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Grin and bear it? Parenting, happiness and the pressure cooker

It seems the discussion of parenting and mothering has shifted from last year's discussion about bad mothers to this year's discussion of unhappy mothers. Is parenting all drudgery and do we just have to live up to our responsibilities and grin and bear it? Or is there a way to find happiness and have a family?

Image credit:  Kevin N. Murphy on flickr

The pressure cooker

Margaret Wente, whom I frequently disagree with, wrote an article called Motherhood: the new oppression. Although I do not feel oppressed (most days) and I think she makes some broad generalizations (as usual), I do think that what she says rings true to some extent:
Once upon a time, the conveniences of modern life (processed foods, Lysol spray, disposable diapers, clothes dryers, polyester sheets) liberated women like my mother from their chains. But now, their granddaughters are clamouring to clap the shackles on again. Someone’s got to mash the organic applesauce, hang the diapers out to dry, and breastfeed the kid. No matter how enlightened the parental units, that someone will generally be Mom.

It seems to me that if you had deliberately devised a plot to oppress women, it couldn’t get more diabolical than this. Highly educated, progressive and enlightened mothers don’t need men to oppress them. They’re perfectly capable of oppressing themselves!

I would like to say she was completely wrong about mothers being oppressed, but then I read articles like Mother-Toddler Separation (by Dr. George Wootan, M.D.) and I know that the attempt to oppress mothers is very real [emphasis mine]:
Babies and toddlers, up to about the age of three, have little concept of time. To them, there are only two times: now and never. Telling a toddler that Mommy will be back in an hour, or at 5:00, is essentially the same thing as telling her that Mommy is gone forever, because she has no idea what those times mean.

Let me submit to you that the need for mother is as strong in a toddler as the need for food, and that there is no substitute for mother. When he’s tired, hurt, or upset, he needs his mother for comfort and security. True, he doesn’t need Mommy all the time, but when he does, he needs her now. If he scrapes his knee, or gets his feelings hurt, he can’t put his need on hold for two hours until Mommy is home, and the babysitter – or even Daddy – just won’t do as well as if Mommy was there.

So, yes, this is what I’m saying: A mother shouldn’t leave her child until about the age of three, when he has developed some concept of time. You’ll know this has begun to happen when he understands what “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” and “this afternoon” mean, and when your child voluntarily begins to spend more time away from you on his own accord.

If I read between the lines in Wootan's article (the whole thing and not just this excerpt), I can agree with his basic premise. Babies and young children will feel insecure if they are not with someone that they have a strong bond with. However, assuming that can only be the mother is an attempt to oppress mothers and does a disservice to fathers, grandparents and others who do or would like to develop a strong bond with a new baby.

Is it irresponsible for a mother to leave her young child? No.

If anything, I would say that:

  • It is irresponsible for a mother to deny her young children the opportunity to bond with other adults

    • The child benefits from having several close relationships.

    • If the mother has an emergency and needs to be away, the child will have other loved ones to stay with, instead of being doubly traumatized by "something happened to my mother" and "who is this strange person I have to stay with?".

  • It is irresponsible of the mother to deny herself a sanity break

    • I doubt there are very many people who can withstand being "on duty" all the time for several years, without breaking herself and/or taking it out on the kids.

Big important tasks like raising a child are best shared. Other adults can initially bond with a baby or young child while the mother is still present. Whether that is the father wearing the baby down for a nap while the mother makes lunch, the grandmother playing peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake with a young toddler while the mom does some laundry, or a neighbour holding the baby while chatting with the mom. If other adults are given consistent and frequent opportunity to bond with an infant, there will come a time (usually before 3 years of age) when it is okay for the mom to go alone to the bathroom, to have a nap, to grab the mail from the mailbox, to go to the store, to have coffee with a friend, or even to go to work. I know that the bond between an infant and its mother is extremely important and I know that mothers are very important for small children, but I do not think that infants and toddlers will be emotionally scarred by being separated briefly from their mother if they are left in the care of other adults that they have a strong bond with.  Small children may not understand time, but they can understand routine (e.g. first we have lunch, then go for a walk, then have a nap, then have a snack, then mommy comes home). Developing a bond and a routine should be done gradually and with care (not abruptly), but to say that a mother has to be with her children 24/7/365 x 3 years is unreasonable and ridiculous.

Arwyn from Raising my Boychick wrote a response to Wootan's article that hits the nail on the head. In, No, less-than-threes do not need their moms 24/7/365, she starts off her stellar post (which you must read in its entirety) with:
What infants and toddlers and preschoolers need is attachment — loving, responsive care from people they know and trust, preferably have known for most or all of their lives but at least with whom they have built a relationship. They need to have older people — adults, yes, but also teens, older children — who know them and love them and who they know and love, accessible to them when needed. The placement of that responsibility exclusively on the mother makes it not a joy, a task of life easily fulfilled, but a burden, under which so many of us are breaking.

A lot of moms are breaking. Some break just a little bit and are no longer capable of providing the type of loving care that their children deserve. They end up lashing out at them verbally or physically or end up ignoring some of the child's emotional or physical needs. Some end up depressed as a result of their feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Some just can't take it anymore and have to leave.

Jennifer Van Laanen, whom I wrote about in my post on intersecting needs and interdependence, was a big natural parenting and attachment parenting advocate when her children were young. She was probably, in the eyes of Wootan, the perfect mother.  But she broke. In her post, The Perfect Mother, she reflected on her experience many years after she had a nervous breakdown and left her family:
I poured all of me into my children from day one. I went all out to be super-mom… home birthed, breast feeding, no babysitters, sling carrying, home schooling, wooden toys, home-cooked organic meals, arts and crafts, no TV… the whole continuum concept-attachment parenting- granola thing. My children were my best friends and I devoted myself to them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week… for nine years.


I was sad and lonely, I was bitter and resentful, I was empty. I was good at pretending I was ok.

It was my decision to devote myself so thoroughly to my children. In retrospect I can see how that contributed to my breakdown and to the damage of my marriage. I never once complained or asked for help. After nine years of being self-less and super responsible, I found that I needed to nurture and feed, pour more back into me. I was an empty shell and I needed some life other than being mom.

