Are We Really All Miserable?


Modern mothers, are we really all miserable? Or does parental woe just make a good story? Earlier this month, the blogospere was atwitter, responding to New York Magazine’s, “All Joy and No Fun” by Jennifer Senior. Featuring lamenting, handwringing, and copious social science, the article presents modern parenthood as a relentless grind, a bore, a source of anxiety and discontent. Colored with anecdotes of parental unhappiness, the article contains study after study showing that parents are “less happy” or have lower “life satisfaction” than their childless counterparts.   

Much like watching “Real Housewives” shows, the appeal of this article may lie in comparing oneself to the poor “miserable” parents in the article and finding oneself comparatively happy. Yet, while the title  of the article may beckon in a supermarket tabloid sort of way, the content, well, seems like complaining about lives that are fundamentally pleasant -- champagne problems.  Or perhaps “media –generated” problems.

These are the news stories that perpetuate stero-types of privileged, competitive and neurotic mothers. Do modern parents wait too long for, look for too much out of parenthood? Do they view children as a project to be tackled, another accomplishment, and another prize to garner? Are they so worried about perfecting their children that they fail to enjoy them? And so on. It’s hard not to feel like we’ve heard this before (think Judith Warner) and that complaining about modern parenthood is as popular a sport as lamenting the “kids these days!”

So no, bringing up children is not a picnic, a joy ride, a trip to the spa, but it can be rewarding, especially for those who remember how to keep things in perspective, maintain some semblance of an adult life, and steer clear of such perfect storms of social science, quotable parents, and a good journalist. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

How the rich and fabulous do suffer. Cry me a river lady and get a real problem like how you're going to pay next months rent.

Anonymous said...

I would be curious to know from what pool the interviewees for this article came (haven't read the article yet)...I have all of the stresses of any normal, modern mother; however, I cherish every day I have with my son!

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! I'm not sure the "miserable" characterization comes from the parents themselves, just the article. My guess would be that the interviewees are relatively normal parents caught on a bad day. I would be the first to admit to having my moments as a parent - not necessarily "I hate my life" moments but definitely "I can't believe this is my life" moments, usually followed by incredulous laughter. Those are the times where I would not want to be interviewed "on the record" or even off.

Anonymous said...

Whoa...I am an overall solid, loving parent and there are days that I hate my job and that I don't cherish every moment I have with my kids. The two can coexist!

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Agreed! Its not all docile coloring, baking cookies, lullabies, and sleeping babies. But the story seems to sway too strongly towards the dark days. I would object equally to a story about how wonderful and perfect parenting is.

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