Parenting is hard. It's the most difficult job you'll ever do. Parenting is challenging but rewarding.
The message is everywhere and it is beat into our heads almost constantly. PARENTING IS HARD. Not only that, we reinforce it to one another often.
But what if parenting *isn't* intrinsically difficult, we are just making it so? How many times have you seen a mama cat complain about motherhood - all those kittens suckling! And later she has to teach them to hunt - and they never even say thank you! Or a bird - does she ever complain that the babies are hungry *again*? Why do we as humans seem to believe that we have such a hard gig? Is it because we're smarter or more aware?
I was mulling over this question a few months ago after reading some comments on one of my favorite blogs. Everyone was chiming in with their own stories and feelings about how difficult motherhood is. Some women admitted that they didn't even like babies; others said they couldn't wait until their kids were out of the house.
And it just got my wheels turning. One thing that I've learned from teaching Hypnobabies is how powerful our minds are and that we create what we dwell upon. If the constant refrain in our lives is how difficult things are then we are likely to get a lot more choruses of... hard, Hard, HARD!
I'm not saying that I can't relate to the stories all these mamas share. I can. I know sleepless nights and crying for almost no reason other then exhaustion. I know losing my patience and feeling guilty for it later. I know feeling extreme anxiety as my child gets more upset about something seemingly insignificant. I know feeling uncomfortable as I worry about what others think. I get all that.
But that doesn't mean that these things become my focal point. And it doesn't mean that I accept that this is just the way things are and there is nothing I can do about it. Not at all. I know now that it's possible to shift almost all of those things into a more positive state.
A very common theme in our culture is that the teenage years are often years of rebellion, less connection between children and parents, emotional, and just generally trying. But I've found a small subset in our culture who says that it doesn't have to be that way. (Just like birth doesn't *have to* be an excruciating experience that a woman just has to get through.) Maybe this is true of many accepted ("difficult") aspects of parenting.
Anyways, back to my churning mind. I wondered if all of this "positive thinking" wasn't just a little too much. I mean parenting can be hard, right?! Even I, Sunshine Susie, admit to having difficult days. I wrote to my Tribe and asked them what they thought. I got some amazing, inspiring responses. Here is a line from one of my favorites, "Forging awesome, respectful, nurturing relationships takes time and effort and intention." Yes! There's a perspective shift that resonates with me. Don't we put effort into our adult relationships? Why shouldn't we expect to with our children?
But still not satisfied, I examined the problem from another angle. One of my favorites - The Evolutionary perspective. Did parents of the Hunting and Gathering era get together and grumble around the campfire (did they even have a campfire??)
I went to the most direct source I have, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Old Way, who was kind enough to let me interview her on the phone last spring.
Here is what I wrote to her:
It's amazing to read the comments and just how HARD parenting/mothering is for so many women. And I'm not disagreeing with them exactly - I mean I've had plenty of challenges and less than proud moments with my kids. But overall I just LOVE my life and them so it kind of makes me sad how many mom's are actually saying, "I don't like babies" or "I can't wait till they are out of the house" or any number of other things. And always the refrain, "it's hard, Hard, HARD!"
And here is what this incredible, generous woman wrote back to me:
I think you’re right by saying that the Ju/wasi just took parenting in stride—they wanted children, enjoyed children, and anyway, they didn’t have a choice about having children. Then too, all the people in an encampment looked after children in general—if an adult or an older kid saw a little kid in some kind of trouble that person would help immediately as a matter of course. Also, the Ju/wa kids could self-amuse. They played all the time, the boys playing hunting games or some rather formal games with rules, and the girls making patterns with their footprints or dancing. I don’t think I ever saw a kid wheedling at an adult about anything. Good social behavior was simply expected of children.
And it was so wonderful to hear from her and her perspective. And it definitely affirmed for me many ideas I have about parenting, our modern culture, children, and whether it necessarily needs to be so HARD. You may recall that Elizabeth also told me that children were not punished in the Ju/wa culture.
Some of you may be thinking but she says the children "self-amused - my kid doesn't do that!" This is another area where I think the tribal culture is very difficult to compare to our isolated, modern culture. Yes, they "self-amused" -- with all the other children in the tribe. And with plenty of adults around too. Not the same as expecting a kid to play alone or with one (or even a few) other sibling(s).
Really it's quite ironic. Back in the day when we had to travel miles and miles to dig up roots, then carry back heavy loads (again miles and miles), and hunt animals down - all just to survive - then we weren't complaining about raising our young. Now, we have refrigerators full of food (and a grocery store just down the road), we have dishwashers and washing machines, we have TVs and computers, we have light with the flick of a switch, we have roofs to keep the rain off of us, and heat to warm the chilly nights... but now parenting is so hard. What if the culture we've created is actually really difficult for our children? If we could shift our perspective then our parenting difficulties might diminish greatly, or even disappear.
I'd love to hear thoughts on this from other parents. What feels better - thinking that parenting is terribly difficult, or thinking that we are made to parent and can rise to the challenges, forming beautiful relationships with our kids as we go? The last thing I want to do is make more people feel guilty. This is not about feeling bad for finding parenting difficult. This is about creating a new paradigm (and from that a new culture!) so more of us can see that it doesn't have to be difficult.
1/11/2013 12:40:42 am
I really enjoyed reading your perspective, Susan, and that of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. I find my mind frame about parenting shifts depending on the situation, for instance, when I'm on an airplane, I find parenting to be very challenging. Or likewise when I'm visiting a friend who does not like to be around children. Then I am trying to conform them to society's expectations, in essence control their behavior. That's not fun for anyone! Thanks for opening up this dialogue!
1/13/2013 05:20:53 am
A great question, and a thoughtful blog post. Like anything in life it is always about intention and perspective. It is an excellent idea to examine our culture as it compares to other cultures. It seems that over thinking, and always striving for what our culture expects from us creates stress, and often leads to decisions we make for our children that may not be the best for them. It is very comforting to know that those of us that are considered deviant or bohemian by our society because we choose something other than the cultural norm, are not alone. If you consider that we are spiritual beings having a human experience that can easily ease your stress. No wonder it can be so difficult!!
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Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.