Jennifer's story is a sad story about what happens when mothers oppress themselves (whether willingly or necessarily) or when they are oppressed by others. But are all mothers as unhappy as she was?

The unhappy mother

New York Magazine published an article, All Joy and No Fun - Why parents hate parenting, by Jennifer Senior. The article is full of stories about women who chose to have children, but who find themselves sad or stressed by the daily grind of being a mother. I can understand those stories. I nod my head when I read them. Having just spent several months as a stay-at-home parent to two children who have no friends nearby and almost no activities that they participate in, I know how hard it can be sometimes.  I know that I was often stressed. I know that I did not always have a smile on my face.

While the stories in the article are interesting and confirmed by my own experience, I find this quote about the academic studies behind parenting and happiness to be telling:
As a rule, most studies show that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy still, that babies and toddlers are the hardest, and that each successive child produces diminishing returns.

Basically, what this summary shows, is that the more alone a mother is and the more that is piled on top of her, the less happy she is. Makes sense, doesn't it?

The other side of the coin is that the breadwinner dad or non-custodial parent isn't necessarily happier either as a result of not having to care for the kids. For example, with regards to fathers the article says:
Fathers, it turns out, feel like they’ve made some serious compromises too, though of a different sort. They feel like they don’t see their kids enough. “In our studies, it’s the men, by a long shot, who have more work-life conflict than women,” says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute. “They don’t want to be stick figures in their children’s lives.”

So mothers are sad that they have to do it all. Fathers are sad that they are not involved enough in their children's lives. Besides the gender stereotyping in the studies and the article, what is wrong with this picture?

What is wrong is that parents in general and mothers in particular are taking more and more on their own shoulders. As Margaret Wente said, there are so many things that you "have to do" as a parent these days. But in addition to there being more on the parent's plate, there is also no longer a village there to help raise the child.  So when we sit in our single family homes where we don't know our neighbours and live thousands of miles from our relatives, it is no wonder that parents are unhappy. They are doing everything themselves. Possibly the mother is doing everything herself.

How can parents be happier?

I think that Equally Shared Parenting, which authors and co-parents Marc and Amy Vachon describe as half the work...all the fun, provides a partial answer to this dilemma. I also think that bringing the village back into our communities is essential. What is not helpful, however, is a working dad telling all moms that they should never leave their child's side until the age of three, especially since it further isolates the mother and exacerbates the stresses and sadness she may face.

Should having children make you happy?

If you're happy and you know it clap your hands...

Before I had children, I was happy. I was in a great relationship. I had great friends. I was involved in enjoyable activities. I went on great vacations. I had a rewarding (but sometimes stressful) job. When we decided to have children, it was because we wanted to and it felt like the time was right. We did it because we had a desire to be parents, not because we were unhappy or trying to fill a void in our lives. I think that people who have children as a "solution" to their own unhappiness are likely to be sorely disappointed.

As Karen from The Kids are Alright said in her post Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion, in response to the New York magazine article:
But really, back to the gist of the thing, the thing that got my sensible white cotton panties in a knot (because everybody knows that sexy undies are only for the childless): the idea that our children are supposed to make us happy at all.

I am a complex person. There isn't one person or a group of people that are responsible for my happiness (or my unhappiness). I think that is a lot of responsibility and also pressure to place on the shoulders of someone else. I am responsible for my happiness and I am responsible for telling others that impact my happiness what I need.  I don't think that having children makes you happy and I don't think that not having children makes you happy. Children, certainly, can contribute to or take away from the things that make you happy. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that most children will do both, regularly (the exception of course may be mothers who are suffering from postpartum depression or parents who are otherwise depressed).

For me, being happy means:

  • That my daily activities and interactions are, on the whole, rewarding and interesting

  • That I am not too stressed out

  • That I'm getting enough sleep, exercise and good nutrition

  • That I get to interact with people who care about me and people whom I find interesting

What does it mean to you?

Finding your route to happy

As parents, we all have things that are important to us. For us, for example, it was important to not leave our children to be babysat by people that they were not comfortable with. That meant that we took our children a lot of places that other people didn't. That meant that we ensured they developed strong bonds from birth with a few key people (their father, their grandmother) and not just me, so that I could have a break and go to work. That also meant that we opted out of events when there was no other option. We have been criticized for this and had people tell us that we are letting our children run our lives. But it was important to us.

We each have the right, as parents, to determine what is important to our own family. We are best able to read our children's needs and readiness. We are the ones who get to decide what type of relationship we want to build with our children. We are the ones who get to decide how much we let parenting define our lives.

My point is that in finding the balance between fostering attachment, meeting your baby's needs, and doing the (other) things that make you happy:

1) You shouldn't be letting others tell you how that is done (you know your child best and you choose your parenting style)

2) You may need to take responsibility for finding and fostering that balance (e.g. by inviting others to bond with your child)

Is it easy to block out voices that are telling you that you are a bad mother if you do not do XYZ? No. Is it easy to let go enough to allow others to form a bond with your child? No. But it is important, at least to me, in finding my route to happiness. I need breaks from my children. It is important to my happiness. It is important to my ability to be a good mother. So I need to make it happen. It doesn't mean that I always get a break when I need one, but it means that on the whole, I get enough breaks so that I don't break and so that I am happy.

Do you take charge of your own happiness as a parent? Or do you just grin and bear it?
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Reader Comments (73)

Awesome awesome awesome post!

One thing that drives me nuts is when breastfeeding is linked with all the other crunchy, "good mother" things like mashing organic applesauce and hand washing cloth diapers. Breastfeeding always ends up in this category and then is used as the scapegoat for all that comes with this martyr mentality. Hannah Rosin compared it to the vacuum cleaner last year, etc.

My kids are in daycare, and have been since each was ~6 months. Ideally I would have liked it to be a year, but I love my career. I go to work and am intellectually fulfilled. I come home and am excited to see my kids and we bond and enjoy each other very much (they also drive me crazy sometimes!).

