No One Told You Parenting Was Going To Be Such A Grind

Photo: Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock
mother and two children

A woman moans on TikTok about the tedium of parenting. She used to hang out with friends; now she spends her weekends in a field, watching her kids go up and down a hill. She’s bored senseless. Not surprisingly, the video goes viral.

Everyone can relate. Parenting can be such a grind. But what people seem to forget is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, it didn’t use to be this way.

My parents didn’t watch us play in a field. They didn’t take us to a field. They took us to a tennis court where we were told to amuse ourselves while they played tennis with friends. When they were done, they might hit us a few balls.

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If they came to one of our sporting events, they were most likely to be found chatting with friends. They were not obsessed with our performance. They were enjoying themselves.

Far from helicopter parents, they were more like satellite parents — kept in our orbit by the occasional tug of our needs. Everyone seemed happy with this arrangement.

And then along came our generation. Perhaps we felt subtly neglected or thought we could do better. But clearly, we’ve gone too far. We need to realize that our children are already becoming their own person, whether we like it or not, and we have to step back and let them make their own mistakes. All we can do is be there when they mess up and help guide them.

I’m like the mom on TikTok — always putting my child first, but resenting it a little. I spend most weekends carting her around to hockey practice, dance class, her friends’ homes. In between, I cook and tidy and shop. For enjoyment, I might read in the car while she does some activity. Most weekends, I squeeze in a game of tennis.

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Our daughter would not be wrong in concluding that her needs matter more than ours. Each day, in hundreds of ways, we demonstrate that this is the case.

And yet, when she verbalizes it — as she did recently when she moaned that she didn’t want to go away this summer because she’d be bored hanging out with adults — I get angry and snap: “It’s not always about you!”

But sure it is.

What’s missing from my generation’s parenting style is joy.

Years ago, I remember meeting two moms and their girls in the park for an afternoon picnic. The girls were maybe five. It was late summer. I brought a bottle of wine.

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The moms were delighted. We sat on a big blanket, grilling sausages on a little hibachi, watching the girls run around, as we drank our wine. The strange part was that the other moms (and really, me too) treated the afternoon as a guilty pleasure.

It happened only that one time.

Stephanie Gruner Buckley is a London-based writer and editor, previously with Quartz, the WSJ and Inc. magazine. She covers motherhood, tech and parenting, midlife, life generally, and also writes fiction and the occasional poem. You can follow her at Medium. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.