A friend forwarded me an interesting opinion piece from Canada’s The Globe and Mail called “Motherhood:the new oppression?” The author argues that the current crop of mothers who are obsessed with their children, raving about the “joys” of natural childbirth, breastfeeding their babies til they are old enough to move out of the house, overscheduling rigid playdates and dozens of extra-curricular activities, maniacally shopping the aisles of Wholefood for the most organic products, and seeing a potential child molester in every stranger who so much as glances at their kids, are actually a drawback to the feminist movement that sought to free women of the shackles of motherhood. She compares the stressed out, a-type, educated and over-achieving yuppie moms of today with the moms of her generation, who had no problem smoking and drinking in front of their kids, letting them play outside unsupervised for hours at a time and never bothering to run feverish security checks on babysitters. Although they would be called “mediocre moms” by the moms of today who run their household like CEOs of multinational corporations, the author suggests that such so-called mediocrity never seriously harmed the kids and actually had the benefit of letting moms pursue their own individual dreams, whether it was career, or social or love life instead of being swallowed up by the unending, vociferous needs of their little brats.
It got me to thinking how my own mom and many mothers of her generation and of my grandmother’s generation would have made some of those same questionable choices as the author’s “mediocre mama.” Like being doused with enough drugs to kill a small herd of elephants in order to numb the pain of my childbirth. And then feeding me exclusively on formula. Or letting me, from the age of 7, walk home from school by myself to come to an empty apartment where the TV was my only baby sitter, while a pervert was infamously driving around the neighborhood at the time, trying to show off his genital shortcomings to as many little girls as he could find. (To make matters worse, I had to walk through some woods to get home). Or putting me on a plane and boat to a foreign country unsupervised except for some scatterbrained flight attendant to spend months of vacation away from my parents. Or putting me in charge, at the age of 10, of my 5 year old and 8 year old cousin, for an entire summer with no planned activities. (We ended up watching a record number of nubile teenagers being hacked and sawed into a bloody pulp in a string of B slasher movies rented out to us unflinchingly by the local video store clerk and nourishing ourselves exclusuively on slushees). I talked to many who had similar experiences.
To one old lady I once asked how she managed to raise 9 kids by herself without nannies, carpools, Gymboree or disposable diapers. She answered simply:I left them in their crib all day. What??? I couldn’t help exclaiming. She shrugged her shoulders: How else was I suppose to get my housework done? None of her kids have turned into axe-wielding maniacs by the way. In fact they are all quite successful and each of them would very happily lay down their lives for their dear old mum.
Obviously, I am not advocating mediocrity over care. But I think the author does make a point that in our efforts to over achieve the best for our kids, we may not only be doing them but also ourselves the most harm in the long run. By the way, that summer of slasher movies and slushees was the most fun I ever had. In this day and age when I am being pulled in every direction, by my hubby, my 2 kids, my career, etc., I can at least look back fondly at the last summer when I truly had NOTHING to do but to satisfy my laziest, basest cravings. Sometimes a kid needs to just be a kid!