ControverSunday: That New York Times Article

Its back! I can’t tell you how giddy I am. GIDDY! After a short hiatus ControverSunday has returned. So, head over to Perpetua and tell her “I am soooo glad ControverSunday is back and to show my appreciation here are some topic ideas I would love to see covered….(fill in the blank)” Then head over to Accidents to thank her for the ControverSunday badge and say “Your badge is super cool. I want it on a t-shirt. Also, so happy that it is showing up on multiple blogs this week on all sorts of ControverSunday posts.”

Then. Go read this article which sparked our ControverSunday topic this week and go visit Brooke and read her post about it. Theeeenn. Go write your own post about the article and what you think and get the ControverSunday badge and link up and join the discussion. THEENNN….. Go read all the other great contributions this week…. and keep checking back…. cause Sunday may be in the name, but we like to spread it out across the week to prolong the fun.

Oh, and if you have time after all that, you can read my post below….

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First off, my plan is to pepper this post with my favourite quotes from the article. So, in the interest of insuring I give appropriate credit where credit it due… all quotations are from said article, written by Jennifer Senior, whom I believe to be fabulous, based on how great this article is.

So don’t tell my husband, but I think this article may have convinced me that one kid is enough. Really. It is hard enough with one, and if more won’t make us happier, won’t give us a happier marriage, and will stress us out more (on all levels- emotionally, physically and financially) then why do it? We have one beautiful, smart little kid, who needs more then that? Other then that undeniably strong magnetic urge to hold a tiny baby again. (NO. We are not trying right now.)

“It’s a lovely magic trick of the memory, this gilding of hard times. Perhaps it’s just the necessary alchemy we need to keep the species going. But for parents, this sleight of the mind and spell on the heart is the very definition of enchantment.”

I really 100% truly believe that all (most?) Moms have selective amnesia when it comes to the first 6 months of babies life…. I keep telling myself that if it weren’t for the breastfeeding struggles, that first 4 months could have been enjoyable, maybe. Sleep deprivation, sure, but mostly just hanging out and cuddling with baby. Feeding. A bit of diaper changing. That’s it though, right? I mean, they pretty much just sleep, eat, cry or poop…. not that hard….? See. I obviously have amnesia.

The article hits all the main points on the head. It doesn’t miss a beat. It covers how we live differently then in the past. Individuals instead of communities raising kids. It talks about how we view parenting as something we are supposed to get right, something we should research and invest time and money into, the same way we do in our education and careers. Kids are like a very intensive side project. And if we do it ‘wrong’, we have messed them up for life. I love where it talked about the mother who thought she ‘messed up’ sleep training because her baby didn’t sleep as much as the other Mom’s she knew. It totally sums up the culture of today’s parenting.

“And high among them is the possibility that parents don’t much enjoy parenting because the experience of raising children has fundamentally changed.”

No wonder the one place the studies about parents not being all that happy don’t hold true is Scandinavia- the place with the best social support system available. If we aren’t going to have a village to raise our child, then at least we need affordable child care, great maternity and paternity benefits, free education through post secondary…. That would sure help to reduce my stress and allow me to enjoy my parenting a bit more.

And no wonder with so many of us feeling overwhelmed with the pressure to produce a Laurette prize winning author or a Nobel prize winning scientist, that more parents are saying no to the pressure and adopting the ways of the “free range” or “slow” parenting styles. Sure, I want our kid to be exposed to music, athletics, art and nature. But I also want her to be able to play on her own and not need an ‘activity’ all the time. And I don’t want to spend every moment of my day driving from one activity to an other. Slow parenting is where its at, yo.

“Today’s married mothers also have less leisure time (5.4 fewer hours per week); 71 percent say they crave more time for themselves (as do 57 percent of married fathers). Yet 85 percent of all parents still—still!—think they don’t spend enough time with their children.”

The article also didn’t skip a beat when it comes to addressing the psychology of happiness. Sure, I may be less happy on an hourly to hourly basis since having a kid, but I would say overall I am more satisfied with my life. My life has more purpose because of my daughter. And that doesn’t mean you can’t have life with purpose without kids. It just means my life didn’t have as much purpose then as it does now.

“While children deepen your emotional life, they shrink your outer world to the size of a teacup, at least for a while.”

The article even touched on that feeling so many of us have of going from being smart, engaged citizens with intelligent things to talk about, to spending most of our free time going “beep beep” and cleaning up bums. At the end of the day, there is little in the tank for conversation.

So yeah, parents may love their kids, but most of us also are mighty frustrated with the act of parenting. I wouldn’t believe any parent who said they didn’t feel parenting one of the hardest things they have every done (except maybe if they have climbed Mount Everest or solved an incredible complex algebra problem or something).

