"We had it much easier in my day." my mother-in-law told me. She is 85 years old and had her first child 60 years ago.
"Really, easier?" I asked.
"Yes. We didn't have to think so much. We weren't worried about doing things wrong they way you young people worry today. You just did it."
Could there be some truth to that, I wondered.
I pondered this as I went to my refrigerator and pulled out the organic soy milk. In the fridge were the organic, free-range, natural eggs, sitting next to the hormone-free, organic, cruelty-free raised chicken breasts (I assume until they were slaughtered since that seems pretty cruel to me). In the background my children were watching their one hour allotment of quality educational television programming, that I admit to letting them watch.
The younger children play with their non-toxic, natural wood, educational toys designed to stimulate their brains while they play. Not made in China. Not contaminated with lead paint.
I finish up doing my work from home. I work from home so that I can spend time with my children. Be with them every moment. And work every other moment. Well, when I am not teaching them. I want my children to be autonomous free thinkers, not little robots brainwashed by the state. Except when I do.
In another hour we will be leaving to do the drop off at various enrichment activities. Because everyone knows that without the proper lessons children will face a lifetime of disappointment and lag significantly behind their more prepared peers. I sigh deeply and wish that I had started language lessons earlier with my toddlers. In this world learning a second language fluently is really a necessity. But where to fit it in the day. Make a mental note to check my calendar. And the other one. And the other one. They will never go Ivy League now, I tell myself.
My children get ready to leave and put on their hand woven sweatshop free clothing. We get into our hybrid vehicle. Making sure that each child has their own bottle of water, but not in plastic, heavens NO plastic. The leeching of those dangerous chemicals are sure to give my children some sort of cancer. Or worse yet a learning disability.
Sarcasm aside, I understand what my mother-in-law was talking about. Fifty years ago there were no real choices or options open to mothers. You stayed home. You took care of your children. And that was the end. Now there are so many different choices, different options, that I am not even sure I could spell them all out. And while I embrace all the freedoms that we now have wholeheartedly, I understand what my mother-in-law was saying.
There were not the various schools of thought on the "proper" way to do things. Motherhood had not yet been fetishized. Mothers didn't cry over whether or not they were doing their babies long term harm from using a pacifier. In reality, they had so much work to do they were probably just happy that the baby would be quiet. But as our modern appliances came along, and mothers had more free time, things changed.
The internet and cable television had not yet brought discontent into our lives by exposing all that we lacked. But it also was not yet around to show us the possibilities, the brighter futures, to allow us to imagine the way the world could be. Not to mention the unmitigated joy of online shopping.
"Quality time, " my mother-in-law had laughed one day, "What is that supposed to mean? You do what you can do and you hope for the best."
That little piece of advice I am keeping.
Tucking it away with my non-toxic cleaning supplies and McDonald's french fries, but I don't publicly admit that we eat those.