A friend flipped me an article the other day, with the subject line, “Hmmm…” I read a couple paragraphs, and marked it “Read later” and went back to my job. But then another friend, who was on the email chain, brought it up and said something to the effect of, “We’re definitely doing stuff our mothers would never have done after having kids. Why do we feel we need to?”
So I promptly went back to the article and read it in its entirety. In “The 40-Year-Old Reversion“ (I should mention that there’s cursing, sex and drugs in the story, and it’s about parents), author Amy Sohn, describes life as a Brooklyn mom in series of drunken, stoned and adulterous party nights.
At first, it’s easy to read this and feel like Sohn is glorifying this modern party parent. But by the end of the article, I just felt sad. Was this my life, but on New York steroids?
Recently, my colleague Sandra Martin and I joined a band. Well, we meant to join a band together, but we were split up into two bands as part of a 10-week program called League of Rock. If you live in the greater Toronto area, you can read all about it in the August issue of our Today’s Parent Toronto supplement (pg. 116 to be exact). After the first practice, I felt a twinge. Was I having my mid-life crisis? I had so much fun as the lead singer of my band, but part of the fun involved having beers with my bandmates and doing something completely separate from parenting — which I live and breathe at home AND at work.
“Our children now school-aged, our marriages entering their second decade, we are avoiding the big questions — Should I quit my job? Have another child? Divorce? — by behaving like a bunch of crazy twentysomething hipsters. Call us the Regressives.“
I was 30 when I had my first child, after years of being active in Toronto’s arts and culture scene (back when Hollywood still made indie flicks and you could smoke in bars). And I loved both my babies in that way that no parent can ever put into words (though my pal Katie recently came pretty close). What I didn’t love was that selfish part of me that couldn’t let go of my party girl past. Why wasn’t I the type of mom that could give herself completely to motherhood?
I was the first of my friends to have kids, so being home with baby was very lonely for me. And as horrible as it sounds, thinking about my friends going out and having fun while I was nursing on the couch bugged me. What was I missing? We ran a story in our May issue, that echoed some of these same issues by the very honest Jowita Bydlowska. It makes me wonder if this “party girl as parent” phenomenon is a city thing.
“Why do moms in my generation regress, whether by drugging, cheating, or going out too late and too often? Because everything our children thrive on — stability, routine, lack of flux, love, well-paired parents — feels like death to those entrusted with their care.”
My own mother stayed home with us into our early teens. She cooked and supervised our homework time. She watched Dallas and Knots Landing with us on Friday nights, while my dad worked. What she didn’t do, living on one income, was go out for dinner with my dad, or take vacations without us. And she certainly didn’t join a rock band, go to yoga class or meet up with other parents to drink at bars. And while my childhood was mostly happy, she gave up a lot to stay at home with us: her power, her own money, her patience.
My mom gave every ounce of herself, but what was left? Her marriage suffered for a while (though my parents are still together now) and while I shouldn’t speak for her, from my vantage point she suffered a loss, and maybe an identity crisis, once my sister and I were grown and gone. Who was she outside of parenthood?
Is “self” something we need to cultivate? Our relationship columnist, Liza Finlay, frequently reminds us that our relationship with our co-parent needs regular nurturing. But don’t WE also need something just for ourselves outside of the family? I’m not saying that we should go out and do cocaine or have sex with strangers like the parents in the article. But the occasional night out with your partner, colleagues or friends, or a hobby… is that really so bad?
And let’s be clear, our parents partied too. I recall house parties with lots of beer and cigarettes (hey, at least our generation isn’t smoking in FRONT of the kids). I remember a few nights when my dad probably should have done anything but drive us home in the condition he was in. One only needs to watch an episode of Mad Men to realize that parents back then were looking for something outside of being Mom and Dad, too. But am I, like Amy Sohn suggests in her article, trying to maintain my twentysomething lifestyle in an attempt to be the “cool” mom? “Nothing changes, except you have to pay a sitter.”
My kids are lovely, well-adjusted people. We have a groove that seems to be working for us. They know that mama goes to “rock school” on Wednesday nights and no one is so small that they shed a tear over it. Daddy plays soccer and sometimes goes to a jazz bar to drink beer with his own dad and some friends. These things have become the fabric of our family life. I think we’re OK. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
What do you think? Should we all just suck it up once we have kids and forget about ourselves? Or is there a healthy balance somewhere?