Is life harder or easier for you today than it was for moms 20 years ago? This question was tackled in the 20th-anniversary issue of Parenting magazine and on the Today Show Tuesday morning.
I've been thinking about it ever since. I've also been thinking about how cute I looked in the segment and about how I'd like to hang a sign around my neck from now on that says "Trend #3 — The Technology Mom." People will tell me I look familiar and ask if we've ever met before and I'll respond, "You probably saw me on TV. You can call me Tech-Mom for short."
Forgetting that the whole segment should be about me, Meredith Viera mentioned that there were some "red flags" in the poll that Parenting conducted: 73 percent of today's moms think yesterday's moms had it easier, and 96 percent of today's moms think they are more stressed than moms 20 years ago.
On my blog, I joked that we only think it was easier for our moms because we were punk kids who didn't have a clue what it was like for them. To an extent I really think this is true. The survey compared how we feel with how we imagine our moms felt. In reality, all it shows is that moms today think they've got it tough. Are they more pessimistic than the previous generation? Well, we should have asked moms 20 years ago if they thought they had it better than their moms.
What I see in the survey data is that moms aren't as happy as they think they could or should be. So many of us have this imaginary vision of joy, perkiness, and stress-free living, an ideal that drives us nuts, making it impossible to find contentment with the real lives we're living.
Personally, I think there are a ton of great things about being a mom today. Last week I blogged about all the ways I use and love technology. It's amazing how much time all these little devices can save you. The trick is to use the extra time wisely, rather than wasting it on addictions to said technology.
Another thing I love is how much more open and informed we are about problems like depression and childhood diseases. There are cures now for problems that didn't even have names 20 years ago and zillions of pages of information instantly available on nearly any topic.
With the accessibility of all this knowledge comes a huge amount of pressure to be informed about absolutely everything. I should have read the Wikipedia article about uni-flugo-harbi-chocolato syndrome! Then I would have known that having the hiccups every four days during pregnancy related directly to my daughter being born with a unibrow and a constant craving for chocolate. I could have googled home remedies and taken some sort of herbal supplement or hooked my belly up to one of those home baby jigglers and she could have turned out NOORRRMMALLL!!!!
We live in a society that's overloaded with media, where we can meet and read about other parents all over the world. This opens us up to learn from each other and find new ways of parenting. It also gives us thousands more people to compare ourselves to every single day.
However, comparison and self-doubt are hardly new problems for mothers. We're just using more advanced tools to sell ourselves the same lies that had our moms tearing their hair out in the bathroom while we called to them from outside and shoved our fingers under the door.
"I shouldn't complain."
"I should be able to multitask and accomplish everything simultaneously, while wearing exquisite clothing and keeping my figure perfect."
"I'm the only one who feels this way so I should just keep my frustration to myself."
"I'll never be as good as ——."
"If my kids' lives don't turn out perfectly, it's my fault."
"If I were perfect, I'd be happy."
"There's such a thing as perfect."
A while back I wrote that "chilled out is the new perfect" and I still think that's true. Ask yourself these questions:
Do I love my children and truly want what's best for them? (Not "do I always do or even know what's best for them?") Am I doing the best I can at the moment? (Not my mom's best or Sally's best or my best from two years ago.)
If you can answer yes to these two questions, I think you can relax and give yourself a break.