My husband and I split the care responsibilities right down the middle. And the money we earn at our fulfilling jobs allows us to hire people to help with the housework, because I may love being with my children but I don't love washing dishes and doing laundry. That is a point that I rarely see mentioned in the arguments in favor of a mother staying home to care for her kids. I can buy the being-with-your-kids argument, but with the reduced household income and the fact that there is someone at home, it is mom, by default, who has to do the housework. Housework sucks and surely contributes to this burnout effect.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEilat

I'm not sure I understand Wente's definition of oppression. Just because something takes longer to do, is less convenient, or tends to fall naturally to the mother, how is that opression? Unless of course someone is forcing you to do it with the express intent of keeping you down. I have been line drying our laundry for the past couple of weeks because the East Coast got slammed with a heatwave and running the dryer makes the house horribly hot. It was my idea, my husband didn't make me do it, and to my own surprise, I'm actually enjoying it. Someone's got to do the laundry somehow or another, and doing it in a manner that both saves energy and saves money gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction. I like it so much, I'll probably continue, weather permitting, even when it gets cooler.

Anyway. I'm happy. The occasional bad day or boring day isn't enough to make me overlook my many blessings. I think many people, with and without kids, come to expect life to be a barrel of laughs 24-7, and that's where you get into trouble. Happiness, for me, doesn't mean that I have to be doing something interesting at all times, or never be in a grouchy mood or get to the end of the day having done something to change the world.

And I think the key is to let go of what you "have to do" and do what YOU feel is really important. If that means staying home and line drying laundry instead of driving kids to a different activity every evening, or whatever else.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Very interesting. I agree more with your take than I did with Wente's, no big surprise!

"We each have the right, as parents, to determine what is important to our own family. We are best able to read our children’s needs and readiness. We are the ones who get to decide what type of relationship we want to build with our children. We are the ones who get to decide how much we let parenting define our lives."

I do think the child's needs are lost sight of by many parents when figuring out their balance..
Is that cruelly judgmental of me? I don't know. I'm not at all objective because I like being with my small (and older) children almost all the time. They bring me joy and are interesting, intellectually stimulating companions (Housework, otoh, can go to hell) and am sad that I have to work outside the home right now, but when I was home with them, I didn't feel guilty going out for 30 minutes or having a shower. They are attached to other adults, but this happened near me for the first year or two.
As they grow older, our relationships change. My children don't define me, but I welcome their companionship and the task of guiding them towards their life, not pushing them to independence. If I'm going to build a village, I want to raise the sort of people I want in the village with me- secure, interdependent, capable humans.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterradmama

Apart from anything else, he's wrong about the kids not being able to tell "soon" and "later" and "at dinnertime." They certainly can understand - and accept - that someone will be back "at dinnertime" or "when this TV show is over" or whatever. "Can't read a clock face" isn't the same as "has no sense of time."

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

Um, both. Take charge *and* grin and bear it. Parenthood is a hard but rewarding job and there are good and bad days. That article appalled me. Of course babies need their mothers, but they need other loving family members and friends too. I had the best of worlds when I had my babies in the 1980s. My husband was an active participant with our daughters from day one. I don't think I changed a diaper until our first was a couple weeks old and he was the primary bath-giver for a long time. We worked for the same company in those days and they created a part-time job for me. He would go in at 6 AM and work until 2 PM, at which time I would meet him in the parking lot with our daughter. He would drive her home and they would play all afternoon while I worked the next five hours. This situation was certainly not always easy but it worked and I wish more young parents could have this kind of opportunity.

Grandparents? I don't know what I'd've done without them. They lived far enough away that they weren't actively involved on a day-to-day basis but my kids knew and loved them from the beginning. I will never forget seeing my father so tenderly hold babies: mine, my brother's and our cousins'. I couldn't believe how much love the old authoritarian banker and WWII pilot I fought with as a teenager had in him.

Every family has to decide what is best for their own needs. The "experts" are not always right. That is all.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkayak woman

I'm a working mom. My child goes to a small dayhome where she has a strong bond with her caregiver. She has a wonderful relationship with her father who does more housework than I do. She has a huge bond with me. She is happy and thriving.

So does this mean I'm liberated? And I should be happy with this arrangement?

Uh, I don't think so. I've traded in one set of 'shackles' for another and ya know what? Slaving away in an office while being separated from my child is NOT fulfilling. I'd give my eyeteeth to spend each and every day with her. I'd be thrilled to be oppressed by folding laundry and making grilled cheese sandwiches and singing 'wheels on the bus'. Being at home is a 'job' that is what you make of it.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Lovely, thoughtful post.

First, I have no doubt my 2.5 year old knows that I am coming back for him at the end of the day when I drop him off at preschool. Why else would he give me a kiss and run off to play?

I agree with Wente in a way. I think that the ideal of becoming a "supermom" is oppressive, and its definition has changed over time. Twenty five years ago it would have been the working mom who managed to have perfectly groomed, well-behaved children, who kept herself well-groomed, and whose house was immaculate. Now, I think it's the nursing, natural-birthing, cloth-diapering, organic-feeding, stay-at-home, martyr-like mother who we think of as "supermom".

One commenter mentioned that if someone doesn't mind doing something, they are not oppressed. I think in this case Wente was referring to a societal oppression rather than personal oppression, which might mean that one doesn't even realize they are personally being oppressed (just the same way I love when my pants feel loose on me even though I am being influenced to feel this way by society's portrayal of thin women as the ideal - does that make any sense??).

In the end, happiness and needs are personal and ever-changing. What works in one family today, may not work for the same family tomorrow.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiisa

This is a fabulous post! I don't know if oppressed is really an accurate description - but I definitely think that I feel conflicted. It is very hard to be the kind of mother I want to be, and make time for my marriage, and care for my house - and, oh yeah, my career? I am finding that balance is a big issue for me right now, and I've just had to accept that balance now is going to look different from balance in five years when my kids are both in school and I have time to myself during the day. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and in the end we are the ones who lose.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Coyle DiNorcia

I am dreading going back to work. At the moment, I know that sitting at my desk drudging through and translating the latest press release into simple HTML and dealing with inconsequential office gossip/politics is not my idea of liberation. I'd rather sing, "I want to be a monkey" again and again, and yeah, mash organic applesauce too.

