So asks Ruth Graham, current non-parent, in this lovely piece on Slate this morning: “My Life is a Waking Nightmare.”
…the parents writing these stories are, almost without exception, very capable women… they are competent, loving parents who occasionally feel overwhelmed. They are parents who think and read and write about parenting. Almost by definition, they are doing just fine. Yet, culturally, we applaud their “bad” parenting while becoming less and less tolerant of actual bad parents. This is a country that is increasingly willing to prosecute pregnant women and young mothers for their mistakes with drugs, or for leaving their children home alone in moments of desperation. In a middle-class parenting subculture in which self-acceptance is a bedrock virtue, it’s impossible not to notice a disconnect. (emphasis added)
It’s an economic luxury to complain. It’s an economic luxury to whine. It’s an economic luxury to point fingers.
Is anyone writing about joy? Is there a way to do it without seeming obnoxiously smug or totally dishonest?
Man, I hope so.
2 thoughts on ““Why do parents make parenting sound so God-awful?””
I like this post a lot, but as a parent who often does this very thing, I would like to comment. I think that until recently it wasn’t acceptable to “air your dirty laundry” so to speak, and mothers, particularly full-time mothers were considered lucky and blessed and to have it made. Parenting is one of those things that one is never prepared for no matter how many books one reads, and there are many ugly moments that for hundreds of years we as a culture did not share. Everyone knows that kids are little takers and that the bonds one forges with his or her child are beautiful, but when you are in the trenches, nothing can make a parent feel more incompetent and fearful than an inconsolable newborn or more furious than a toddler that looks you right in the eye and shits on the floor. We all know these things happen, and we all know that our western culture recommends you keep a straight face and just keep moving forward. We are more isolated than ever before with many parents having no family near by to lean on. Until recently parents didn’t have their smartphone in their pocket to vent to their parent friends who will immediately offer encouragement and understanding.
I completely sympathize with your position in this post, but if you choose to become a parent one day, I suspect you will get where we are coming from. This post did make me think, so thanks!
Thank you Danielle, for reading and commenting. I am an at-home parent of two children, ages 9 and 6, with family over 900 miles away. The only position I tried to present was one of understanding the economic class issues that the author raised. It is an invaluable thing, always, to share and commiserate with those going through similar things, or even with those who have no point of comparison. But the time required to share and commiserate–that time is an economic luxury. Not an undeserved economic luxury, but an economic luxury, nonetheless. Time is something so many parents do not have, because they, unlike me, have to work to put food on the table. I am a lucky one. I have time.