Right now, it hardly needs to be said, it is a difficult time to be a parent, but especially a mother. If you don’t know why that might be true…well, then you are more blessed than I in health, wealth, and/or mental acuity.
Outside of the current world crisis with Covid and politics, being a mom in the world is just all-around tricky. And I think a lot of the difficulty lies not just in a world that isn’t built to accommodate children, but in a society that is actively, and often aggressively, anti-children. This shunning of youth means that parents (but especially mothers) are forced to bridge the gap of time, knowledge, strength, and focus to fit themselves and their families into the world successfully and, hopefully, safely.
What do I mean?
Gosh…I could go anywhere with this, but let’s just go with the most basic examples. Workplaces begrudge and often penalize pregnant women or children with everything from emotional to fiscal sanctions. Oh…you’re pregnant again? That’s great…yeah. Um…Didn’t, didn’t you just have one last year? Well…
Sexualization of mothers and children is rampant and so challenging to avoid. You’re breastfeeding! What an excellent choice, but I will thank you to tuck those bad boys away behind a suffocating blanket along with your child because I find it highly perverse. But, boy, doesn’t this bikini look great on your seven-year-old? Hmm…maybe those 13-year-olds need tighter shorts and no real alternative options!
Childcare is a constant struggle between what we can afford and what is appropriate for our children’s education/development, not to mention what is safe. As I leave my toddler behind each morning, should I have to think: is this day care center so short-staffed that they are going to leave my child in a hot van to suffocate? Is the food offered at lunch practically recycled cardboard with some meat-flavored additives?
I’m not touching schooling and general education with a ten-foot pole…Just send a life raft and hope no one (including the teachers) drown.
Traveling with children is a burden to everyone around you. At least, that’s how you are made to feel. Oh, your baby is going to cry the entire flight? How dare you attempt to go anywhere outside the reach of your car. Here…we can’t guarantee you a seat next to your child unless we shove all six women on this flight and their various numbers of children into the back of the plane. See? Isn’t that nice? The engine noise is so loud it almost drowns out the sound of the baby’s wails of terror and makes it impossible to entertain older children in any meaningful way. #yepthathappened
Oh, you can’t afford the latest and greatest car and/or car seat? Well, let’s hope you don’t get t-boned when you drive across the country because you are afraid to fly with children. Also, we will make it ridiculously difficult to get these cumbersome contraptions in and out, so any parent with physical limitations (anything from bad backs to missing appendages) is just out of luck.
On and on and on the challenges go.
And I am sure many people would just say, well, that’s life, and you will face challenges and discomfiture at times. I agree. No society is perfect and there will always be challenges we face. There are always going to be ways to grow and improve. But this is just ridiculous. Seriously. It’s stupid.
American society has created this bubble of work and life expectations that revolve around achievements and growth (primarily monetary); all necessary skills and tools for success are inside, but there is a minimum age required and it is 18 and over only. So children just get left outside that bubble, and parents pour endless amounts of money and time trying to fit their lives inside and out without it popping and leaving everyone destitute. It’s exhausting. It’s impossible.
Well, aren’t we a Debbie downer today? Yes. I’m feeling a bit down about it. And I am not the only one.
I wish I had answers. Perhaps the first step is to keep having this conversation. Then, let’s study other, more inclusive bubbles, or maybe those places that have completely broken out of the bubble. Finally, let’s try to learn, grow, and change as a country so that we don’t leave parents floundering quite so desperately.
And, until things change, let’s just strive to create a safe passage for our children into the bubble and hope they won’t be shoved right back out as young adults because they can’t survive in it.