Having support and making sure that I have it is essential for me to get out there for my daily runs, trips to the salon and babyless adult playdates. If I didn't relinquish control over the care of my baby, my mom would have never bonded with her. Now I can safely leave her with my parents and know that she'll be OK for her nap, even though she'll desperately want to nurse to sleep. They have their own way of nurturing her, and it's in accordance to my wishes. Sure, some days I feel like I'm constantly on the run and if I have to wash my kitchen floor again, I swear I'm going to lose it. But it has to be done. And when I really do feel like losing it, I let my husband in on the fun. At least for myself, I sometimes need to be reminded that I CAN and should delegate.

But what if you don't have the support or access to help for a simple 20 minutes "off"? My aunt was a single mother raising 3 kids and self-sacrificed every day for 20 years until she survived breast cancer. Because of this unfortunate "wake-up call", she finally started doing things for herself (which included a trip out East, a tattoo and simply wearing makeup). She was attached to her first two children, and by the third, was so empty and worn, that he was left to cry-it-out and figure things out for himself. She's been quite open about her lack of closeness to him growing up. Interesting thing though, since the cancer he's moved back in and they're closer than ever.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWoodTurtle

Our family situation may be a bit different than many because I'm finishing up grad school and my husband stays at home with our son (now 2yo). His job+my fellowship wouldn't have paid for childcare anyway! We're spoiled in general because my schedule is very flexible allowing me to do a lot of work from home and I've almost always been able to breastfeed on demand from the other room :)

Most people we know think it's great that my husband is the one at home most of the time. I think he's giving our son a wonderful, nurturing male role model-something that I think is often missing from people's idea of feminism. But, we also get many unexpected reactions from people that made what people expect of stay-at-home mom's more obvious to me. Because I'm the 'breadwinner', so many people (his mother, my advisor, etc.) assume that means my husband does *everything* at home. If I mention that I do the laundry or if I take my son with me to a meeting, many people will make comments ranging from 'Oh, that's nice of you to give him a break' to 'Isn't that what your husband's supposed to be doing?' or 'Just ask your husband to do it-he has time' (like they would know). If our roles were reversed, would people say that to my husband if he mentioned doing the dishes or making dinner??

It just never occurred to me that people have a very real expectation that a stay at home parent is expected to do absolutely everything and then some (my advisor thinks he should be programming for my research projects on the side). My husband is a wonderful father, and I would never expect him to do it all himself just because he doesn't have an outside or paying job. I also know if our situation were reversed, he would do plenty around the house as well. We share things! His mother and others will say things like-'well, I did it all by myself. I don't see why he can't handle it' or maybe something that sounds a bit nicer but means the same thing. Just because it's possible doesn't mean it's ideal or what's best for us! I think the viewpoint of splitting the housework, childcare, etc. should still hold when one parent is at home. It's just too much otherwise!

There are others that talk about how nice it is that my husband will 'babysit' (gah) so I can 'work', but that seems to be a different set of people. This doesn't touch on the real guilt that I sometimes feel about not being the stay at home parent, but that is probably a mixture of grad school anxiety (hah) and the very real desire I have to nest. I've been a nester/homebody since before I had kids-I've always found a respectable 'job' to be highly overrated :P My husband also feels guilt about not 'supporting' his family, and I do know he misses working sometimes. He probably will start working again sometime soon too. He has occasionally received comments about not supporting his family, though. I find that response to be amazingly rude to him (he is supporting us), to women in general who stay at home (who aren't then supporting their families?), and to me (the supposed 'supporter'). I'm always surprised about people's expectations of others!

Great post! It got me thinking (and typing a small novella for your comments). I think the oppression of a stay-at-home parent perceives may hold true these days regardless of gender. It just manifests in different ways. My husband certainly agrees!

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Since I'm the one you referenced...

I still don't understand her idea of oppression. Is it the idea of a woman being at home, doing housework and diapering babies that she has a problem with? And if that's the case, how does she feel about a married child-free woman who comes home from her job and does housework and doesn't have a maid? Or a stay-home wife with no kids who cooks and cleans and sews while her husband works? Or a woman who earns her living by cleaning other people's houses?

I think the practice of trying to be what other people value is dangerous and foolish, because if that's not what YOU want, you will be unhappy. So a woman who stays home to be a good mom to someone like George Wooten when she doesn't have the temperament to be a SAHM is destined to be unhappy.

I also think it's worthwhile to point out that everyone--single, married, kids, no kids, male, female--WILL at some point in their lives be unhappy. Sometimes life is hard. But as Annie pointed out, becoming happy lies within yourself and not with others.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I don't expect motherhood to make me happy all of the time. It's often stressful and exhausting, and why yes, I do have a toddler in the house, plus a 5 and 8 year old.

It's also fulfilling and rewarding even when it's not making me all that happy.

I understand where the folks saying the whole going back to hanging cloth diapers out to dry are coming from, although I also have to say it is the best for keeping them clean! But I don't agree with them, especially since a lot of the stay at home moms I know are also working from home and accomplishing amazing things while they do some of these more traditional tasks. It's all pretty amazing.

As for the guy saying moms should stay with their babies until baby is 3, ugh! I don't get out as often as I should, but I do get out. I would go nuts if I didn't. Working at home is a good outlet most of the time, but there are also times that I need to not have any children underfoot.

I feel fortunate that I can work at home and show my children that moms can do so much, whether they work at home or outside of the home. I also think I'm lucky because my kids can see that fathers can be at home parents too, as two of my sisters are the breadwinners for their family. That's wonderful for keeping the whole gender role thing under control.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I didn't decide to have children cause I thought they'd be fun, or make me happy or my marriage better. I am pretty sure I knew that they would often not be fun, make marriage more challenging and possibly drive me into a depression. Sounds like if I knew that I must be really stupid to have kids right? But being a mother, and more than that , the actual act of mothering is rewarding to me. Even on nights like tonight when my husband is entertaining clients and I am entertaining alcoholism ;)

Seriously though what in life is as rewarding as something that is a challenge? I also love running although I often want to give up go home and eat copious amounts of oreos instead.

When my newborn is fussing and I discover that doing step aerobics on the bottom step of my stairs calms her, I feel rewarded. When I teach my son about dinosaurs, or child birth or anything I am rewarded. It's these little things, plus the hugs, and sleepy nursing grins, and reading together that I love and make me happy.

