I often think to myself how good I have it. I am so over the blog posts and feature articles about how hard parenting is. Yes, I have my grumpy days, but most days I really do think, “Damn! Am I lucky!” This “Don’t Carpe Diem” one was really popular recently, and while I get it, it really didn’t resonate with me as much as it annoyed me. I kind of actually do carpe diem (to use her parlance), and while at the end she gets to the point that we should pay attention to the good things and be grateful, and offers some lovely examples, I really don’t buy the “parenting is like climbing Mt. Everest” analogy. Really? Something like 1500 people in all of history so far have climbed Mt. Everest. Billions of people have had children. In the comments to the Carpe Diem post, there were actually people saying that if you don’t think it’s hard, you’re doing it wrong! I don’t think people should feel bad about themselves or feel guilt if they have a bad day—or week. But, I think people need some perspective.
I just saw another one today—14 Reasons Why Being A Stay At Home Person Sucks. And then there’s the pissing contest about who’s got it harder, working moms or stay-at-home-moms. What an odd thing to want to argue—I’ve got it harder than you! Well, I’m here to say that I love my life—sure it probably is easier than many people’s, but “the complainers'” lives are also probably easier than most of the world’s population, and people throughout history as well. And I am so grateful.
I am hesitant to post this because in some ways, in the “mommyblogosphere” it actually seems subversive to be happy, without qualifications, about your life and your kid. People will think you’re bragging, or maybe just misery loves company more than someone saying how wonderful things are when another person may not be feeling so wonderful. But, I think it’s important to talk about when we’re happy, too. I think the “parenting is so hard” meme has just gone way too far.
I would challenge the Don’t Carpe Diem types to actually, yes, try to savor the moments, even the “screaming Target” ones (I seriously don’t understand how asleep at the wheel one has to be to find themselves in a situation where their kid has taken merchandise off the shelf or opened food in the store unbeknownst to them, and I don’t get the tantrums in stores thing, but I digress, maybe those anecdotes are for effect). But savor those, too, yes, do try. Much has been written about mindfulness and how it actually alleviates stress and makes people happier (Google it). Counting the minutes til your day ends? On a regular basis? Something is wrong with how you manage your days.
I remembered in the back of my head a post I’d written before, generally on this topic, though I didn’t remember it being quite so far back in time—actually when my kid was in the supposedly “terrible” twos! It’s heartening to know that more than two years later, I still feel the same. Maybe the good times can last! My post doesn’t even touch on comparisons between the average American mom and those in Africa who have to walk 5 miles to get water or something. Doesn’t even touch on the blessing of having healthy kids (as most of us do) versus a kid in the cancer ward (imagery my dad, who works in a hospital, was quick to invoke when we were discussing the relative hardness of parenting). My post is about much lighter things than those.
I was discussing this with my mom the other day. How happy my life is now, these golden years of long days (but for me, seriously not long enough) at home with my young child. I worry about the transition out of these days. I often envision my mom with me, back in the 70s, before my siblings came along, just us. Long days. Baking. Playgrounds. Doing art. Reading. A young, young mother just in her early 20s. I envision idyllic days for her. But, they had less money than we have now, and presumably more worries (?) She didn’t have the internet (for better or for worse). And, she was so young. I asked her if she had any fears or anxiety in her time about what would happen someday if X, Y or Z happened—because the flipside of gratitude can often be anxiety about losing what you’ve got. At least for me, if I don’t keep it in check. She told me she used to think, “OK, what is the worst that could happen?” And, she told me, she saw those “worst things” actually happen (including the death of a child). She observed that all these things happened, and, there she was, surviving. And there she was that day on the phone with me, dropping some serious knowledge on her daughter. Maybe she ought to have a blog.
Anyway, here is my old post:
From October, 2009
Reading The Women’s Room, fiction from 1977 that paints a really ugly picture of women’s lives in the 50s and 60s, I am struck with what a very easy and pleasant life I have. My mom suggested we read the book; one of her friends is reading it for a book group. So far, so good, if not a little much. Nobody’s happy. I suppose there are moments of happiness, or at least of relief, but overall, the women seem so unfulfilled, oppressed, and, well, sad. In addition to this novel feeding my obsession for mid 2oth century American socio-realist entertainment, I have become a big fan of the popular Mad Men series, watching every new episode and catching up on the old ones on DVD. The women of Mad Men do a little better than those in The Women’s Room, but there’s still much to bristle at.
