Wednesday, July 28, 2010

my brother is wrong

Oftentimes, in the summertime, I feel guilty because I don't feel like I'm doing "enough" with my kids. I dont' even know what "enough" looks like, but I feel guilty for not doing it.

I remember my friend Rach feeling guilty for not baking "enough" cookies with her daughter, Hannah, who passed away after a drowning accident. I can so easily relate to that...Asher has been asking us to put training wheels on his bike for weeks, and finally I looked at Scott and said, "Step up to the plate and take him to Home Depot to get nuts for his training wheels, dude."

But I always wonder, in our mothers' hearts, what would be "enough". You can be a TERRIFIC parent and still feel guilt over what you didn't do. We never think about all that we DID do, you know?

I think there are so many ways to feel guilty as a parent. I got into a discussion with my brother while we were on vacation. His contention was that "housewives have never had it easier." In some ways I agree, and in some ways I don't.

Ways we have it easier:
1. modern conveniences like refrigerators, washers, dryers, cars
2. grocery stores, easily accessible and convenient food
3. smaller families, not as many kids to take care of

My brother was saying that you hear lots of women with two kids talking about how "crazy" it is at home at night or how getting together a meal for the family is hard. And in that way, I suppose you could say we're soft.

But, here's my rebuttal. Every good debater in my family loves a rebuttal.

Ways it is harder:

1. My kids can't run around the neighborhood like stray dogs the way kids could do it 50 years ago in the summertime. Mothers wouldn't see their kids until twilight, when it was bath and bed time. The next day, they'd do it all over again. If I let my kids sit on the front step unattended while I load my ever-so-convenient dishwasher, I feel like my neighbors will call the cops. I don't feel like it's safe.

2. Social expectations are different. I was talking to a friend yesterday who feels like she has to put her three-year-old in preschool because that's what you do. If you don't do that, your kid is going to somehow be this underdeveloped freak who doesn't know how to interact with anyone else socially. I feel guilty if I don't take my kids to have 3 or more "play dates" a week, because maybe then they'll have problems relating to other kids in the future. (I don't truly believe this, but my heart sometimes has other ideas than my brain really knows.)

3. Barack Obama has made everything more difficult. It's all his fault. OK, I just threw that one in there.

4. Social media makes being a mother more difficult. Not only do I feel like I have to call someone back the same day they have called or I am being rude, I have a cell phone to contend with, texting to do, emails to check, and 476 social networking sites I need to maintain. Lots of people to keep up contact with, which takes considerable time away from my children. Another reason for guilt.

5. Getting together with other mothers is not as easy as it used to be. It used to be that getting together with other moms meant meeting at the local park. Most of us don't live in small communities any more. We live in big cities where a sense of real community is all but extinct.

6. #5 makes us feel more isolated than ever.

7. There are more pressures on children than ever before. I don't think, 50 years ago, some kid was asking her mom if she could dress like Lindsey Lohan at the ripe old age of 10. "Sorry, honey, mommy's not going to let you go to school looking like a hooker," was probably not something the mom of 50 years ago had to worry about saying.

8. Everywhere I go, everywhere my husband goes, everywhere my kids go, there is a barrage of information to take in. Television, internet, tv. You can't sit in a public restroom without an advertisement on the wall. You can't escape it. It is hard to be still, to be quiet. There is always something more "pressing" to do. Tyranny of the urgent, as one guy who lived a long time ago put it (can't remember his name).

8. There is an unspoken, everywhere, that the busier you are, the more important you are. Volunteer for church functions, volunteer at your kid's school, volunteer here, volunteer there. It's an interesting phenomenon to me, and one I've been paying attention to more lately. I often wonder how much quality time at home the people who are constantly volunteering are actually getting. As I recently told a friend, "There are only 24 hours in a day for ALL of us. No one gets more. So the person who is doing 9 billion things outside of the home is letting other things slide. It's a simple fact."

While I go cry into my soup, give me some more. Agree? Disagree?


Anonymous said...

I so agree! Even 20 years ago the world was a different place. My mom says even teaching kids now has gotten to be more difficult.

deannaburasco said...

My personal opinion is that children now are involved in way too much, and both the children and the parents do not have enough down time. Why does a 5-year-old need to have piano lessons and be on a soccer team? My daughter is not in any sport and does not take music lessons (although of course if she becomes interested, we would gladly sign her up). She has had only one organized playdate this entire summer. Yes, just one. (Did I hear a collective gasp?) Yet, she is having a fabulous summer! We go to the library a lot, she is around other kids, she sees family frequently, but the organized activities are few and far between. It works very well for us - a lot less stress!

MB said...

