Remember when that new, zealous guy started work at your office? The one who thought it would be more productive to come in a few minutes earlier and stay a few minutes later? Next thing you knew, your nine-to-five job was eight-to-six, for the same pay. I wonder if this is what’s happened to motherhood. Maybe it was just one mom who had an extra cup of coffee and decided to take it up a notch, and here we all are, a generation later – tired, busy and tired of being busy.
It probably started with the first woman who decided it might be fun to bring a treat to the classroom to celebrate her child’s birthday. It was a nice thought, harmless even, but then it forced the other twenty other moms to bake birthday treats for the duration of elementary school. Obviously, your kid can’t be the only one who isn’t celebrated.
I bet it was just weeks later that another mom decided that this treat should be cupcakes. Cupcakes: an exercise in baking not one but 24 cakes, each of which needs to be wrestled out of the tin and frosted individually. All for the convenience of not having to bring a knife. Cupcakes: the hardest possible treat to transport without calamity, so hard in fact that they’ve designed a device that is more carefully engineered than a child’s car seat to get them safely to the classroom.
The cupcake itself was enough to wipe me out, but then came the inevitable moment that a third mom decided to monogram the cupcakes with each classmate’s initials. Again, I blame coffee.
Every one of the eighteen years that I’ve been a mother, things have been taken up a notch. If mothers used to feed and dress their children to put them on the train to adulthood, we are now doing those things while the train is moving. As soon as we think we are about to catch up and toss them into the cargo car, the train speeds up.
Our mothers’ generation wants to know why we’re so tired. Why do your kids need to do so many activities? Can’t they just play in the neighborhood? Can’t they just walk to soccer? What do you mean you’re making two dinners? Just make him eat the meatloaf.
We try to explain. Things are just different now. Activities are organized. No, they can’t walk to soccer; it’s in Tarrytown. And after soccer they need to get to the Chinese tutor because kids today need to speak Chinese, or else. Also they need to be leaders at something, it doesn’t matter what. Extra-curriculars are no longer extra – they’re the bare minimum. And I’ve recently been told that now we need to help our kids “find their passion.” How can you find someone else’s passion? Can’t we just let them do that one thing on their own?
As my kids have gotten older, I’ve wondered who was the first person who decided kids needed tutoring for the SAT. What if they all just went in cold? Isn’t all kids unprepared the same level of fairness as all kids prepared? And who was the first to decide that we need to shuttle our kids all over the country looking at colleges they hadn’t even been admitted to yet? If there’s another way to make the total cost of the college experience even higher, we’ll find it.
When we were growing up, there wasn’t this urgency around parenting, a fear that our kids were going to be left behind, or worse, a little bored. We seem to have bought into this idea that if we fall into bed at night completely exhausted and smelling like baked goods and mud, our kids will be okay. But we were raised on nothing but love and negligence, and we seem to have turned out okay.
I bring this all up because today I saw an ad on the internet for a nine foot wide, custom made banner that you can order to announce your child’s college choice on your front lawn. It has the child’s face and the college logo on it. Did I mention it’s nine feet wide? I don’t even know what to say. When mothers unionize, this is going to be the first topic I bring up. Let’s slow this train down.
(PS your mom told me she wants this book for Mother’s Day)