On the Parenthood-is-the-Pits Thing

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Late last month, I asked if you — like me — felt that parents have gone from clever to snide. It just seems like there’s a proliferation of posts, listicles, essays, new studies, and opinion pieces basically saying that having kids is the living worst.

Then a few weeks ago came this piece on Slate by Ruth Graham, a childless woman who says that all of these realtalk-parenthood-is-the-pits pieces is a lot to process. (The five links in Graham’s first few paragraph alone — Lordy!) And the cumulative effect on “a possible future parent, it’s utterly terrifying.”

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Over the weekend, NYTimes Op-Ed Columnist Ross Douthat also wrote about this parental pity party, as he called it, and the “internet’s ever-expanding Book of Parental Lamentations.”  Douthat wonders why even he has become such a whiner about fatherhood, too eager to tell it like is and ostensibly scaring potential parents off.  He also touches on Jennifer Senior’s book, All Joy and No Fun (which I’m reading right now, and very much enjoying), as good place to find some explanations for why parents feel so utterly doomed. And he added this angle to things:

“The ‘look how impossible my life has become since I had kids’ genre is a way of passing judgment, on people who have opted out of the parental mission altogether.”

I linked to Douthat’s op-ed on MMM’s FB page and to my Twitter, asking if folks agreed with the “passing judgment” part of it. This launched a really great conversation between two other moms and me on Twitter. One of the women, a mother of a teenager, said she’s had enough of the “woe is me” complaints from parents because it felt like the same voice over and over — a privileged voice.

I can see that. Working class parents aren’t out here moaning about how much they miss long, leisurely brunches now that #thembabies entered the scene. They’re typically focused on more pressing matters, like, making ends meet and keeping their families fed and under a reliable roof.

That “same voice” issue could also be an offshoot of the emergence and popularity of the raw truth brand of mom blogger. (Dooce‘s Heather Armstrong is often dubbed the godmother of this style of blogging; she’s been doing it successfully for the past 13 years.)

And there there’s social media, where everyone is either trying to climb on top of the noise to post the funniest, most frank and ribald thing about life in the parenting trenches — in under 140 characters — OR they’re showing you how Instagram-filtered perfect their families’ lives are. Honestly, it all starts to melt together into a singular, repetitive sound. One voice.

I’m hoping to bring a different tone to this ongoing conversation about parenthood. It’s hard, what we’re doing here. Yes, it’s challenging raising these tiny humans. And you’ll regularly need to hear Amens from the choir, the congregation and — listen — the preacher too. So …

Go ahead, vent about the smashed flat screen.

If You’re in the Throes of Postpartum Depression, reach out, speak up, find community, get support, talk it through.

I’m not saying parents need to pipe down about their struggles. Not at all. I just hope we can ease up on playing the MY LIFE IS RUUUIINNNNEDDDDD track on this inspired album so much. The CD is kinda scratched.

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