All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. It’s a book that’s been all over parenting sites of late and I have put it on my list. In in, Jennifer Senior writes about the impact children have on their parent’s lives.
I listened to her NPR interview about the book today and she makes a point that I find really interesting, about what it means to stay home with kids today – and what it used to mean:
In the 1960s if you stayed home with your kids, what were you? You were a “housewife.” You focused on your house. You didn’t focus on your kids. You focused on your house. Your house had to be clean. You had to master the differences between oven cleaners and floor waxes and stuff that made your wood nice and shiny, but you put your kids in a playpen, that’s what you did.
And now if you stay home with your kids, you are a “stay-at-home mom,” you focus on your kids. You are a professional mom and you focus on the right toys for your kids, the right educational things for your kids.
How true is this? I often think about the parenting my parents did, and the parenting that we are expected to do today – they’re not the same thing at all. Yes, my mom was amazing and she cooked and kept the house clean and was there for us, but the life of a child was so different.
I was walking myself home from kindergarten. By the time I was in second grade I was a latchkey kid taking care of myself after school for hours until anyone got home. Our childhoods were spent either with other kids or entertaining ourselves. The idea of our parents needing to play any part in the day-to-day besides keeping a roof over our heads and feeding us was foreign. No one thought about that. You were doing an okay job if your kids were fed, clothed and got to school on time. I can count on my fingers the number of times my parents even looked at my homework.
Today? Forget about it. It’s not just SAHM’s and dads who are parenting to exhaustion, it’s working parents, too. Somewhere in the past few decades we’ve collectively decided that kids need our constant supervision and direction. When and how did this happen? When did parenting become an extreme sport?
My mother wasn’t lazy – at all. Our house was clean, she always looked immaculate, there was always dinner ready – and she worked full time. I’m just saying that I know for a fact she did not fret about parenting all day or analyze it the way we do today. We were clean, fed and healthy and if we weren’t at school we were out of the house until night fell.
Can we bring back that parenting style, please?
(photo: Getty Images)