Monday, 5 March 2012

I got out a handbag I hadn't used since last year and found a pair of 'just in case' knickers from when my granddaughter was being toilet trained.

That set me thinking about how much life changes when we have children (and grandchildren).

Suddenly there is a new life, totally dependent on us, and particularly so if we are breast feeding.  Our time is not completely our own.  Our lives are not completely our own, and nor are our handbags.

Fortunately, fathers these days are often more involved in the lives of their children, and many grandmothers smile to see babies strapped to the chests of the men they see shopping.

Still, however, surveys show that many women still take the major role in the care of children as well as doing the housework and often working outside the home.

A poll by Galaxy Research quoted in this morning's Age said mothers in their early 30's reported the least amount of "me time", a mere 33 minutes per day.  As I said, a mother's time is no longer her own!

Wendy Tuohy, in this morning's Herald Sun, writes of Posh Spice/Victoria Beckham admitting that she finds the combination of work and parenting exhausting. And no doubt she has plenty of household staff to assist her. Tuohy goes on to say that contemporary mothers are under more pressure than previously to have it all, and be it all, by the superstars who give the impression that it is easy to be a working mother.

There has certainly been a growth in the number of parents who are finding that their expectations are very different from the reality they experience, no doubting contributing to the increase in post natal depression.

I can't help feeling we had it easy as parents.  While we all wanted our children to be seen as well behaved and special, we had nothing like the bombardment of information on how to raise the perfect child.  We chose between breastfeeding and formula, with militants arrayed on each side, but generally we just got on and did our best. We had support from grandparents and extended family but now they are still working, or off travelling.

The spread of our cities has also made life difficult.  Friends and family can be an hour away.  Mothers work until almost the day they give birth and know few people in their local areas.  New housing developments are often under resourced in public transport, access to Maternal and Child Health Centres and play groups require families to have a second car or miss out.  It can be lonely being at home all day with a baby or young children.  Childcare is not necessarily readily available, or affordable when mothers need to return to work. 

I have every sympathy for young parents today. And I'm always delighted to hear parents say: "I just love being with the children" even if they have their occasional whinges about the drudgery.

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