I know some amazing young women. Some are family, some are friends. I watch them struggle to balance their lives in many of the same ways that I had to — way back in the early eighties (ancient times!)
How to manage a marriage, children, and a work life/career? How to balance it all? I was never a big self-help book reader, but my wonderful mother-in-law, Sharon Fitzpatrick, recognized I was struggling with the new role of mom and how it was affecting me and my marriage. She shared a poem she had written twenty years earlier — when she was dealing with raising her four young children who were born over a five-year period. It was called “One of Those Days:” (Double-click and it will get bigger so you can read it.)
The book she refers to in her handwritten note on the poem is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea.” It is a collection of lovely contemplations that is restful and enduring. If you aren’t familiar with it, I suggest you take a look. At the time she wrote the poem, Sharon was a stay-at-home mom, without a car – her husband Bob needed the one car they could afford to get to and from work. Can you imagine how isolated she must have felt?
Now that I have more time and I’m interacting with my fellow (young mother) bloggers, I’ve found my interest sparked in writings about parenting today. One that caught my eye recently is “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood” by Jennifer Senior. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but I already think this is an important read for parents, especially those who are in the throes of it.
Senior discusses the evolution of family life – the changing roles of children and parents in America. It has been long acknowledged babies don’t come with an instruction book, but there is also the element of shock when the baby arrives. She cites Alice Rossi’s work on “the transition to parenthood” which acknowledges there is no courtship and/or orientation period for parenthood like we experienced prior to tying the knot or beginning a new job. Literally one minute we are self and/or couple-absorbed and the next we are parents. Adding to that, the current roles of parents are different from when our parents were raising us, and from when their parents were raising them. So without a user’s manual, and with a potentially unreliable parenting model (‘times have changed!’), no wonder it is stressful!
Senior’s book is not a parenting guide. Rather, it is a history of the role of children in families – pre WWII when children were expected to contribute to family life by working and doing chores, the post WWII period when the notion of “childhood” was popularized, until today, when often the role of the parent is to protect their children from all types of life’s unpleasantness. [I have to digress here: one of my favorite pieces on that particular peril is called “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” from the The Atlantic Monthly.]
As with all things, I think we have to strike a balance. Do I think treating children as slave labor was a good parenting approach? No. Do I think treating children as the center of family life and protecting them from difficult life-learning is healthy for the child or the family? No. Do I think children ought to have age-appropriate responsibilities and consequences? Yes.
So here’s my philosophical bit to get you thinking for today:
I’m interested in how we as a culture or society get from point A to point B. It is usually not with a “flip of a switch,” but rather, a slow and incremental process. And in some cases these gradual changes build toward solutions that are not grounded in our original intent. Why then do we go for decades without adjusting our course?
Let me know what you think!
Latest posts by Candace Fitzpatrick (see all)
- Are We Really Struggling? - May 21, 2015
- A Mother’s Day Tribute – Just Ask the Questions You Have - May 7, 2015
- Any Ideas? - April 23, 2015