This morning I was thinking about Amy’s and Sarah’s posts while sitting in a doctor’s office, directly under a sign reading, “Thank you for turning off your cell phone”….
I am amused by the implication in these posts that behavior that seems odd to others can be explained by feeling “crazed,” suffering from exhaustion and missing your husbands and friends.
Why does it seem that whereas our generation of aging hippies thought it invented sex, the next generation seems to think that it is the first to face the challenges of parenting?
I am taken aback when I get the impression from young parents that they think they have so much more to do than we did, that they are more overwhelmed and harried. True, we didn’t have to check our e-mail, update our Facebook page and surf the web. To you young parents out there let me say: You don’t have to do that several times a day. You may all be busier, but you’re not doing more.
I think that generally (and of course there are exceptions) you have more help–from paid caregivers and from family. I did not have cleaning help, or a babysitter, or mother available to help me. My husband came home from work late at night and often worked on Sundays. I shlepped four children wherever we needed to go and that included grocery and clothes shopping. If one kid was sick, they all got shlepped to the pediatrician. More than once, I ended up in the emergency room with the patient and another child in tow. I shlepped the baby (oy! the snowsuit and in and out of the carseat!) to drop off and pick up an older sib and any at-home kids to the volunteer work I regularly did during those days. Once when I was running the local mikveh, (ritual bath) someone asked my young son what he did that day. “I went to the mikveh with mommy,” he replied.
When I got sick, it was just too bad and “tough on me.” If I was half dead (actually more like three-quarters), my husband took a day off from work. I can only remember that happening twice in 20 years–when I had a major sinus infection following oral surgery and when I had pneumonia. When I surfaced after two days, there was such a mess that I almost sat down and cried (come to think of it, maybe I did cry.)
I had good friends who would pitch-hit with carpool or pick up some essential. But that was about it.
In those days, it seemed to me that it would have been harder to have worked outside the home during the child-raising years. But after observing the young parents I see now, I have changed my mind. It’s a draw. Working outside the home provides relief from the constant demands of child care as well as adult company which at-home parents don’t get. If a parent gets sick, she can still plug in whatever child care arrangements she has all week. And fathers are much more involved today than their own fathers were. If I told my husband what needed to be done, he would do it. My son knows exactly what needs to be done and does it.
Not to mention that this generation of grandmothers (and grandfathers, too, sometimes) are much more involved than the previous generation. We are more likely to help out (and enjoy doing it.) We offer, rather than wait to be asked, to babysit. We bring food (my machatenista–daughter-in-law’s mom–makes lunch for our kids the day she babysits for our grandson), run errands, deal with repairmen, do laundry, buy clothes for our grandchildren (and leave the receipt in the bag so they can be exchanged), sit with them while they read their homework, take them to playgroup and on vacation (without their parents.) We’re there–unlike most of our own parents. That makes us, and our children and grandchildren, very, very lucky.
The bottom line is–it’s hard to be a parent. You are always busy and doing something. You have overwhelming responsibilities. It takes effort, time (quantity and quality) and lots of physical and emotional energy. And although I do remember being tired, I knew even then, even without benefit of hindsight, that those were the happiest years of my life. I loved it.
So yes, you are all very busy. We were, too. But I still say–please, no matter how busy, crazed and sleep-deprived, celebrate and bless the time you have raising children. Someday you, too, will realize that it does, indeed, go too fast.
And Sarah, Amy, no truce necessary. I’ll do coffee with you any time. If I say something you think is not valuable or worth considering, treat me like a mother-in-law. Just ignore me.
Want more advice from our resident grandmother? Read about how grandparents do have favorites,