twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Parenting Is Hard! (Want Some Cheese with That Whine?)

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Kate Tuttle: The parenting blogosphere is in a frenzy over Jennifer Senior's cover story in the current issue of New York Magazine, wherein she tackles the shocking concept that, you know, parenting is hard. And parents often hate it, while still loving their children.

Parenting is Hard

To be fair, it's a little deeper than that. But not much.

Actually, her article gets at some important stuff, delving into research in the relatively new field of positive psychology (otherwise known as happiness studies). It turns out that people with kids aren't generally as happy as those without. And when confronted with these statistics, most parents get very defensive and say that of course they're happy, why shouldn't they be happy ... after all, they get to do fun things like clean toddler vomit off carpeting while answering a 4-year-old's incessant questions about the workings of the universe and signing a 7-year-old's permission slip so the child can take custody of the classroom gerbil during holiday break. Why shouldn't they be happy, indeed?!

So yes, this is a good point. And Senior takes it further, probing into whether the studies of parental versus non-parental happiness are really accurate, or whether the two groups are just defining happiness differently, since (perhaps inevitably) having children causes one to redefine what happiness truly means. I think Senior's onto something with this, and I applaud her for pointing out that transient happiness, while important, can't necessarily stack up against overall satisfaction and the sense of having done the important work of raising happy, good little human beings.

That's all well and good. But what makes this article such insufferable reading at times (aside from the picture-perfect family in the illustrations, who all look like sad little J. Crew models, that is) is the tone. You know the one -- it's all too common among mom-type essays in our current generation. It's the one that whines that we are the very first people on earth to be facing this conundrum. That no mothers before us ever suffered quite the same way, or yearned for there to be (as Senior writes) a bar in the Children's Museum. 

To which I would say, "Take a little field trip to the library, ladies. Get out of your well-appointed Park Slope apartment and read up on Erma Bombeck, who was mining this territory before most of us were born. Or check out Jean Kerr's 'Please Don't Eat the Daisies,' a 1957 masterpiece of motherly dissatisfactions."

Because one thing that always increases happiness, I've found, is to shed the childish belief that nobody has it as bad as you do, and instead choose to join forces with others in the same boat. And if you're really lucky, they'll be serving cocktails on that boat.

next: Should You Discuss Kidnapping with Your Kids?
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
katy July 9, 2010, 8:16 AM

There are plenty of moms out there who bit off more than they could chew when they had children and are pretty miserable. In my job, this is something I see all too often. I feel terribly for those moms, but mostly for their kids who did not ask to be brought into the world as a fashion accessory or as an obligation.
But to me, there is no truly no greater joy on this earth than to be the mother to my little boy. He is the single best person I know and every day with him (even when he does something annoying) is the best day I have spent on this earth so far. It evolves and gets better all the time.
So, no, not all mothers are miserable. We might very well be overworked with unrealistic expectations put upon us (most families need dual incomes these days), but not miserable about motherhood. Any day with my boy is better than the best night out on the town. There is really no comparison.

Anonymous July 9, 2010, 9:40 AM

Wow, what happened to us happy parents. Well we do exist, really we do. Part of what makes happy parents are ones that are also in good relationships. Yes there are happy single parents but it is easier and more enjoyable when you have a coparent. I know, I’ve done it both ways. When you do things like parenting together, it makes even sometimes mundane activities fun. We have date night three times a week watching our son play ball or our daughter on stage performing. We sit together, laugh, have our picnic dinner at the ballpark, hang out with friends and have a great time. We enjoy each others company within the company of our kids. It’s really a fulfilling, happy lifestyle. Let’s hear it for happy parenting!

Anonymous July 10, 2010, 10:54 AM

Ah yes, my happiness is oh so transitory. Being able to go where I please, whenever I please, with whomever I please, and never having to worry about more than whether or not I brought enough money. Yes, it’s very transitory. You’re right, it’s time for me to grow up, become a mature human being, and do my bit to increase the human population of the Earth. Do you think if I popped out one a year we could hit eight billion people by 2015? I’ll get right on it.

Seriously, I like children. I teach children. I’m doing summer camp right now which involves lots of craft activities and a presentation for the parents at the end of it. I also have nieces and nephews. But it is rather immature of you to suggest that because people don’t have children that they’re somehow selfish, frivolous human beings who should take a more sombre view of life.

I would actually like to have children at some point, but my partner is on medication that would damage any fetus we produced. His health, and the health of any children, are far more important concerns than whether or not I would have to give up going out when I pleased.

As far as happiness goes, I think it depends on the kind of parent you choose to be. My mum was always very stressed, but she took it on herself to do absolutely everything. She also had lots of rules that never made sense. Even now, when I go home to visit if we go out for a day we’ll spend half of it arguing about what time we’ll go home. She always wants to get home really early, even though there’s nothing much to do there and my dad is capapble of getting his own dinner. Stressed parents should try to relax and let things flow along a little bit more. That would increase everyone’s happiness.

michelle July 12, 2010, 8:50 AM

I don’t think any of you actually read the article.

cna training July 13, 2010, 1:38 PM

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Bobbie Ruller January 25, 2011, 10:02 PM

Some truly excellent posts on this site,regards for contribution.

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:36 AM

It’s good too read your website again buddy, i see some interesting updates here…

Back to top >>