Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Is Our Society So Hard On Moms?

A newborn child crying.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As my regular readers know, my wife and I had our first child last summer. The experience of raising a baby has been very eye opening in a lot of ways, I thought I was generally prepared, I was largely mistaken. I had prepared myself mentally for the lack of sleep and for the huge amount of time I would need to devote to my son. My expectations weren't even close. It's not like I thought it would be easy, but I wasn't expecting the whole thing to be so relentless, you never get a break to recharge your batteries. I've dealt with lack of sleep a lot (insomnia), I've done some things that have taken over my life for a while (dissertation). But I've always been able to take a Saturday to relax, or take a nap, or whatever. Not so easy to do that now.

My wife has the real career and I work from home and take care of our son, so my insights into raising children are more analogous to what is typically motherhood rather than fatherhood. Raising children is a ton of work, and I have recently been thinking about how motherhood gets very little respect from our society in general. A moment from an old Simpsons episode popped into my head the other day, the kids were supposed go with their parents to work (so Principal Skinner could go on vacation early) and the note sent home specifically said that being a mom isn't work, which is why you don't get paid for it. I know it's just a cheap joke, but it really does seem to be a fairly typical attitude in this country. The men go to work and earn the money. They are the bread winners, they are doing what matters. The women are just at home raising the children and keeping the household together, or whatever. They are probably just spending half the day on their asses watching TV. Maybe it is just because I grew up in a fairly fundamentalist environment, but this wasn't simply a joke, it did seem to be the general attitude I grew up around, and to a lesser extend that I still see.

Another example that came to mind recently is the whole idea of the welfare mom. My dad listened to Rush Limbaugh a lot when I was growing up and I recall hearing these welfare moms completely vilified. "They are just having kid after kid to get their check from the government". Granted, this is a fairly extreme view from an extreme source. And yet, for the idea to land at all in anyone's mind, people already have to believe that raising kids is easy. The whole point is that they are deadbeats, it makes no sense that they are doing something this difficult just to get some money from the government. If my entire motivation was to get a check in the mail, I would never have another kid, it makes no sense. It's way too much work. Seriously, how much money would it take for it to be worth it for that alone?

This post is a bit rambly, I'm mostly just working out some thoughts that have been accumulating in my brain for the last little bit. If I do have a point of some sort it is this, I have a new appreciation for mothers, especially single mothers. I honestly have no idea how they do it. My wife and I are working together and we are both run super ragged.
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  1. Since caring for even one baby is a herculean task, I don't know how people with large families or multiple births do it. I definitely wouldn't be cut out for parenthood. Kudos to you and your wife for all your hard work.

  2. Thanks Ahab, Yeah, having twins would seem to be impossible. Although I also have trouble understanding how I could be doing what I am doing with a 2 year old running around. But people do both of those things all the time.

  3. I think society values home life in general less than it used to, which includes a devaluing of stay-at-home parents. I don't want to hear any complaining though, I had twins by myself for much of age one.

    1. I keep telling myself those types of things. Dude, you've only got 1, it could have been twins (or more). You could have a toddler running around. You could be doing this completely on your own. One has been keeping me so crazy busy I have no idea how people can manage those other situations. But people do it all the time. I just have a new appreciation for how hard it all is.

      By the way, I still reserve the right to complain. Just like once I move out of snowy places, I know I'm going to complain about those 35 degree nights. I know it could be worse, but I'm cold! :)


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