“We didn’t have daycare.”
“My husband never changed the kid’s nappies, ever.”
“It was just the 4 kids and me for 12 hours a day.”
“I always had time to put a cooked meal on the table.”
“My kids never got sick like yours do.”
“We didn’t have children’s TV; it was the radio or nothing.”
“You sure have it easier than I ever did.”
This is the conversation I listen to most visits from my mother-in-law. I’m not quite sure if it’s a power game, a ‘listen-here’ or her way of trying to give comfort. Whatever it is, it isn’t working.
You see, I do find myself thinking about life then and now, and the reality is, life was so bloody different back then. As in BIG, change-the-way-you-parent, different. My mother-in-law’s parenting life compared to now:
- Her family didn’t need two incomes, so the juggling of parenting and working just wasn’t there.
- She didn’t have to live in a big city with crazy house prices to match. Her husband worked in the town she loved, and there was still enough money for Friday night Chinese.
- Her kids could SAFELY run free in the front yard, if not the entire street, and that left my MIL to cook, clean and generally be a mother without the need for eyes and hands on every side of her body. She got to do the housewife thing in peace and the kids just came in when it was dark.
- Extracurricular activities weren’t invented or even enforced by schools in her area yet. Sure, there was the footy and cricket club, but there wasn’t Japanese on a Tuesday, Tae Kwon Do on Fridays and French Horn Saturdays, as well as regular swimming training 5 days a week. It was one thing, at one time of the year, that was it.
- My MIL had a network of mums close by, often next door. Why? Because very few of them had to work. If an appointment was called for, her neighbouring mum friends could ease the load for each other. They all had the time to get to know each other and heck, her kids were always throwing things over the fence, so they got to know each other too. She lived in a community, in every sense of the word.
Now, I never thought for a second this whole parenting business would be easy, so don’t take my venting wrong way. I was prepared for the 3 a.m wake-ups, for the kids knocking their teeth out at their first game of cricket and the winter-long colds. What I wasn’t prepared for was the constant judgement from my MIL about how parenting is so much easier today than in her day. Firstly, because it’s not easier (why can’t she see that?) and secondly because what difference does it make anyway? How does constantly comparing her day and my day help me out – or her son or her grandkids — in any way whatsoever?
I just want my MIL’s support when she sees that her son and I both get up and go to work, then I come home and still have to cook, clean and look after the kids. I want her to acknowledge that mum life is just as hard, if not harder, than ‘back in her day’. Fact is, I would take the parenting life of a eighties housewife over today any day (or night). Surely she would too?