My SIL and I just had this talk not long ago. We added one more that was true for both of us... We both have twice the house/yard that our parents did. It all adds up! You should read the "Three Martini Playdate". It is the best, down-to-earth, reality check parenting book I have ever read! It's very TIC, but at the same time, so true.

Cole said...

TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!!!! Good thing I wasn't there to gang up on your brother with you!

I'm in school in an accelerated program, have 2 kids, try to get my kids involved in anything I can afford, try to volunteer, try to visit the family that gives us guilt trips each and every time we talk to them. Add in church, meals, laundry, and trying to exercise, be presentable for your husband and keep the house presentable without the children wrecking it each and every day...

There are times I'd like to be churning butter, etc. I can't even find REAL food without spending a small fortune!

It's more fast-paced is what I'm saying. I adore simplicity and we've really been discussing finding a way to make that happen for our family.

It's too fast-paced for us.

Kiki said...

I agree, especially with #3! Did you know there is a clause in the health care bill that will add a %3.8 tax on the sale of your house?

I agree with the too many activities, life is too fast paced. And try living against it, it's not easy! We purposely skipped soccer this season because Sage is starting school, that's about all I can handle!

Great arguments, Rach.

I disagree with the smaller number of kids, only because the number of people you are cooking or cleaning up for doesn't change the amount of work. I'm not sure that's making sense.

Mindy said...

I agree with you, Rachel. Let me guess, was it Michael or Nathan who said that?

Sara said...

I have been thinking these same thoughts time and again lately. I will add:

It is much harder for us to keep up with our houses today because 1) we have more money, and therefore more stuff; 2) our houses are bigger; 3) we have more than 1 bathroom; 4) our kids have more clothes than any child should have...

Also, it is easier for us to become distracted from the important stuff (in my opinion, just kicking back and being a FAMILY) because so many opportunities are staring us in the face. I think of my mom, 30 years ago, 5 kids...

When she only had 3 kids, she was younger than I am and she had no driver's license, so she couldn't drive anywhere. No computer, no e-mail, phone calls cost money, even if you were calling next door...she was in the house with us,, cleaning, and being a mom was her main priority and it wasn't as difficult to juggle (though I'm sure difficult for her sanity) because she didn't have any other options...

Also, she didn't feel like she had to have structured arts and crafts time, or learning-to-read time, or practice your hand-writing time, or learn-how-to-catch-a-ball time with us...we just played. We took our 3 or 4 or 5 toys and we got creative and entertained ourselves. Expectations for the modern day woman are out of control, and I don't believe anyone who claims to have it all together. :o)

Okay. That was long. I could write a book on it though...

just1 said...

I think we too easily let society pressure us into doing things that aren't necessary. Those who are busy doing 80 different activities in a 24-hour period ARE doing 80 different things. But are they doing any of them WELL? I would rather be involved in 1 or 2 things I really care about and do them WELL, instead of being constantly hurried and harried, never able to sit and just BE. What does God want for our individual family? That's a question that's worth asking. And we shouldn't really care what other families are doing compared to ours. How about trying to build Biblical character qualities into our children, instead of getting them on the Little League All Star team? I'm off my soap box now.

Aimee said...

My mom is always reminding me that it was simpler then, when we were kids. We lived in the country. No play dates, no extra curricular activities, no fast food restaurants, no pressure to keep up with the Jones' in regards to your house, your clothes, your car. We played outside all day... without our Mom with us at every second. No computer to vie for our time.

Today I battled with my kids a ton. Why? B/c I wanted to do my own thing on the computer and to talk on the phone.

The hard part isn't the doing, it's being able to say no to all the brainless things we fill ourselves with now. Oh, and the 658 channels of tv now instead of the 3 that all went off at midnight when it played the national anthem before it went to fuzz.

kate said...

Heck, i'm still impressed that you redid your basement like that!

I will respond more when i have some time ;)

kate said...

I think that time is like when you move into a larger house and unpack everything. That is to say, at first it feels like there is SO MUCH SPACE...and then in a few months, damn, the space is filled and you can't imagine how you lived anywhere smaller.

And, um, you should hear how crazy it is at my home at night, and i only have 3 little ones. Last night it was so crazy i threw them all in bed and went to sleep myself. Thus, today, nothing is done, oh well. C'est la vie.

Thirsty Girl said...

I'm pretty sure 50 years ago mommies started dosing themselves with valium.

Thirsty Girl said...

And add to that the pressure to lose all baby weight 10 seconds post birth, be virtually hairless everywhere but on your head, to be a "milf" and have a stripper pole in the bedroom. Sure we can ignore those pressures but that would require some mindfulness and I don't have time for that with my pedicures, cocktail hours, facebook stalking and such.