An op-ed written by Maureen Dowd of The New York Times generated a lot of controversy recently. Ms. Dowd quoted a General Social Survey which has tracked American’s moods since the 1970s and the results were that basically women are getting less happy through the years. The study goes on further to state that women with kids are the least happy of all kinds of women.
What? My first reaction was shock and disbelief. Could it really be possible that moms in 2009 are truly less happy than our own mothers were in the 1970s? Moms of that generation enjoyed fewer choices for careers and didn’t generally have partners who shared in house work or the day-to-day child rearing, By that measuring stick, moms should be happier today with the plethora of opportunities that come with being a modern day mom. I thought more about the Dowd piece though, and something my own mother said came to mind.
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She and her friends believe that parenting today is much harder than it was when we were kids in the 60’s and 70’s. Parents in those days worried about us a lot less and left us alone a lot more. Our afternoons were spent riding bikes to our friends’ houses and coming home when it started to get dark–nobody had travel soccer practice, tutors, chess lessons etc.
We had tons of free time, and that meant our mothers did too. My mom was a teacher and arrived home the same time we did from school. She did “whatever” in the house from 4 to 6 while my brother and I remained completely independent from a young age. She didn’t worry about where we were or if we would come home. She knew that as soon as the first kid was called in for dinner we would be pulling into the driveway on our bikes.
I think if we are less happy today it is because we are parenting our children in a post 9/11 world. My kids do walk to school themselves, but have cellphones and blackberries to use if they need to reach me. I have the ability to be in touch with them all day every day. I worry about kidnappers, muggers, and stalkers–real or in cyberspace. At the sound of a police car, fire truck, ambulance or helicopter overhead I fear a terrorist attack.
I realize this is not normal…and I wish it weren’t the case, but after living in NYC during 9/11 and having bomb threats at my kids’ school and losing many friends in the attack, it is hard to go back to life “before” and as a society, I sadly don’t think we ever can. So, I think I know why we are sadder than our moms. They were raising us in a world far more innocent than we are raising our own kids.