In the wake of the I Don’t Know How She Does It release and press blitz, some have suggested that this whole thread is providing too much gory detail into the difficulties of parental (maternal) life. A couple of single ladies, specifically, admitted that the frank discussions surrounding the film were scaring the bejeezus out of them. Here they were, blissfully thinking that parenthood was going to be “fun”, and here they are, being bombarded by stories of compromises and inconveniences. How would they ever get it up for the idea of reproducing again?
Yes, parenthood is hard sometimes. But really, so are a lot of things that bring rewards. You don’t have to tell a parent about the rewarding part; a parent is living it. But the feelings of joy and fulfillment that come from raising a child are hard to describe or to express. Partially, perhaps, because people feel bad about expressing them, because everyone knows that non-parents don’t want to hear you get all googly eyed over your kid. People complain when parents complain, but they complain about parents kvelling, too.
It seems like non-parents mostly want parents to just shut up already.
On What I Should Be Doing Instead, Katy Read analyzes this phenomenon. “What parents feel, I think, is not reducible to simple concepts like “happy” or “fun.” Those words are vague enough themselves, let alone when you try to stretch them to cover an experience that, let’s face it, involves its share of heartbreak, worry and swearing.”
I’m a firm believer in the fact that complaining about the hard parts of should not negate the good parts. Parenting is a complex, messy business. There are struggles. But venting about the lows doesn’t mean we don’t feel the highs. And the cumulative effect, for most of us, is a sense of satisfaction with our choices. This may well be true for non-parents as well — there’s something to be said for coming to terms with the path you are on, rather than coveting a life you missed out on.
And this sentiment is echoed by a “vast majority” of the mainstream parenting population—if you can gauge that from the readership of Dear Abby.
I think part of the reason parenthood seems so hard is that we pretend it shouldn’t be. Acknowledging the difficulties should me a way for parents to find support, both personally and culturally. But even if it’s not, I don’t think parents should have to be their own marketing department. As far as I’m concerned, my evolutionary imperative does not extend to the species at large.
As Read puts it: “I say we lay out the realities for not-yet mothers as honestly as possible, then leave it up to them. Having children is an act of faith, its consequences unpredictable. If they have kids, most likely, they’ll be glad they did it, despite the challenges. If they don’t, most likely, they’ll be content also.
If young women like Carmon and Grose think the risk of dissatisfaction is too great, as far as I’m concerned they should feel free to skip the whole thing.”