gives then? Here are some of my theories:

The generation before just doesn't remember
Similar to how many mothers don't remember the pain of childbirth (unlike myself, I ain't never forgetting that!), I think they might have blocked out the bad memories and just can't recall how difficult it was. It was quite a few decades ago after all so who can blame them?

Children are more difficult now
When you consider the 'instant culture' we now live in, toxic chemicals in food and all around us, and constant stimulants thanks to increased technology devices; is this idea really that far fetched? I think not. Sure I was exposed to a bit of all this growing up, but nowhere near the amount that's around most kids today.

Modern mums are a pack of whingers
Society today not only allows, but wholeheartedly invites, people to share intricate details of their lives - mostly via technology. Exhibit A: here I am venting on this blog post to friends and strangers about my struggles with parenthood. My mum didn't have that opportunity - nor the luxury of flicking off a Facebook status, uploading a pic to Instagram, sending an email, texting a friend or even calling my dad in the car on the way home to relive the day's events. Parents of that generation didn't have the technology to whinge - by the time you might have sat down to write a long letter to your gal pal overseas the moment would have been long gone. And you most probably wouldn't have had the time or inclination to whinge either, because when things were tough back then you just shut up and soldiered on.

Talking to others about parenthood struggles can be extremely therapeutic and helpful, particularly when you feel like you're drowning and get great advice back. But perhaps oversharing about what little Johnny did every two seconds is the modern mum's downfall? Because when you constantly talk about something and people respond, the incident remains very much alive when perhaps it might have already disappeared into a distant memory (which might be what you actually need to battle through).

So what is it then that makes parenting seem so much harder now than before? Is it grandparents with selective memories, or that we're breeding wilder children, or that we won't shut up about how hard it is? Probably all of the above.

Throwing another option into the ring is that perhaps parents these days are trying too hard to be the parent they think they should be, instead of being guided by instinct and enjoying the little stuff. 

I had the pleasure of reviewing Angela Mollard's new book, The Smallest Things -  Thoughts on making a happy family, for stylem magazine recently. I asked the author why she thought modern mums found it harder than previous generations and this was her response:

"Our generation is being sold an image as confected as a cupcake. You can have it all, we are told, so we weight the various components and strive to present to the world the perfect version of ourselves. But like cupcakes - which offer only saccharine emptiness - it's a fraud. We cannot be everything to everybody - we can only focus on what matters to us."

Can I get an Amen?! (and a cupcake please).

Not forgetting to enjoy our children is the most important thing. So I think it's time to stop quizzing the madness and jump on the crazy train...

Do you think parents these days whinge too much?

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  1. Oh Suz you do make me laugh! You're right, we're over sharing whingers but thank god I've got all of you to whine to. Great entry!

  2. mmmm, cupcakes. At the Happiness & It's Causes conference a few years back, one of the speakers presented longitudinal research that showed that the vast majority of women rated their child-raising years as the happiest of their life. However, when compared to short-term studies, the women in this age/life group were the most stressed, got the least sleep, were unhappy with their weight and felt a higher sense of dissatisfaction. So what gives?
    My theory is that when you've got your head down and you're in the thick of it, child-raising is a relentless slog, but once you're out of it there's so much to be proud of and a great result in the form of one or three children still alive and reasonably well-adjusted. It's a bit like a tough spin class (that goes for eight years). Hardly anyone thinks "oh yes! I love this" every moment of a tough session, but at the end, we feel great.

    1. That's an awesome way of looking at it! I will think of that every time there is a tantrum or sibling fight happening :)

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Thanks for sharing your two cents with One Woman Circus!