At the height of our holiday craziness — aka Christmas morning — I sat in a living room littered with torn gift wrap and listened to the buzz of the kids’ voices excitedly playing with their newly opened spoils. I picked up my coffee and my phone, and started scrolling through the news.
There was an article posted on the New York Times that caught my eye. The article, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting,” seemed very timely as I took a moment to reflect on all the work it takes to make not just this particular day happen, but all the countless other less theatrical days that make up the year.
Several points stuck out to me as I read and re-read the piece.
First off, today’s working mothers spend just as much time taking care of their children as stay-at-home moms did back in the 1970s. That was also the decade that saw a linguistic transformation of the word “parent” from noun to verb. Nowadays, parents aren’t just what we are, we’re also what we do. That act of separating yourself from the role of raising children has become a more modern struggle due in part to how consuming that new role is expected to be.
So while the actual amount of time we spend with our children hasn’t changed much in the last 40 years, HOW we spend that time has. Once upon a time, simply being in the presence of each other filled the bill, but now our time together is action-packed. We are busy reading, doing crafts, helping with homework and ferrying kids from lessons and games and other out-of-school endeavors.
If you feel like you’re running yourself ragged in an attempt to help form your kids into interesting and interested human beings — i.e. getting them into the best activities and then taxiing them to said extras all while burning a hole in your wallet — your fatigue isn’t in your imagination.
And you are very much not alone.
It’s called “intensive parenting,” and it was, at one point, a style of childrearing mostly used among upper-class parents because of its financial and time necessities. Today, it’s become more embraced as the “dominant cultural model” for how children should be raised — no matter mom and dad’s economic, social or educational background.
However, this more hands-on approach comes at a price — and not just a financial one. Stress, exhaustion, less time alone with your partner, your friends and even yourself are all downsides.
The timing of this information wasn’t lost on me. As a working mother of two traveling over the holidays — and celebrating a kid’s birthday, to boot — I felt the cost of the effort in every fiber of my being.
In the end, the article simply reinforced what I already feel in my bones each day as I navigate being both the noun and the verb of the word “parent” — that parenting is a choice, and I consider it a privilege. But it was nice to read that I’m not the only one dealing with the fatigue of being a good parent.
It means there’s a whole bunch of us out there working toward the same goal — raising good people.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.