Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My new favorite book (that I wish had been published 10 years ago)

I am reading All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior.  It has reinforced things that I've been discovering about raising children over the past decade.  I sure wish it had been around when N was born because it would have saved me much, much anxiety.

The gist of the book is this:
1. the culture of childhood has changed dramatically since World War II.  Kids used to work/serve a clear purpose in the success and survival of the family.
2. the role of women has changed dramatically since World War II.  College educations, professional roles, and birth control have changed the way women think of themselves and motherhood.
3. the role of men has also changed due in large part to the role of women changing.

Given how short of a time-frame in which all 3 of these changes have happened, it makes complete sense that modern parents are all "WTF?"

It soothes me a bit to know that what makes me feel most guilty as a mom is something that most moms throughout time haven't had to feel guilty about.  It truly is a "new" phenomenon, this savoring of our children, of their every moment.  Feeling like we should be engaging them, entertaining them, keeping them busy, utilizing every last ounce of their brain power for betterment.

Treasuring one's life takes a whole lot of work and doesn't take into account the true monotonous drudgery that is life, even middle class life in the US.  There can be pride taken in making the food for one's family, washing the clothes, keeping one's family alive, but modern day conveniences sorta take a lot of this pride out of a parent's hands.  When I say I washed my family's clothes, I didn't really.  The machine did it, and I simply supervised that the machine was operational.

And really, when I think about it, there is no pride in survival.  When humans work very, very hard to survive I don't know that there is the time or energy to even think about pride.  Survival is it's own reward.

So what, exactly, are we supposed to do with ourselves if not engage our children?

I ask this question to myself as I think about the summer months.  I've already started a list of "things to do with the children," which includes visiting Papaw Tommy's gravesite (N's pick) and building a volcano model (G's pick).  If I plan nothing for them to do, they pester me, and I feel antsy and guilty and angry with them.  If I plan everything, I run myself ragged trying to play concierge......something that has not been the experience of mothers throughout the history of man.

Therein lies the challenge of navigating this modern parenthood bit:  moderating.

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