Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Dita De Boni: The changing face of motherhood

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Another day, another survey about how hard modern women have it - especially when it comes to mothering.

More than half of all mothers feel guilty about juggling work and childcare time, according to the Changing Face of Motherhood survey released this week, while about the same amount took time away from their children to "maintain their sanity".

Quite apart from the question of why this study is commissioned by Procter & Gamble, of all entities, the other issue this survey throws up is why, again, modern women paint themselves as the victims of the limitless choices they currently enjoy.

It may be fair to say that women find adjusting to motherhood difficult - I can attest to the fact that yes, this is particularly difficult for women who enjoy their careers and find it difficult to step off the ladder of career advancement. Being at home with children is very isolating, hence the drive by Plunket and others to provide playgroups, music groups and new mums groups, all aimed to make up for the absence of extended whanau. And tired? You bet. Women are still more likely to be running the household and doing the chores in a majority of homes, even if they work full-time, if other informal surveys are to be believed.

But to contend that we have it harder than generations that have gone before us - as apparently 45 per cent of us contend - is just nonsense, and makes modern women look wet.

Children are a choice, as is career.

It is up to each individual woman how to combine those two facets of her life to her own satisfaction. Complain about it by all means, but to fall victim to every bit of self-induced guilt around (I'm not doing enough for my child! I exercised while pregnant! I didn't spend two hours on junior's homework assignment last night!) is not helpful to anyone. The flip side to this is that when anyone has an opinion that offends the modern woman's sensibility, she goes on the defensive (ie the endless debates around daycare and breastfeeding, for example).

This is not a comment on post-natal depression, obviously, which is entirely different. But more the garden-variety slump we all go through when we think we'll never be over the donkey-work days with young children. It's natural, I reckon!

I hark back again to grandmothers who had little choice but to become wives and mothers and breed large (in my grandmother's case, 10) children in far more impoverished times than our own. No high quality baby food in jars to eat, no disposable nappies, no Internet as a ready source of information and support.

Even in our mothers age the woman's fight was to be taken seriously as a career woman. Now, we have pretty open horizons, lots on our plates admittedly, but it is our plate which we have chosen to heap high, for the most part. Let's celebrate the fact we have a plethora of options and conveniences instead.

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