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Are Modern Moms Wimpier Than Our Grandma’s Were?

My husband’s grandma phoned other day. During our chat I remarked “I don’t know how you did it with six kids! I can’t even wrap my brain around two!”. Great Grandma simply said something to the effect of “I never thought about it, I just did it”. I agreed and at that moment told my brain it’s about surrendering – that’s all I can do – just do it

Now I’m a textbook over analyzer. I’m anxiously trying to formulate schedules and situations in my mind to make having a toddler and newborn run smoothly but who am I kidding?! it’s not going to run smoothly! It is what it is! A tired mom in her pjs held hostage on the couch nursing and rocking a fussy baby while boyzilla runs around smashing his sippy cup on windows, climbing on furniture and smearing banana in the toy box…or is that just my house?
But as great grandma described how she had six kids no running water, cloth diapers to wash in a basement basin and a farm to run it got me wondering, am I being a wimp? 

I know she comes from an era where women didn’t have the freedom of choices that we have. We can leave our homes and go to work, have someone else watch our kids. We can go on the pill and limit our offspring and the timing of their arrival. We can even go on a get away leaving our hands-on husbands to take care of the kids. We also have other time and energy savers like disposable diapers, frozen dinners, dishwashers (running water), pre-made baby food, goldfish crackers and treehouse! Opportunities for a ‘break’ are afforded to modern parent. So why have I only had coffee and crackers today and am still in my PJs? At least the kids are fed, dressed and now napping.

1890 Housewife cooking on a cast iron stove

Now if you are like me, the various escape routes to freedom and ‘me time’ are etched In the back of your brain. Daily, I’m plotting how I can fit in the shower and morning coffee while navigating the needs of two crying kids who both need my attention and physical presence ‘right now’.  I know my years of having a full-time career – working out systems to operate seamlessly and cleanly has screwed up my maternal ability to ‘go with it’. I feel like there has to be a way for me to figure how to have a morning shower, hair done, healthy meals and snacks through the day, clean(ish) house, visiting with friends, exercising (aka walking), blogging, and dinner made all while breastfeeding my newborn and keeping my toddler happily seeking daily adventure.

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After all Great Grandma did a 1950s version of this, probably in pin curls and kitten heels! So why do I know there is gonna be goldfish crackers for breakfast , an old man shower (deodorant and teeth brushed), two crying kids, an anxious mom, dirty shirts turned inside out and a frozen pizza for dinner. Are modern moms capable of being stay at home moms they way our grandparents were, not to mention being outnumbered by the rascals by 4 more!!

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6 thoughts on “Are Modern Moms Wimpier Than Our Grandma’s Were?”

  1. Oh man, I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve written about it a lot.

    The biggest thing that I think makes all the difference is how *isolated* we are now. It wasn’t until the 1950s that we really came away from the multi-generational family. You weren’t on your own with the baby and the kids and the chores and everything, you had your mom, probably a sister, probably also a grandmother helping you out.

    Or, you had servants.

    When homeownership became a big thing for Americans (baby boom), so did getting away from the proverbial “village” created this whole housewife conundrum.

    It’s why so many first generation housewives were alcoholics.

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    • I never thought about that multigenerational aspect. I suppose extra sets of hands and eyes may have also been older siblings in some larger families.
      As I was writing the post I also thought about the amount of time technology takes up in my life, all time I might spend running a household in an earlier era.

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  2. I think one of the biggest differences is raising kids today as opposed to back then is that back then parents weren’t expected to be their kids entertainment, activity coordinator and best friend. I know I’d get a heck of a lot more done if my kid went to the park by herself or with friends. If she was gone from morning until night and I only saw her for meals, if then. Its a totally difference set of circumstances. (BTW, would not trade it for the WORLD, I happily neglect cleaning to play with my girls 😉

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  3. My Husband’s grandmother was under 100 pounds, popped out two 8 pound twins and then went and pumped water manually to wash up.
    Ya we are wimpy as hell.
    I also think that we actually fuss way more over every little need than our mothers did. My mother and her friends played cards and smoked while we learned to fend for ourselves. Especially Moms at home think they need to do every little thing. Close the door and pee on your own one day… it is awesome.

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