Motherhood is Boring – Globe and Mail article, by popular demand

June 24, 2006

(Disregard the date of this post – I needed a page for this piece for linkage purposes and there was this handy draft space in my archives…)

What follows is Rebecca Eckler’s Globe and Mail article – the article that spurred a few blog posts ’round the blogosphere and was cause for my very first live media appearance as Her Bad Mother. (Woops – second media appearance, second to my AlphaMom interview, which has not yet appeared, which perhaps does make the CH-TV appearance the first…)

ANYWAY. Here it is. Again, I am not the author; I’m just quoted. I discussed it here.

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Motherhood is Boring…

Or at least that’s what a new wave of outspoken mothers think. As REBECCA ECKLER reports, these women find kid’s birthday parties deadly, watching Barney tedious. And they aren’t afraid to share the dirty secret of parenting — Mother Love doesn’t always conquer all.

(By Rebecca Eckler. This article originally appeared in the Focus section of The Globe and Mail, Saturday, August 19, 2005.)

I would do anything to not go to the playground,” Cara says. “I am bored to tears in playgrounds.”

The mother of two children under the age of 10, the 39-year-old Calgary lawyer also hates kids’ birthday parties and took only three months of maternity leave — both times. She now has a live-in nanny who she says “basically raises my kids.”

Cara is not alone. American expatriate Helen Kirwan-Taylor recently admitted in Britain’s Daily Mail that her children “bore her to death.” In her new book, Mommies Who Drink, U.S. actress Brett Paesel confesses she would rather hit happy hour with her friends than have “fun with felt.” And the blogosphere is exploding with posts from mothers telling the dirty truth that motherhood is, well, mind-numbing.

Dubbed SMUMs — smart, middle-class, uninvolved mothers — these women are no longer willing to feign interest in watching Barney for the 538th time. They’ve lived and learned before having children. They’ve travelled. They’ve worked. They are adamant that Mother Love does not (and should not) conquer all. You could even call them a new wave of straight-talking feminists.

Take Amalia Jimenez. The Torontonian says bluntly, “We would be in complete denial to say that every element of child rearing is interesting. In one of my postpartum moments, with three sons, I looked at my mother in terror and said, ‘When does it ever stop?’ She said, ‘Never!’ I started to sob.”

Ali Martell, a children’s book editor and the mother of two young children, is equally frank. Her version of freedom is leaving her kids behind (at least sometimes): “You envy your single friends, the ones who can just go out at a moment’s notice for dinner, or a movie, or even to the supermarket without having to think about the kids first.”

Or, as journalist Ms. Kirwan-Taylor put it so candidly, she finds taking her kids to the park ‘tedious” and can’t bear a family film outing without “texting friends.”

“Research tells us that mothers drink the most when they have young children,” she wrote. “Is that because talking to anyone under the age of 10 requires some sort of lobotomy?”
Of course, as Ms. Paesel points out, mothers have been complaining subtly about the monotony of parenting for years.

But she says, “In the past, the complaining has been accompanied by equivocation. A mother might say, ‘I adore my children, but sometimes I think it might be fun to have a few minutes to myself.’ When said that way, no one hears it. Everyone hears it when you say, ‘My children bore me to death.’ “

Catherine Connors is one mother who avoids equivocation. A former university instructor, she now writes a weblog called Her Bad Mother that pulls no punches about the downside to breeding. “Mommy bloggers remind each other all the time that bitching and moaning does not equal bad mother,” she says. “Those who complain about motherhood, especially if they do so intelligently, let other women and mothers know that it’s okay to be honest about what motherhood is really like.”

Joanne Snider goes one step further. “People who admit it’s boring are heroes,” says the 37-year-old single mother of a 17-year-old son. “Some parts of parenting, no matter what age your children are, are dull as dishwater. That’s okay. For people to pretend all of it’s exciting is a big lie, and doesn’t serve anyone.”

Which raises the question: Why the backlash, more painful than natural childbirth, against women like Ms. Kirwan-Taylor? In the aftermath of her article, the 42-year-old has said she’s the most “vilified” woman in England because she doesn’t find changing diapers “interesting.”

Are modern mothers, who have grown up in wealthy and democratic countries, believing the world is their oyster, simply spoiled? Or selfish?

Sarah Bingham, a mother of two and the founder of an on-line directory for new and expecting parents called Canadianbabies.ca, thinks spending time with your kids is part of a mother’s job description. She says parenting is about balancing and that “uninvolved” mothers are really “unattached” mothers.

“Parents bored of their children? Come on! . . . Find a way to get involved with your children and spend time with them,” she says, listing off mother-child activities such as movies for mommies, sign-language classes and infant massage.

But Ms. Paesel suggests that the hostility of what some call Martyr Mommies or sanctimommies against SMUMs isn’t totally selfless. “We all were children once. And we find it hard to accept that possibly we weren’t endlessly fascinating to our parents,” she says.