Since becoming a mom I find happiness is such simple things I walked past before , and my grief is most definitely deeper . I'll take the extremes though, it's what I signed up for.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

I think Dr Wootan has been talking to my mother ;-) She is of the implacable view that almost constant maternal presence is essential for the first 3-4 years of a child's life, and cites her own dedication to us, her offspring, in her frequent disparaging references to the children of her friends who work and whose little ones attend creche, have nannies or babysitters, or are cared for by grandparents. In fact it is her unrelenting moral pressure on this point that has led to my current work arrangement, which is a WAH one with my children in my fulltime care. I will be honest, while this has definite pluses and I freely and eagerly chose it when each baby was under 12 months old, now they are a little older, it can be stressful and exhausting and not always optimal for my family unit. (Not that *any* arrangement is without its stressors - I acknowledge that fully).

Wow, how did my intention to simply say Yes Annie! You rock! Clapping hands! turn into a rant about the nature of maternal pressure when applied by your own parent...? I think I need to go away and blog now ;-)

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Totally forgot to add that I think it;s insane to say that a mother should be present at all times for a child's first 3 years. As someone who has cared for and seen babies thrive in childcare settings with loving caring caregivers, I simply flat out disagree. Statements like that do nothing but heap on the mommy guilt and deepen the divide between mothers.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllie


I think that societal pressure can result in people making choices that they otherwise wouldn't have and I do think that is a form of oppression. If you chose to hang up the laundry because that was the best option for your family, that isn't oppression. But if you chose to hang up the laundry because the general consensus in the community was that only lazy moms use a dryer, then that could be oppression. Does that make sense?

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Assuming that the one who is at home will do EVERYTHING except earn the money comes from a bunch of stuff - assuming that they need to do everything so that the money-earner won't leave them in the lurch; that childcare isn't actually difficult, tiring, or time-consuming, leaving them lots of time and energy free for other non-paying work such as cleaning and cooking; that only by visibly supporting the breadwinner can their existence be justified (breadwinners being high-status and worthy of visible support, in a way children aren't).

Invisible work.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAilbhe

I tweeted a couple of these comments, but this poked an irritable spot, so I guess I should flesh it out a little more.

I really cannot abide the tendency of people to characterise home/natural birth, breastfeeding, cloth nappying, attachment parenting (attachment, not maternal attachment only) as "martyrdom". Do people honestly think we make these choices because we hate ourselves, or really care that much about what people think?

If I cared that much what people thought, I would have used disposables like a normal person, gone to hospital to have my baby like a normal person... I would have gotten a lot less grief that way! No, pretty much like anyone else, I made those decisions based on what I thought was best for my health, my kid, and my planet. This includes my mental health and happiness.

Additionally, setting up that subset of parenting choices as some perfect ideal of parenting (but secretly, we all know they're weird hippies) allows people to dismiss it as unrealistic, in the same way that the "breast is best" discourse divorces breastfeeding from "normal", because no one's perfect, right?

I'm sorry, this is beside the real point of your post, but the various discourses that spring up around these discussions inevitably bug me.

I was pretty spectacularly UNhappy for the first two years of my kid's life: her father left me at 6 months, health dramas for me and close family, the financial stress of being a single mother, etc. None of this had anything to do with what my parenting style was, and I did manage to incrementally increase my own contentment over those years, even if I wouldn't have said I was happy as such. The presence of other close adults, both family and friends, were essential to this process: they forged loving and trustful relationships with my daughter, and gave me the space to do what I needed. I went back to work when she was 18 months old - she never cried, never detached. She's never doubted from day one that she was loved and that her needs would be met, and that includes by people other than me!

I did have to make a big choice between my own long-term happiness and my child's medium-term happiness. It was tough, and it caused me a lot of grief. I moved to the other side of the country, away from my child's father, to follow my career and my heart, to move in with my new partner and take up a new job. I felt horrifically selfish, and when my kid's crying for her daddy after a visit back there, I still feel like a Bad Mother(tm). But ultimately, I think we're all happier as a result. That was a case of taking charge of my happiness, and making short-term sacrifices to secure it.

On a lighthearted note, I'm sure Wente would see me as a self-oppressing enemy of feminine happiness, but her selection of "modern conveniences" sucks. Processed foods? Some of them taste ick, have less nutrients, usually contain palm oil. Lysol spray? Germs are essential for a healthy immune system, who needs it? Disposable diapers smell gross, and creat huge amounts of rubbish I don't care to have in my home. Clothes dryers? Nice convenience, I like having one, but the sun and wind are free! Polyester sheets ARE THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS. :D

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSiobhan

I did expect that motherhood, a long awaited dream for me, would make me happy. Of course, I was wrong and had to find that happiness in the new LIFE awaiting me, the one that just happened to include motherhood.

This article is particularly poignant for me right now. In 2005, I quit my job while pregnant to stay home with my forthcoming son. I LOVED staying home with him. Then, I had his sister, 20 months later, in 2007. To boot, within a few months, I faced the shotgun barrel of post-partum depression. I was not happy for a long time after that. Then, things got better. In fall 2009, my husband started a new business which needed me as an active participant. On paper, this looked great - working from home! Flexibility! A few weeks ago, we shuttered that business and for the first week, I was a little dazed. There was a part of me that did like doing something "outside" of the home, per se. But I also missed our schedule when I stayed home full-time. I missed random outings to the zoo, I hated our struggles to get a home-cooked dinner on the table, I loathed telling my kids "one more minute" when they needed me while I was in the middle of something work-related.

To some, it might seem I am oppressed now - I do all of the housework, my husband does all of the money earning. When he is home, though, he is definitely a co-parent.

Before I had children, I worked a lot of hours, had a crazy schedule and often had to travel. I knew that I did not want to have children in that sort of environment - not only for them, but for me. I do not do well rushing around. One of the #1 things that I love about staying at home, is that I dictate our schedule - after all of those years in the Grind, I appreciate have control over my life for a change.

I prefer this life and am so excited to get back to "just" staying home full-time. So again, this article is particularly striking for me right now.