But that doesn’t mean all parents experience parenting the same way either. I know there is some dislike out there for those Mom’s who don’t ever seem to complain. You know, the ones who present parenting like it is all roses and sunshine. I have to just say this: just because something is hard and frustrating, doesn’t mean we should discount that some people enjoy it more then others. I think about the lady that runs the dayhome we take A to. She obviously loves what she does. She loves taking care of kids so much she takes care of 5 kids in addition to her own. I can tell she is happy to do it by the look in her eye when I drop A off. And I am sure she finds it frustrating and challenging. I really believe it is what she wants to be doing every day. And I, for one, believe her, she is not just putting on a front. More then that- I admire her. I don’t think she is a ‘better’ Mom then a Mom like me, that just wasn’t cut out for being a stay at home parent. But I also respect that her experience of mother hood is different then mine. And thank goodness, because my daughter adores her.

That was the one piece I felt was missing in this article. The recognition that while we all may find parenting frustrating and difficult, there are lots of parents out there that would put taking care of kids tops on their list of preferred tasks. It depends on your perspective. And I, for one, am trying to take a page out of those parents books and focus on how wonderful it is to just spend time with my daughter and really, truly be happy.

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20 responses to “ControverSunday: That New York Times Article

  1. Kevin July 18, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Ummmm your husband reads your blog….just saying. I still think I want kid number 2 eventually. Should we have this important parenting discussion in the comment section;) Love what you said about our care giver and A. She was a great find! Also you are a kick ass Mom and a great writer.

  2. Brooke July 18, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I have thought about the whole second kid thing too after reading this, but I really do want more than one.

    For some kids I think structured activity is really good. Kellen needs activity. He’s a busy kid. And as much as I want him to be able to go play independently and explore, that’s not always what is best for him… and it allows me to be a bit of a lazy parent when he goes off by himself, you know.

    I think that the internet has made us all more neurotic parents. Too much information and too many opinions!!!

    • amoment2think July 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm

      Its funny, because I think when I think logically about having more then one kid then I think maybe we will just have one. But when I think emotionally I think about wanting A to have a sibling and wanting to hold a little baby again. Emotionally will likely win in the end. 🙂

      And I totally agree with you on the value of structured play. I think the issue is balance. Generally, many families have tipped to far in the direction of all structure, no free time (or free time= tv and video games). Rushing school aged kids to 2-3 activities a night is common. I appreciate slow parenting because it reminds me to tip the scales back the other way- and be aware of not over scheduling.

      And yeah. My neurotic side is certainly is egged on by the internet.

  3. Bree July 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Second babies can bring more happiness I think. Maybe not on average, but in my particular case I think so. I would have agreed with you about parental amnesia for those first six months of a baby’s life, except that, for me, it was totally different the second time around. Wesley’s first six months were a terrible crucible, and I found myself in tears too often to count. Nora’s infancy was far easier. It passed more quickly, I appreciated the good things more and I wasn’t so disappointed in the parts that weren’t fun. Only a little of this has to do with Nora being a more easygoing baby (though only by comparison with Wesley!). The second time around, I think my expectations were much more reasonable, and the adjustment was far less jarring. It also helped that the birth was all-natural and joyful (instead of traumatic), so I got all the great lovey-dovey hormones I missed the first time around. Breastfeeding was infinitely easier, sleeping was not as bad (and I didn’t take it so hard when it wasn’t going well), and the time passed in a flash.

    Anyway, that’s just one specific anecdote. More broadly, I think part of the reason parenting can be so sucky is that we focus too much attention on the struggles and problems (thinking that more attention will somehow fix them). Being a parent is joyful and rewarding when I relax and enjoy the connection I have with my kids. When I let myself get caught up in their bad behaviour I get angry, and then I either scream and feel bad about it or get depressed and feel bad about it.

    They say that a happy relationship needs far more positive interactions than negative. It’s not a one-to-one ratio, or even two-to-one. It’s five to one. So when you look back on your day and all you remember is the yelling and door-slamming and pouting and potty accidents, your satisfaction in your relationship with your kids goes down. Way down.

    In general, I think our society is too obsessed with perfecting relationships. Our expectations are unrealistic, and the ways we cope with this disappointment are inadequate. Sometimes it’s not the situation that needs to change for a person to feel happy. It’s their attitude towards it.

    • amoment2think July 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      Oh Briana, You are wise. I love this comment so much I can’t even tell you. I totally agree with you that it is all in the attitude. I think a lot of Mom’s have a rough first 6 months with the first baby. Our experiences were different in terms of the struggles we encountered but similar in that we both took them very hard. I am finally at a point now where I feel that I can really enjoy the time I spend with A. My hope is that when/if we go for baby number 2 that I can focus on the positive they way you do. Because in many ways, I would love to have a ‘first 6 months’ do over…. and experience that time with a better attitude.

      Also, perfecting relationships… totally. I 100% agree.

    • Brooke July 18, 2010 at 9:21 pm

      But I also think we are so quick as a society to act like motherhood is this wonderful blissful thing that we are supposed to be overly enamored with… and if we criticize the act of parenting, explain the struggles, commiserate, we are somehow seen as lesser. I dunno. I just think that it’s ok to say that parenting sucks sometimes.

      • Ginger July 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

        I totally get this, but I also think there’s been a swing the other way lately (in certain circles, which, let’s face it, I mean the internet because I have no real life friends with kids)–that if you say you enjoy parenting you’re the crazy one. Parenting does suck sometimes, but I feel like we hear more and more about how it sucks ALL the time, and that just doesn’t seem right or healthy or good for anyone.