“I remember being hurt when my mother revealed to me that the happiest time of her life was the period when she went back to work after I was in high school. Now, I think it’s wonderful she didn’t build her existence around me. But at the time, I thought, ‘How can raising me not have been the most fulfilling thing on the planet?’ “

(Interestingly, although Ms. Kirwan-Taylor’s son defended her in an interview, saying he would be driven to drink if he were a mother, one reader wrote in response to her piece: “There’s nothing more calculated to demolish your sense of self-worth than a parent who doesn’t think you’re the centre of their universe.”)

Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock, authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters, and Raise Happier Kids, on the other hand, see wider social pressures at work in the outrage against bored mothers. When women admit that mothering isn’t always as fulfilling or exciting as getting a new haircut, they rebel against notions that women have some sort of inborn, single-minded maternal instinct. (Where these women’s husbands are in the child-centric debate is another issue.)

“Women are not supposed to feel negative about mothering,” Ms. Renner says. “We define ‘mommy guilt’ as all the negative emotions associated with parenting: anger, frustration, lack of control, fear, sadness, boredom. These are things that society does not support women feeling when it comes to taking care of our own children.”

Dare we ask Ms. Pflock, a child-development specialist and mother of three, if she finds motherhood boring herself?

“Of course it is. As is our work, as is our favourite hobby — even a marriage or other relationships can be, at times, boring. Not everything in life is going to entertain us all the time. There may even be entire segments of parenting you find boring, not just a day or a time of day. One mother may love thinking up activities to entertain her preschooler all day long, while another can’t wait for all-day kindergarten to start. As long as we love and care for our children in a way that is fulfilling to everyone over the course of time, we are doing just fine.”

So live dangerously — it’s okay to give Barney a pass.

Rebecca Eckler writes for The Globe and Mail’s Style section and is the author of two memoirs: Knocked Up and the upcoming Wiped!, about her first two years of motherhood.

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    { 4 comments }

    Jenn August 23, 2006 at 11:25 am

    I like your quote. Because Motherhood is by no means glam! But to say that your kids bore you to tears….I think is a bit over the top in my opinion.

    krista August 24, 2006 at 8:36 am

    Hey, I have seen a few posts on this, I feel kid of silly asking this, but maybe you could collect them here? You are so good at that community building stuff…

    kate February 22, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    I am a young woman who just fell into motherhood. I got there the old fashioned way, by living my life fully and nature finding a way through all our technological attempts at controlling it. So I have a college degree and a whole lot of big dreams that I was and am right in the middle of pursuing. And my partner does too. And I looked down the barrel of that gun and asked myself, do I have to give up my entire life to have this child? And he did the same? And we both came up with the same conclusion. No. It doesn’t mean you go get a nanny to conveniently take care of this new person while you run off to do all you want to do. Sorry folks. I am an artist. That is not in my financial picture. But it doesn’t mean dropping all my artistic dreams to sit at home be constantly doting on a child either. (A child by the way who would probably prefer and be better psychologically prepared for the reality that LIFE WILL NOT ALWAYS BE ABOUT YOU if you continued to pursue some part of your own life too.) If you as a parent do not give into this weird society created idea that when you are a mother you are nothing more, or strut about banging a drum of false and misguided feminist power about how woman don’t have to put up with this!” you might find there is a lot of fascinating life to live somewhere in the middle. It does mean hard work (as dreams and love and life always do.) It means sacrifice too, but not of everything. And more than anything it can mean collaboration. I know more men that would be tickled pink to be actually being included in the social image of parenting than women. And here is the kicker. We have reached the point in the feminist movement that we have to start reaching out to include the willing men. (Hence my aversion to the term Feminism…it by very meaning excludes men) It is our job, as the flag waving females out there banging on doors for equality to give them a good fighting chance of stepping up to be equal partners in the incredibly difficult, miraculous, and life altering job of raising children. And if it means occasionally kissing your little munchkin and handing her over to a slighting nervous dad and saying I need a break and you need a chance, then do it. He will grow from it. And it sounds from the nature of these articles some of these “strong feminists” could grow from it too. Life is too precious to spend out time bitching about boredom. It can suck. Vent about it. But then get yourself together and go find something you do have. Be creative. And if you are plagued by the fact the you followed the social rules of waiting until 30 with financially stability to have children, and if you are missing your youthful days of traveling the world, and being adventurous…how’s this one. Take the child with you! They are much more tolerant and open to new things than we are. It is not easy to travel with kids, no. But nothing is easy. Easy is are boring. So keep living you life WITH you kids. And I guarantee you and your children and the whole of society will be much better off for it.

    Anonymous June 5, 2008 at 1:10 am

    I love my daughter. But 24/7 around-the-clock childcare is draining. And because my husband works two jobs, (it’s the only way we can make it financially), I rarely get a break.

    I do find motherhood very, very, very boring at times — and I feel very guilty about that, because my daughter (age 4) just REVELS in being with me. Her little face just lights up when I walk into the room. I’m trying not to be so selfish and get into activities with her a little more — just trying to be present in the moment with her.

    When I feel bored, I remind myself how empty our house will feel when she’s gone. :(

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