On a lighthearted note, my husband was primarily working from home the last 3 years. While it was awesome to have a co-parent in the house, having my husband here 24/7 did not make my heart grow fonder. A month ago, he began working OUTSIDE of the home and damned straight, my happiness quotient has soared.

Thank you for providing such thoughtful discussions - I don't always agree with you, but you do always make me think. Which is far more important anyway, no?

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercagey

I agree with all of what you say, and I've talked about it plenty of times with my husband. I'm more referring to the fact that the pressure (what I and you are describing, in whatever form) is not always gender-specific. There are definitely differences in the kind of comments he and I get, but I still think it's interesting how we expected there to be more resistance to him being male and at home. It's like the point wasn't made well that we can/should be sharing home responsibilities, which I think is really a message people often miss from 'feminism' or whatever you want to call it. Men can be nurturers too.

There is definitely a group of people that think I'm 'lucky' to have a guy that's willing to do it. It's mostly a different generation but not always. It's kind of odd, actually-they think I'm lucky and expect me to still be doing everything when I get home. Like he's some kind of baby-sitter during the day and I do as much mommy-at-home stuff as I can when I'm not working. It's funny because it's true that I do housework/childcare stuff when I'm not working but not because I think I'm supposed to be at home. I do it because I want to and we should be sharing that load.

The people that think he should be doing *everything* have so far fallen into 2 general groups. Obviously, these are generalizations :P The first seems to consider itself feminist-good for me for working; make the man take the old role. It's almost revenge-like. Women had to do it, why can't he? The second group has been women that previously stayed at home with their kids (or currently are) and had to/have to do it all by themselves. This one also feels revenge-ish-I survived, he should too.

I definitely agree that many people think childcare isn't that difficult or if that you choose to have kids, you should suck it up anyway ('Don't complain-you wanted this'). But we both get that. As a mother, I definitely get 'breeder discrimination' at work that fathers don't seem to get. Oh, she's pregnant/a mom/breastfeeding, so she's flaky/absentminded/going to be late/etc. I'm not supposed to ever appear tired, mention being frustrated about anything home related, etc. or then I get comments about not handling it well. Often, the 'he should be doing everything' and 'she's a flaky mom' come from the same person. It's enough to make my head do loops. And I work in a female dominated profession!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

"I really cannot abide the tendency of people to characterise home/natural birth, breastfeeding, cloth nappying, attachment parenting (attachment, not maternal attachment only) as “martyrdom”. Do people honestly think we make these choices because we hate ourselves, or really care that much about what people think?"

Hear, hear!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I wanted to clarify-the people that say I'm 'lucky' seem to mean more that I'm lucky that he 'lets' me do it. I definitely feel lucky, spoiled even, but that's because I love my husband and little family. Not because I'm getting some sort of outside-the-house pass!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

While I do find my job fulfilling, absolutely agree with you here. But I don't think the same can be said of all women, and I know there are many women at home who would happily trade places with you or I.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

What a FABULOUS post! I read that same article by Dr. Wootan, and was so pissed off I couldn't write a coherent response (so I didn't).

I was very happy as just a wife before getting pregnant.

I am even happier as a mother, though I know I would be even happier still if I could work from home. And no doubt in my mind - I will always work in addition to raising a family, I need it as an outlet. And I always get my ME time, too. My husband understands how important that is.

I want a big family. I imagine it will get more difficult to find that ME time as our family grows. But we are blessed to live not far from family, and to be in an area with abundant free and cheap activities available.

And as for breastfeeding and hand washing cloth diapers - those things are certainly possible even for a WOHM like me. And Trader Joe's makes an excellent organic applesauce:)

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I agree with this, since my not-yet-three year old just told me the other day that an event wasn't happening "tomorrow", it was happening "on Thursday". And he was right.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

It's not the tasks in themselves that I think are oppressive, it's a societal pressure that dictates that one is obligated to do something (in my opinion). So, to answer some of your questions, yes, if a woman doesn't work, has no children and stays home to cook and clean only because she feels that is what she's supposed to do for her husband, then that is oppression. If a woman chooses to clean homes for a living, that is not oppression.

I totally agree that it's all about what works for you and your family at any given moment in time.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiisa

I think you are referring to my earlier comment here. I did not say those acts were "martyrdom", I included "martyrdom" in the list of things that are held as a new standard for the supermom ideal. I would define martyrdom here as someone who consistently puts themselves last. Someone who says to themselves "I would NEVER... [insert any (not harmful) act here i.e. "feed my child a cup of juice"] that I think leads to martyrdom.

You will also note that I did NOT include breastfeeding in my list. I would hope that we were beyond that in this debate.

I was not making judgements on the attachment parenting lifestyle at all, just making a comment on the current culture of parenting.

I am a SAHM, breastfeeding mother.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiisa

I agree with both of you. Maybe all adult roles can be seen to be oppressive in some way? At least within the capitalist structure...

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterradmama

I love, love love this post, so much there's nothing I can add except to say...well, you nailed it.

I think the "village" aspect of happy mothering is maybe the most important factor of all. It affects everything, from how easily moms are able to handle big and small crises, to meeting their need for social interaction, to sharing the workload. Friends and helpers build a mom's confidence. They make her job as a mom easier and more enjoyable. They broaden a child's horizons and may even make him safer (the way I see it, the more people looking out for my kid the better off he'll be).

I feel so strongly about the village concept that I shopped a book proposal about it to 20 different publishers. Several were intrigued but said they just didn't think it was a big enough topic to warrant an entire book! Luckily, I got to devote one chapter to "the tribe" in my Happiest Mom book.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

Pressure from your own mother is so much fun. It's infinitely more difficult to tell her to close her mouth!

My own mother told my husband (not me, just my husband) that I should be doing 1-2 hours of housework after I get home from my 8-5 job. You know, cuz that's what good wives do. She also said I was lazy for letting my husband make dinner even though cooking is his hobby.

Moms seem to get crap from everywhere!

