working-parents.jpg“My mother never made me French toast during the week.”

My husband said this to me last night when I was deciding what to make my two kids, ages ten and eight, for breakfast this morning before they went to camp. I have a hectic work day today but for some crazy reason I didn’t consider just throwing the kids some bowls and cereal. I was contemplating taking pans, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, bread and Crisco out.

“I’m going to tell the whole world you’re a supermom,” he threatened me. “You rail against moms who do too much for their kids and you’re just as bad.”

This statement could have been cause for an epic Andy-and-Eve battle, but last night I had a moment of lucidity and I realized he was absolutely right. This realization didn’t just happen out of no where. Yesterday I read the cover story in New York magazine titled: “I Love My Children. I Hate My Life,” and it got me thinking.

Basically it was about why parents are unhappy and allow their kids to suck every molecule of joy from their lives. The answer is pretty clear: We parents, especially working parents, suck.

My mom’s first reaction when I told her about this article was shock. “Why do they have kids if they don’t want them?”

But what the author of the piece, Jennifer Senior, tries to convey goes way beyond this. She makes a case that many parents love their kids, want their kids, but are so overwhelmed that they want to pull their hair out; often can’t get along with their partners, friends, etc., as a result; and many are constantly bitching about their lives.

Woe is me!!

Here’s an excerpt:

From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines.

If you get a chance, read the piece and share your thoughts on its premise. My thought on why parents hate their lives — and I don’t think they really “hate” their lives as much as they are just overwhelmed — is because we’re so consumed with stuff we really have little control over. Kids will become what they’re destined to become because they want to become it. We can help guide them, give them support, but if we think beating our kids into submission so they can get into an Ivy League school or make it in Hollywood, or rule the world, is smart, or even possible, then we’re probably pretty dumb, right?

What if we encourage them to become something and then they end up unhappy? Talk about a parent guilt trip.

Come to think of it, my dad never encouraged me to be a journalist; he actually discouraged me from becoming a journalist; but I became a journalist. And look what happened to me.

But more importantly, the New York magazine makes one big, salient point. Working parents are so wrapped up in the parenting grind that we can’t even help ourselves.

All of us, men and women, constantly bitch about how there’s no work-life balance in the work world; how Corporate America and our nation have yet to catch up with dual-income households.

It makes for great conversation when we’re at the water cooler, on playdates, or at the Y pool. But are we getting off our parenting butts to really do something about it?

There is no mandatory parental leave in this country; and we are one of the only industrialized nations without federally mandated sick time. And forget about good affordable child care. But who the heck is fighting these battles?

Not working parents. We’re too damn busy to focus our attentions on things that will really make our lives better. Even Michele Obama, who promised to promote work-life balance for families, figured a White House garden was easier than taking up a big hoe to fight the flex-time-for-parents war.

Where are the protests? Where is the outrage?

This quote from the New York magazine article was key:

“We’ve put all this energy into being perfect parents,” says Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, “instead of political change that would make family life better.”

So what do you all think? How did we all go so wrong? Is it time to get our happiness back? And why the hell am I making French toast for my kids during the week?

Maybe dad should make the French toast:

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