      • amoment2think July 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm

        Brooke, Ginger. I agree with you both. I don’t think either extreme is good. I think it is important for parents to be able to speak openly about the struggles we are having- to seek support, ideas, vent or just to know that someone else has gone through it. I think we do each other a disservice as parents to paint unrealistic expectations by not being open and honest about the challenges. But, I also think that spending all our time complaining about it (note to self 🙂 ) isn’t healthy or helpful either. I do think we need to try and have a more positive perspective and more realistic expectations. As with most things in life, we should seek balance, but many of us are pulled to the extremes.

  4. Jen July 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    We were all gungho to have child number two and then we both felt a sudden lurch and decided to put it on hold with all this moving stuff. I adore my son and take a similar laid back approach to parenting. I’ve also been a dayhome for the past year and a half and while I enjoy it, it *is* getting tougher the longer it goes on. I avoid the Internet for parenting info (unless its blogs i’ve found where I share a similar perspective or like the person’s sense of humor) but I also did that for pregnancy info, too. I find that helps. I’m developing a local “mom herd” slowly and that helps the absolute most – personal interaction and comparison.

    Great post, K!

    • amoment2think July 19, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      Ah, the local Mom herd. Much of mine is virtual via Facebook, as we have many friends and family in Vancouver… but I agree it is a much better source for support/ideas/picking of brains/confirmation that you are not crazy.

  5. clara July 19, 2010 at 8:18 am

    That selective amnesia is why blogging is so helpful. After I had my 2nd, I searched my own blog for the entries about my 1st and all that tortured boredom came back.
    On the bright side, with the second child you don’t have time to be bored.

    I interloped and joined in this week. Hoping unsolicited interloping is allowed 🙂
    http://torturedpotato.com/cheeseblog/?p=2105

    • amoment2think July 19, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      Unsolicited interloping is encouraged! And appreciated! And it uber exciting!

      Oh, I wished for tortured boredom with A…. that would have been better then the craziness I put myself through. Regardless, I hear you on the blogging. Unfortunately I didn’t start blogging until A was almost a year, making it not quite the same.

  6. Ginger July 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I feel like I’m the odd one out, as I didn’t identify with the article at all. Caveats abound (age, ease, situation, blahblahblah), but there you have it. Of course, I’m pretty much a lazy, imperfect parent and don’t expect otherwise, so maybe that has something to do with it!

    • amoment2think July 19, 2010 at 6:49 pm

      I suspect, Ginger, that lots of people didn’t identify with the article. That was part of the point I was trying to make. I think Moms have different experiences of motherhood. My goal moving forward it to focus more on the good things and less on all the work/frustration/challenges. However, even if I did this, I know that taking care of my kid 24/7 (aka being a stay at home Mom) is not the path to happiness for me. But there are so many Mom’s for which this is the path to happiness. All points on the spectrum have equal potential to be great Mom’s, we are all just different.

      I am not sure I like you characterizing yourself as lazy and imperfect (although we are all imperfect and many of us can be lazy sometimes)… I think the key to the positive way you see parenting is just what you spoke about in your post- you have realistic expectations of both yourself and your kid. I think that makes all the difference.

      • Brooke July 19, 2010 at 7:08 pm

        Part of the point of the article though is the denial of said disillusionment with parenting. So in that sense, you DID identify with it. I dunno, I’m starting to think I’m the only one who got the actual point of the article.

      • amoment2think July 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

        In think that different people see different things in any piece of writing- depending on their perspective. Obviously this article got a lot of people thinking and talking about parenthood- both their relationship to it and societies relationship as a whole. I suspect that was the point of the article.

  7. Sophie July 26, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Very interesting post – and article. Our son can be sooo difficult these days, as he is so stubborn and confrontational (in a totally age-appropriate way, but it still sucks), that “parenting” is certainly not my favorite activity. And some days, it does make me wonder why I am 8 months pregnant. But I think that the main argument for me, in the end, to have another child, was for the sake of our first. I truly believe that siblings are good. Hate them as you may, there comes a time when you need them and they are there.

    Or maybe I am just rationalizing my emotional choice?

    • amoment2think July 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

      I hear you on the ‘for the sibling’ argument. More then that, I do think there is something wonderful that kids bring to our lives that can’t be measured by happiness studies. And they are all so different that each one brings their own special voice to the family.

      Don’t worry Sophie, your new little one will add a bit of extra challenge, but you will be happy you have two…. in about 18 years…. 😉

  8. Perpetua July 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Since having E I love being around kids and smiling at babies and all that, but with the knowledge I have, I’m afraid to do it again. I have amnesia for the details, but not for the overall experience. 🙂

    Thank you SO MUCH for bringing us back last week. Maybe you’ll host this week? Pretty please? 🙂

    • amoment2think July 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm

      Totally. I am in for hosting…. and I got some great topic suggestions from Bree and Jen on Twitter. So I have a bunch in the bank for the next couple weeks if you are in….. I love ControverSunday…. thanks for starting it and doing all the work to keep it going (with breaks, which we all need sometimes!).

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