Great post, BTW!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershasta


That is my goal...to make people think. There are some issues I'd love everyone to agree with me on, but for the most part I just want to spark discussion and get people to think about their own assumptions.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts. A nice blog comment is always much better for explaining things than a series of 140 character sound bites! :)

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


I am also a working mom and my husband just finished 5 years as a stay-at-home dad. We get all of the same comments. On top of that, people who don't know that my husband is a stay-at-home dad just assume that my children must be in day care. Obviously if the mom works, the kids are in day care.

In particular, I've found a lot of people are surprised that he doesn't have dinner waiting for me when I arrive home. His day is busy. He does other housework in addition to taking care of the kids and doing his own schoolwork and I LOVE TO COOK! So why would I load another thing onto his busy day, when it is something that I love to do anyway? I get home from work, cook dinner, we eat, and then he cleans up while I spend time with the kids and get them ready for bed.

I think each family should figure out the allocation of duties that works best for them.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


You asked "But what if you don’t have the support or access to help for a simple 20 minutes “off”?"

I think those of us who have spouses and parents nearby are very lucky and it is much easier for us. But for those who don't, I think that seeking out friendships with other families that you can trade off with is one option. We have found a few families that we have started spending a lot of time with. This wasn't until our kids were a bit older, so we didn't leave them with them when they were "under 3", but we have now found that it is easy for us to be able to trade off with those families as needed. The kids get a playdate, the parents get a break, and then it is the other family's turn another time.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

kayak woman:

Grandparents are wonderful!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Ok, then without knowing much about Wente or having read the article, I'd say it sounds like she has her own idea of what would make HER feel oppressed and can't fathom other women purposely choosing to do those things because they enjoy them.

When my mom was a girl, few mothers worked outside of the home, it was pretty much expected that the mother would stay home and raise the children while the husband made the money. That had changed quite a bit by the time my mom had children, and now I think women have more choices than ever before. There is no one version of what it means to be a mother. I personally know several highly educated mothers who left their jobs to stay home with their kids because they wanted to.

Also, as someone who grew up rarely seeing my grandparents because they lived 600 miles away, I can't imagine taking Wooten seriously. To this day, I wish I'd been able to have a different relationship with my grandparents. And when my mom offered to watch my kids one day a week so I could work more, I jumped at it, not just because I wanted to work more, but because I thought some time with grandma would be good for my kids. And they have thrived under her care.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Ok, then without knowing much about Wente or having read the article, I’d say it sounds like she has her own idea of what would make HER feel oppressed and can’t fathom other women purposely choosing to do those things because they enjoy them.

That sounds like a pretty accurate description of Wente!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I do try to take charge of my own happiness. I'm not sure how good I am at it, but I don't think that putting a lot of pressure on myself to do this is productive. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. I would say that I am happy.

I would also say that as my kids get older I feel more keenly how FLEETING this all is. I am far less concerned about 'me time' with my second than I was with my first. I know that he will grow quickly (too quickly) and I will sort of miss having him around all the time. That doesn't mean that I never go out, but it does mean that I don't chafe as much if I don't. I've adjusted my lifestyle to small children, I'm cool with it, and I know this is temporary. Which is the key - CHOOSING to spend a lot of time with your kids is fine. But having it imposed on you is not so OK.

I feel the same way about the same 'shackles' that Margaret Wendte talks about in that quote. I hang my cloth diapers to dry. I breastfeed. I don't buy pre-packaged baby foods and I try to cook from scratch. I knit and sew and garden, and I am not currently employed in a job that requires me to be away from my kids. I chose this, freely, and with other good options available to me. And I don't regard it as oppression. For me, spending my days in a grey cubicle by myself and working was more oppressive. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Just as there would be nothing wrong with running from my home to the grey cubicle for some peace.

Here's the thing - there is no single model for happiness and no single model for fulfillment. I am currently rejecting the model of a successful woman that I was raised with - supermom with a full-time job who still manages to make it to the soccer game and go to aerobics three times a week. That model didn't work for me, but this one does. At least right now. So Margaret Wendte can take a flying leap when she suggests that I'm oppressing myself or relegating myself to unhappiness.

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I am a 100% fulfilled, stay at home, homeschooling mom of 3 children. My oldest has ADHD and is a real challenge on most days. My middle child has some learning delays and I am nursing my youngest at 4 months old. How can I be happy? 1) I don't compare. Not my life, not my children, not the cleanliness of my house, not academic achievement and not my husband. 2) I don't do it all. The laundry isn't always done and I don't worry about it. Sometimes my husband comes home to a toy filled family room and I don't worry about it. I do not feel guilty in the least because I know what I am doing has value and I need my energies to be a patient, loving, and supportive wife and mother. The house can wait. 3) I know only I can make myself happy. I don't rely on my friends, extended family or my husband to make me happy. I can chose to be drama-filled and miserable or to be responsible for the outcome of my life and work to be happy. 4) I find my own fun. I started a meetup group to connect the local homeschoolers. Between book club, mom's night out, knitting club and just phone calls to the other members, I find my social life is quite full. All those activities are done without kids (except my youngest, who I have to take with me since I'm nursing).
Life is about choices. If making organic applesauce makes you happy, do it! Some moms really enjoy doing that and I am happy for them! I don't enjoy it, so I don't do it. I do believe thought that some may be doing it only to live up to some expectation they have created for themselves, and I think they need to let it go! I truly believe that in this modern world, with all the opportunities available, no one can oppress women but women for falling into one of the aforementioned traps!

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStraderSpiel

Great post! I really agree with the attachment parenting model, but I view the "balance" principle the same as all of the others. I make my happiness and enjoyment of life a priority, and I also make my marriage a priority. I think the principle of balance often gets lost in the noise of the other advice like breastfeeding, babywearing, etc. I also think moms and women are undervalued by our society, and as a result, they don't feel like they deserve a break.

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I have had the hardest time with finding the right balance of working and playing mom with my son. The guilt has been overwhelming as everyone just assumed I would keep him home with me since I worked from home. I tried that for five months and found I wasn't doing any of it well.

Today, he moved up to the big boy room at daycare and I bawled my eyes out the whole way home because he was crying when I left. Is it inevitable that we have to live with this mommy guilt forever?

