Saturday, April 5, 2014

The paradox of modern parenthood

I've started reading All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior, a book about, well, modern parenting, and just in the first few chapters I've started thinking about things I never considered before when it comes to parenting and parenthood.  Here are a couple of tidbits I've thought about so far.

1) The Pill has given couples the ability to plan when they want to have children, yes.  But in the days before you could plan, and choose to have children (and when), there wasn't so much thought and expectations about it.  You did the business, you got pregnant, you got married if you weren't already, you had the kid, boom, done.  Now there's all this thought about it - ie when, how will it affect my career, what if we wait until we can afford it, etc - and that leads to all these expectations.  Once we make the conscious choice to have a kid, we then expect it to come with all the joy/spirituality/beauty/etc of the other choices we make in life, and there are all these expectations that pre-pill generations didn't have.  Like the kid will complete us.  And we will guide the kid on a spiritual journey.  Yada effing yada.

2) The concept of childhood as we know it is relatively recent.  Pre-WWII you had kids and they worked in fields and factories as soon as they were able to.  Now we have all this pressure to provide a supportive, nurturing environment to help them be the best that they can be.  Not like that's a bad thing.  It's a great thing.  But it leads to a certain pressure that our grandmothers and great grandmothers didn't have.  It used to be that the kid would contribute economically to the family.  Now, not only do they not do that, but they cost us in all these self-actualization classes that we do with them (I know a 10 year old who is in 2 different scouts programs, takes clarinet, plays water polo, is in youth group, is in math olympics, plays soccer, and is in band.  When he does homework, let alone sleep or play video games, or do other kid stuff, I have no idea).

3)  Fights between parents once a kid is involved take on a whole new level of urgency.  Now I'm not just upset about my husband being a lazy SOB, I'm upset that this is the example he's setting, and the way he's training Baby H.  That ups the ante a few notches, and makes things a bit more heated.

4)  Chronic sleep deprivation has the same effects as being drunk.  And we've outlawed drinking while driving.  Yet parents of babies and young children are going through life, going to work, (and driving on the freeways) with these glazed eyes and inability to concentrate, lower inhibitions and higher levels of anxiety like drunk people.

5)  With smartphones allowing us to always be able to work, we never switch fully into family mode and turn off work, and we wind up never actually pleasing anyone or getting anything done the way we'd like.  I'm typing this as Hannah crawls around and chews on my toes.  Am I paying attention to her in the way I'd like?  Am I writing as creatively as I'd like.  No.  But I'm writing something, and Hannah gets a little bit of me (after having me all day, I should say), and so we make compromises.

And with that, it's getting time to start the bedtime routine.

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