I have no idea what I am doing.
This is the recurring thought I have nearly everyday of my son’s life.
It started the moment the nurses left us alone with our newborn, Ezra, at 11 pm on that Tuesday night. After the initial fireworks of meeting our son for the first time, he did something unusual. He started crying–for no reason.
“Swaddle him!” Michael and I looked at each other as if we had a revelation. “We need to swaddle him!” We panicked.
How do we swaddle this baby?
Michael, always thinking, always problem-solving, Youtubed swaddling tutorials on his iPad while I buzzed the nurse once again. I was already burning inside with motherly guilt—a new sensation I hadn’t felt before.
I should’ve learned how to do this. I have no idea what I am doing.
Yes, it was true. I had no idea what I was doing. I HAVE no idea what I am doing. This parenthood thing is a moving target. You think you have it down one day and then boom—teething begins. And once you start getting comfortable again—oh, good, he’s learning to walk. Before I know it Ezra will be standing at the front of a church wearing a tuxedo and I will be saying it again: I have no idea what I am doing.
It’s no secret, what we do on a day-to-day basis is different from what our mother’s did. Statistics show if you have a college degree, chances are you live more than 30 miles away from your mother. Since we no longer live in tents and travel in tribes as our ancestors did, we are mothering with less support from extended family. We don’t get to see our sisters give birth and learn from them as they breastfeed their babies. We don’t watch our aunts as they wean their toddlers upon discovery their milk has dried up due to another pregnancy. Motherhood has become a bit isolating. We rely on books and apps on our smart phones.
Millennial moms are less likely to be concerned with housework and cooking than their mothers were, which is great because Dads spend more time on domestic duties than in previous years. In fact, 16% of stay-at-home parent are actually dads, while moms work outside the home. The cultural approach to families—especially those with young children—is shifting. Ask your mother if there were changing tables in the men’s restrooms when you were a baby. And how many times did she breastfeed in public? She’ll probably say never because when she was a mother, doctors were endorsing formula as the best nourishment for babies.
On top of all of those changes, more women are in higher positions of power economically and politically in our country. For the first time in history women outnumber men in undergraduate degree programs, and more women are becoming the breadwinners for their families.
Workplaces are beginning to offer paid paternity leave, something that was unheard of 30 years ago. Virtual work is a feasible option for many parents hoping for a better work-life balance. And while statistics on the matter are hard to find, a new genre of mothers is emerging, the Work-at-Home Mom. I dare say parenthood has never been more in flux than it is at this moment.
Why do we feel like we are in uncharted territory, you ask? Because we are.
We are pioneers of motherhood in the information, tech-savvy, social media-driven, fame-obsessed culture. We try to pay attention to developmental milestones, while feeding our kids on an all organic diet and incorporating sensory play into our daytime routine. We use essential oils and positive reinforcement. We sleep train and potty train and child proof everything. Despite all of our efforts, we are the guiltiest generation of mothers. The pressure we put on ourselves is unbelievable.
Not that our mother’s had it any easier. Each generation since the industrial revolution has been forced to figure out this motherhood thing. Our grandmothers didn’t have to fret about the Early Learning Window since kindergarten was unheard of. They didn’t have the luxury of having their groceries delivered, picking up take out or going to Target to pick up new summer clothes. Meals were made at home and so were clothes. Grocery shopping was done the old-fashioned way–at the store, while the kids stayed in the car. (They were fine; windows were down!)
Between helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, the Ferber method, and Babywise there are so many philosophies we can ascribe to when raising kids. If you ask your grandmother which “parenting style” she ascribed to, she probably won’t have an answer. Crunchy moms, formula moms, single moms, cloth-diapering moms, placenta-eating moms. We can attach a plethora of labels to mothers today.
Why is this so challenging, Millennial mom?
Because motherhood has always been hard. It requires simultaneous selflessness and self-awareness. Although Millennials are pretty self-aware, that whole giving of yourself completely, has never been one of our strengths. We’re not great at sacrificing like our depression-era grandparents. And with more opportunities in society for women, we wonder if we are doing enough to make our own dreams come true. Even with all of our resources and technology, motherhood is still not easy.
Just as all of the mothers before us, time will test us and our children will tell us how we did. Will they be grateful for the sacrifices we made and the risks we took? Will they blame us for their issues the way we blame our parents? I’m certain they will. (Especially for those really awful names we have been giving them.)
But Lord knows, we tried.
And maybe our children will figure it out better than us. I’m sure they will. Hopefully they will cure cancer and solve our education problems and learn the secret to work-life balance. But until then, we keep trying. We surround ourselves with people who parent consciously. We try to teach our children that the world is a big place and they aren’t the center of it. And we love them fiercely and unconditionally. That will all count for something in the end, I’m certain.