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMadelyn

You might had been happy before you had your first child but ,as they say, happiness has different levels. The happiness that your work, your travel, and your job promotion bring is not actually the same with what your children can bring.. we might have opposing perspectives with regards to this..but this is how I feel before and after having children. :-)

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cynaumon

So much in this post I agree with: that 24/7/365 is unhealthy, that some moms break, that happiness should not hinge on others but on your own choices, that more equal parenting would help a lot.

What I also know is I did too much for too long, am partially broken, and am now acutely aware of each decision, trying so hard to still give my children what they deserve and need, while trying to build myself up a bit from the nub I was worn down to.

I believe a lot of parenting is drudgery, in part because of the repetitive, time-sensitive, nobody-else-to-do-it tasks, and in part because the important stuff---consistent, gentle, patient, loving---is really draining for me, personally. I think that the joys of parenting are unparalleled and the frustrations and pain are unparalleled. And with small children, particularly intense children, the downs outweigh the highs. Parenting in the moment helps, because deeply feeling the joys and consciously choosing empathy fades the frustrations faster. But oooooh, are there a lot.

I just don't have the reserves to give 120% anymore, and I feel like I'm cheating the children if I give less than 90%. I really wish I had balanced better in the beginning so I'd have more left now. But proper balance is just another "should" that makes me feel like I'm not doing enough.
So glad I did the breastfeeding, attachment, sling, stay-at-home package, but with I knew before the possible toll and how to get some of my own needs met. And all these articles that admit how hard things can get make me feel better because I know I'm not alone, not crazy, not completely broken, and not failing.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNaptimewriting

just wanted to say, excellent discussion and blog post. i'm in the throes of finding balance, satisfaction and some kind of meaningful existence for me and my wee guy so this is all about the thoughts currently circling round my head
at no time, however, have a i felt oppressed - just a bit bewildered at how i'm going to make all this 'stuff' work out for me and him so we don't screw each other up (too much)

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo aka pomomama

I grin and bear a lot of it, because I am mother and there is a lot about being a mother that it is my job to grin and bear. But as I said (and you said), I am never going expect that my kids will be the sole source of my happiness. They're not. If I only wanted a source of happiness, I would have gotten a puppy or an iphone. I had kids. I wanted kids. I wanted to be their mother. Actually, that does make me happy.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

me too.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkaren

Uh - you nailed it when you brought up the gender stereotyping. It annoys me beyond belief when people accuse natural parenting of oppression, implying that ONLY the mother must be the one hanging the diapers out to dry. The difference between the 1950's and now is that it is more socially acceptable for men to do just as much of the child rearing as the mother. THAT is how our jobs got easier.

I don't have much of an intelligent response to being told I am never allowed to leave my child's side until the age of three except to say "What?!?! You cannot be serious." It's too ridiculous to even form a coherent argument to.

July 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

[...] motherhood oppressive? PhD in Parenting talks parenting, happiness, and the pressure [...]

We have a very simple attitude towards parenting. We call it 'intuitive parenting'. It means we don't read any books on raising kids, and when we read an article, we look at it very, very critically (quite often we end up ridiculing the author). We do talk to our own parents, other parents and occasionally teachers. Other than that we follow our gut. The result is a very personal parenting style, which makes us happy, and doesn't appear to harm our children, so far.
What does this look like?
- I breastfed my children until they were over a year old. (=good mom)
- I went back to work when my baby was 6 weeks (first child), or 2,5 months old (second child). (=bad mom, so glad the breast pump was invented).
- My babies never had formula, or food from jars. (= good mom)
- I froze home-made mashed vegetables to always have baby-food ready, without having to cook (= bad mom using the microwave).
- I leave potty-training to the ladies at daycare (= bad mom)
- I will on occasion send my child to daycare on my day off (= bad mom)
- I am quite happy to drop my children off at school/daycare and go to work (= bad mom)
- I bake cookies and do crafts with my children (= good mom)
- When I don't feel like doing crafts, and my son annoys me, I will let him watch 'Cars' before noon (= bad mom).
- I make my own yogurt, flavored with home-made jams (= good mom)
- I use pre-cooked meals, or pizza from the freezer when I don't feel like cooking (= bad mom)
- When I'm tired, my kids only get a bath once a week, I just clean faces, hands and bottoms, and consider that good hygiene ( =bad mom)
- My house gets cleaned only once every two weeks, by a cleaning lady (= bad mom)

I put the judgments there, because I know they are made, by others, and sometimes, before I realize it, by myself. I used to be influenced by these judgments, and they made me unhappy.
Nowadays I am a very happy, free, lazy, practical, fun mum, who enjoys parenthood as a part of life.

I try to instill others with this carefree notion of parenthood. My main method for this is honesty: I tell it like it is. I don't pretend that my kids have had a bath when they haven't, and I don't do a quick clean when I have people over. And you know what, people really like that, they are more relaxed in my untidy, outdated living room, than they would be in a fashionable and spic and span room, because the need to keep up with the Jones-es is suddenly gone, and maybe they can show their true selves too.

July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSaartje

I had a 'breakdown' last year too. I was trying to be too perfect, and ended up at the end of my wits, screaming at my children, and crying and feeling guilty myself. I started feeling depressed, too. I decided something had to be done, so for a while the children were sent to daycare on my day off (I work four days a week). I stopped breastfeeding the youngest (at 14 months) and sent both children to stay with my parents in the weekends so I could sleep. I went to see a therapist and I took a course on mindfulness. Now, I prioritize, I am an excellent mum, but not perfect, and that's ok. I can be lazy, or creative, happy or down, I am human. I am much happier, because I take a pizza from the freezer without feeling guilty. Or tell my child to stop nagging (children nag, and there is an end to a person's patience, they might as well learn that from their mum!) or go out in the garden and nag to a shrub! Without feeling guilty. My relationship with my children has become much more natural and mature (hard to explain), and certainly less encumbered by a false sense of duty, and guilt. I often say (to myself, not my children, they are too small to understand) that my children should be glad they are fed and washed properly, they are cherished and loved by their parents, family and other care-takers, not beaten and not forced to do work beyond their means, and that makes them very, very fortunate children. All the rest is icing on the cake, if mum likes to ice, and has time and energy left to do it, then fine, but otherwise the children will be just great with those basics!

Good healing!

July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSaartje

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