A new Pew Research study indicates that it’s getting harder to be a mother—at least, in our opinion.
Parents Today Have It Harder, Doing Worse
70% think mothers have it harder than mothers raising their children 20-30 years ago. 60% think fathers have it worse, too. 56% of survey respondants say that mothers are doing worse than the previous generation; only 47% think fathers are doing worse.
However, 55% of men and only 40% of women say fathers are doing worse—who knew that men could be harder on themselves than women? (Also, 67% of African Americans say fathers are doing worse, while only 44% of caucasians agree.)
Hm… let’s see. While I agree that it seems like the good moral values I’ll try to instill in my son are being assaulted by the world on every front, I think that today’s parents have a somewhat skewed perspective. 20-30 years ago would be our parents’ generation.
Do I think my mother had an easier time of it? I think my mother had a plenty hard time of it—I should know, I gave that hard time to her (although she may be exempt, since she’s still raising a teenager today). Familiar with the term ‘sexual revolution’? ‘Drug culture’? How long have those terms been in the popular parlance? 30-40 years.
Do I think my mom is a better mom than mothers today? Most of my mother’s parenting skills that I got to observe (and can remember) were quite polished. By the time I was old enough to really pay attention and notice what my mother did for us, she’d been doing it for probably a decade—and was a mother of four. So I do think she’s a better mom than I am? Of course! I’m still painfully working the kinks out! (I hope I have at least a decade before my kids notice!)
I realize that at every age parents have new challenges, but my mom got her “practice round” of teenagerhood with me—and I like to think that we’re both better parents for it. For example, I now know that I have to set ground rules for my kids’ dating habits before they start dating. My sisters didn’t have to learn how important that was by having rules imposed on them after dating for six months (we ’bout drove each other crazy. Plus it ended up a horrible dating experience, anyway.).
Women Tough on Motherhood
Okay, so it may not just be today’s parents that think they’re doing a worse job—66% of women aged 50-64 think mothers are doing worse today (as opposed to 56% of women aged 30-49 and 48% of women over 65). Women aged 18-29, however, are pretty much split in their assessments—41% say mothers are doing worse today; 45% say mothers are doing about the same.
There is at least a little compassion: 71% of women say being a mother is more difficult today than 20-30 years ago. However, when the same question was asked in 1997, 81% said it was more difficult to be a mother in the 90s.
Societal factors on children, including peer pressure, drugs and media influences, are cited by 38% of moms as the biggest challenge in raising children today. Instilling moral values/discipline is #2 with 31% of moms saying it’s the biggest challenge. To me, the two are interrelated. If I can instill good moral values in my children, I don’t have to worry (as much, of course—I’ll still worry) about society’s influence on my family. I strongly believe that (no matter what your kids say and do as teenagers) the #1 thing that influences children will always be the way they were taught.
What do you think?
Perhaps, then, the fulfillment I’m sometimes so obsessed with finding may not be fully evident until my children are grown and hopefully leading good, productive lives. After all, if fulfillment comes from creativity, how much more satisfied are we with a “finished project” (as if you could really classify a human being as such) than a “work in progress”?
Then again, this study really doesn’t help me feel fulfilled. We know that we don’t get the praise of the whole world for doing out jobs well, but now we know that most people actually think we’re doing a bad job. Even better.
What do you think? Are mothers doing better, worse or about the same as their parents did? Do they have a more difficult time to raise children in? What are the biggest challenges you face as parents?