I want to know, was it really like this? My mom was a hippie artist type in the 70s, married to my dad, a long-haired herb toking guitar god who worshipped her as his “primordial woman,” while making the modest living a non-college grad with smarts and a work ethic could still make back then. So this stuff was actually before her time. She told me she didn’t think it was quite like this for all women, reminiscing about her own mother, who would’ve been living this life during the period covered in the book, and thinking of her own mother-in-law. Both worked outside the home (one in a canning factory—sad, monotonous labor—the other as a milliner and in retail—something she liked) neither were sexually repressed (as far as we can tell), and both had nice husbands—my grandpas. My mom said she thought maybe it was a New England upper middle class thing, these tortured women. She said our lowly Eastern European immigrant people in the working classes in the city were different. Our people simply didn’t have time for the ennui. They were too busy getting by. I don’t know, but, boy is life different for me now than what’s described in The Women’s Room and what I see on Mad Men.
I live like a queen.
I don’t have to keep a particularly sparkling clean home. Although I keep it orderly, basically clean, and bug-free, my husband doesn’t really have any expectations of me in this area. Or, maybe I just haven’t tested him, but why would I want to? I have a certain standard for my own surroundings, of course. I get to go to the gym, go shopping (I’m not a big shopper, so by this, I mainly mean grocery or house supply shopping or toys), hang out with my adorable one girl child. It’s a dream! I also get to work a little bit, earn some money, stimulate my brain and interact with serious adults just enough to keep myself “sharp” with a foot into the door of the “real world.” We’re not wealthy, but I don’t worry about money when I go on myfrequent stops to Whole Foods for a snack, Starbucks for a smoothie for my girl and a coffee for me, Walgreens for some fresh Play Doh or new markers, Macy’s for an occasional Clinique treat for myself, or books, books, books from Amazon. (I swear, this post is not a commercial and I am not being paid by any of these companies!) Oh, and my husband is not selfish or brutish in the bedroom, either, although he can be a little bit messy in other rooms of the house. He’s just a normal guy and my best friend.
Women back then were expected to keep a spotless home (or so it seems) and had fewer modern technologies to help them do so. The “exotic” foods that light up my days (sushi, kombucha tea, chips and salsa, dark chocolates, microbrews) weren’t readily available. I mean, in Mad Men, even cosmopolitan Don Draper admits he’s never had Mexican food! Most women had more than one child, increasing the work load and decreasing the magic significantly, in my opinion (but that’s fodder for a whole other post, and purely a matter of individual choice). Women didn’t get to choose whether to get pregnant, at least not as easily as we do today, with so many birth control options available to us on one hand, and fertility help on the other. Women didn’t get to choose whether they were going to work or not, what they would do for work, or when, either.
I realize that even today many women don’t have that choice about work. Some need to and don’t want to. Others want to and can’t get it. And then there are the very lucky ones, like me, who have the rarefied experience of doing just enough satisfying work, on their own terms, and I get to do this while enjoying the cool experience of raising a “perfect” (wink wink) daughter in her early pre-school years from the comfort of home.
I gush about my girl because she is so gorgeous, so smart and so good. She is a genuine pleasure to be around. I actually enjoy hanging out with her, going to the coffee shop, doing art at home, going on outings to farms, playgrounds, museums and such—just us. Sometimes I think a mom who really likes her child is rare, too (from some of what I read online), and I don’t know whether that’s just them or their lousy circumstances that detract from the pleasures of parenting. (Or maybe complaining makes for more of a sense of camaraderie? Or website hits?)
Anyway, so often I find myself thinking how good I have it and that maybe it’s not so common to have it so good. Other times, I do get into minor slumps, feeling a little bit of that spoiled, suburban ennui that seems so shameful. I get testy with my husband, thinking he doesn’t help enough around the house or something. But, when I look at the whole picture of the world around me, and history falling off behind me, I am struck by what a glorious time in my life these years are, spent basically just chilling out and enjoying life with my small child at home.
Someday, I will have to either go back to work for someone else or build my business with more intensity. My girl will get older and will want friends other than me. Maybe the fact that these golden years of my daughter’s babyhood are but a short stage of my whole life adds to their fun and beauty, and tolerability—knowing I don’t have to stay home, forever, with a gaggle of children and do housework, the lifestyle that seemed to ruin so many women back in the day. (But, maybe I would even have liked that, who knows? I could see finding happiness in that.)
Everything changes. And, I do worry, just for a minute here and there, about what if this all got taken away from me. What if I lost my contract or my husband lost his job? Things would be harder. We’d be OK, but the ease of it all would vanish and I’d have to readjust a few things, for sure. I don’t even venture into the territory of worrying about if something happened to my child. That’s too scary.
I’m sure I will find plenty of happiness in my future, but damn, are things great for me now, and I just want to be able to look back and remember it in this post.