I mentioned that I was pondering the way our world provides lots of cautionary tales for parents, but not for children. Here is the result of those musings.
We've Over-Complicated Motherhood Because We Don't Like It
Some time ago I made the mistake of picking up a parenting magazine. The lead article talked solemnly about the damage that safety-obsessed parents can wreak on children, yet, ironically enough, the remainder of the publication was filled with far-fetched cautionary tales about the hidden hazards that lurk within our world (your kids might be misdiagnosed if you take them to a walk-in clinic; they might stab themselves with the contents of your purse; they might be injured while peeing if you select a ceramic toilet lid and it falls down on them). Modern culture may claim that mothers ought not to overprotect their children, but it does not really mean that. Instead, as most parenting magazines convey, the job of a good mother is to be the patron goddess who guards her child’s fate to ensure that nothing bad will ever happen to him.
I also wrote another article recently that addresses a similar topic.
Should We "Raise Our Daughters to be Mothers?"
(The answer is both yes and no)
The modern American educational system, both formal and informal, does not focus on preparing girls to be mothers. The general idea seems to be that as long as women wait until an appropriate, stable time in life to begin their families, they will be able to parent by instinct (sharpened, of course, by a few parenting books and internet forums). Motherhood, says our culture, is the sort of thing that will come naturally once an individual chooses to embrace it.
However, I’ve also noticed a slew of articles lately that focus on the shock that motherhood poses to many women. For these ladies, the role of mommy turns out to be far harder, less fulfilling, and more overwhelming than they bargained for. An article inThe Atlantic suggests that many middle-class mothers would opt not to have kids if they were granted a “do-over” in life. Their biggest complaint, apparently, is that the role is so consuming as to devour their very identity: they cannot be the person they want to be while also being “mom.” Elsewhere I have heard writers argue that perhaps our high rates of postpartum depression (generally cited as affecting one mother in four) are exacerbated by the fact that modern women find themselves caught in a role that is different, and harder, than they expected.