Thursday, September 1, 2016

Is Parenting Hard? Young Mom's Confessional on FB Goes Viral

We've all seen young kids behaving uh, poorly, in public. It may be the temper tantrum in the supermarket. It may be rudeness at the park or playground. Whatever it is, we are all inclined to pass judgment on the parent of the little troublemakers. And sometimes that is clearly deserved, and other times we should probably remember the frustration when kids are acting like, well, kids. That issue regularly comes up in parenting blogs and Facebook posts, and the most recent example comes from a young mom named Aly Brothers whose post about her very bad day went viral and was written about by Gina Mei for Cosmopolitan's lifestyle section.

She writes about the frustration and tears that followed a disasterous trip to the store, and she explained simply that "This is motherhood."

This is motherhood. No fancy filters, no good lighting, no new lipstick. It's messy hair that's wet from the rain, yesterday's makeup that I was too tired to wash off, and tears. Motherhood is HARD. Single-motherhood is HARD. These tears started as the cashier of Giant Eagle handed me my receipt and continued for the entire drive home. Tears that were passed on to my oldest in the backseat because he doesn't like to see his mommy cry. We know how much boys love their mothers. 

And, I guess the question we have to ask is: Is it? Really?

Her goal and her advice was obvious and reasonable. She was asking for a bit of empathy, and encouraging a judgmental public to show a bit of understanding when witnessing parents having a difficult time with their children in public. Truly, I don't disagree with that. In fact, I've even been moved to simply and politely ask a frustrated parent, "Is there anything I can do to help?" But sometimes you just need to let people deal with it, understanding that these are not rational but instead emotional moments that a child just needs to work through. Fair enough.

However, I think we need to scrutinize these ideas a bit in the abstract and theoretical. Is parenting really that hard? Or are a lot of these upsetting confrontational public moments a result of poor parenting decisions prior to that moment. My general reaction to a lot of behavior I see in the store is that our current crop of parents are doing a really weak job of parenting. In fact, we might argue that they are parents, but they are not "parenting." From dietary choices to passive response to agressive behavior to a tendency to laugh off behavior that isn't funny at all, many of my Gen X peers with young kids are simply not "raising" their kids. They are co-habitating with these young people, and they are deferring to children decisions that should be made by adults. One of the most respected voices in child psychology, Leonard Sax, agrees and explores this situation in his book The Collapse of Parenting.

Is parenting hard? I don't think that's the right word. And if it is, you're probably not actually doing much parenting.

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