Why do modern parents get picked on so much? Are we really the worst, the most contentious, the least prepared? Are we truly the authors of the "Mommy Wars," or are we just caught in the crossfire of an opinion machine called the internet?
It happens every day. Every single day.
My daughter will slip around the corner out of my sight, and two clickbait headlines run through my thoughts: “Helicopter Moms Ruin it For Everyone: Just Let Your Kid Play Alone” and “It Only Takes a Few Seconds: The Tragic Way This Toddler Died.”
Later in the day, she’ll want grapes. I’ll debate how thoroughly I should wash them, and there are more headlines: “All Grapes Full of Toxic Pesticides” and “Modern Parents Need to Stop Obsessing About Stuff Like Organic Grapes.” Oh, and then I have to decide whether to cut them in half, because: “Toddler Chokes to Death on Uncut Grapes” and “Stop Cutting Your Kids’ Food for Them.”
In the evening, she’ll take a bath. I’ll walk into the hallway to grab a towel, with more articles ringing in my head: “Expert Says ‘Never Walk Away From Your Bathing Children’” and “In the 70s, I Bathed Myself From the Age of Two.”
None of these articles are real, of course. But plenty of them could be. My reality as a modern mother is a daily bombardment of “information”—often in the form of opinion. It’s part of what it means to be a modern parent—it’s just one piece of what makes my generation’s experience of parenthood different than previous generations. Sifting through and filtering out are vital to replacing the noise with your own knowledge and instincts.
I’ve sat down at my computer multiple times in the past few months to write and instead stared at a blinking cursor. I’ve been overwhelmed by what I’ve wanted to say.
I want to write about modern mothering; I want to explore why it's hard, and why today's mothers face different but the exact same challenges as generations before. I want to defend my generation for doing our best, but I also wanted to encourage current parents to look critically at the norms of modern parenting—to cut through the noise and embrace what matters. I want to elevate the voices of my fellow parents and listen to our elders with a respectful ear while pushing back against stereotypical pigeon-holing of all generations of parents. I want to encourage mothers across generations to unite together in the reality that parenting is hard, and we're all doing our best.
Whew, that's a lot to want. (#alsoworldpeace) I immediately realized I couldn't do all of this alone.
This got me thinking: what did my mother worry about when she was parenting young children? I know she asked the same questions I ask every day: do they know I love them? Are they healthy? Am I preparing them for life? We're not so different, we parents of different generations.
Here’s a life maxim I’ve found to be true: when we sit down and talk honestly, with respect for each others' perspectives, we usually come to realize we're startlingly alike—and the differences we do have are kind of beautiful (yes, we can all start singing Kumbaya and We Are the World now). That's why I decided to start this "Let's Talk Modern Mothering" series, which I'll be drafting, collecting, and editing throughout the summer to publish in the fall.
About the Series
I'm passionate about elevating the voices of individuals. I think stories matter—I think we're all made of stories. When I began confronting the complexities of generational differences between parents, I realized the answer wasn't in data, social trends, or generalized assumptions about how we "all" parent; the answer is in the stories. We're not statistics, we're not "what's trending," we're not all the same: we're mothers, and we're doing our best.
This fall, I'll be featuring the stories of mothers across the generations here on the Made of Stories blog. But before that starts, I need your help. I'll be using the summer to collect these stories through a survey I've created. Would you help me capture the stories of mothers by taking and sharing this survey?
The goal of this series is to let mothers speak for themselves, to gather and feature the voices of mothers from different generations and put them in conversation. I imagine daughters sharing the survey with their mothers—and instead of focusing on whether we put our children to sleep on their backs or their fronts, talking about the universal worries, joys, and pain of motherhood. Stories have a uniting quality that data and methods never provide.
This fall, I'll be compiling and sharing some of the stories from this survey, as well as the voices of other modern mothers like myself. I hope you'll be a part of it through this survey, and later through our Instagram community using the hashtag #letstalkmodernmothering.
If you want to stay informed about the Let's Talk Modern Mothering series, sign up for my email updates!