I have a wonderful mom and know I am lucky that our relationship has grown into a strong, adult friendship. She has been there for the birth of every one of my babies, coming to stay at my house to care for me and all my people as I recovered. She and my dad offer to watch the kids or keep them overnight so my husband and I can have date nights. I don’t ever have to worry about her not honoring my rules or expectations for how the kids are disciplined or spoken to. So much of what I do with my kids came from how she raised me and I know she did a beautiful job.
But often situations arise that show me how much parenting has changed since she did it and reinforce the feeling that, sometimes, she just doesn’t get it.
One of these times happened earlier this week when I was sharing with her how discouraged I was that my three-year-old had begun fighting going to preschool for the two, half days a week I’d signed her up. I shared that it breaks my heart to make her go but that I am worried I’ll set a precedent of allowing her to stay home if she doesn’t feel like going (which could become a problem in later years). My mom began talking about how she didn’t have much advice to offer because she hadn’t bothered trying to force my siblings and me to go to preschool. We’d each only gone intermittently or barely at all before kindergarten. I completely believe that she was trying to reduce some of the pressure I was under by assuring me things would turn out fine, no matter what I decided to do.
But that’s just it. In today’s world, where preschool is more like what kindergarten was in our childhood, our kids can’t afford to enter elementary school with no preparation. They would be seriously behind in a way that’s difficult to catch up from (I say this as a former elementary school teacher). So her comments really just succeeded in making me feel like she thought I was pushing my kid unnecessarily when she wasn’t developmentally ready. I do think society is requiring we rush our kids into learning at too young an age. At the same time, though, refusing to prepare them for the reality of the world we’re living in isn’t a solution and isn’t fair to my kids, who will pay the price. I just don’t think my mom gets that because she didn’t have to go through it as a parent.
This was just the most recent example, but there have been similar incidents around screen time, playing outside, requiring kids to eat the food they’re served (though the neurodivergence of my kids adds complications to that fight that she didn’t experience), and even the level of involvement in parenting and household tasks which I expect from my partner. It’s not that my mom was being super judgmental or trying to assert her unwelcome opinions in any of these cases. I know she is just genuinely trying to offer help and the wisdom of experience during difficult parenting moments. I don’t blame her for not getting it.
I blame the utterly impossible and unsustainable standards of motherhood that we are all now under.
I read posts all the time that list the incredibly conflicting and overwhelming amount of information moms are being expected to consider on a daily basis. We should limit their screen time but also be able to work from home uninterrupted. We should give them vitamins to boost their immune systems but not any of the kinds we can buy at the grocery store because they have harmful added dyes (comedian Bunmi Laditan has a hilarious post about this one). We should practice safe sleep with our babies and never ever use sleep aids but also prioritize sleeping when the babies sleep. We should never be on our phones when the kids are awake but also take time to maintain our adult friendships because pouring into ourselves is important and also make sure to answer every email, signup genius and class dojo notification the school sends. I could go on, as I’m sure could you.
It’s probably true that most generations believe they have had it the hardest and that younger generations don’t know how good they’ve got it. But I hope I remember when I’m a grandmother that the world is ever-changing and parenting probably won’t look the same as it does now in a couple decades.