Early Motherhood Has Always Been Miserable

“I declare if I tho’t I was to be thus occupied for the rest of my life,” one new mom wrote in 1828, “I would lie down & die.”

Comments: 185

  1. I think it really depends on the mother and children in question. My brother and I are middle-aged now and my mother recently and reluctantly admitted to us that we were "easy" children. Yes, maybe when when we were very young - i.e. babies -- we had absolutely no control but by toddlerhood, we were both quiet, relatively obedient children who quite early on were not demanding and self-reliant. Of course, we threatened her that we were merely delayed by decades and she should watch out when we reach our 60s.

  2. In my opinion, being a "woman" and a "mother" is a completely different thing and so is being a "man" and a "father". A mother/father has a greater responsibility to provide for their children and not every woman or man are (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, etc.) equipped to do so. So, I think, we have to know ourselves better and make informed decisions. It is better for us and for our children.

  3. It would be really good to stop the glamorization of motherhood - it’s often better to show the good, the bed and the ugly than to force anyone in this imagined reality where everyone should be so happy living through the reality of small kids. That happy scenario leaves no place to talk of post partum depression, disappointment at the changes in the body, especially if things didn’t go well at birth, issues with children, lack of support from spouses and immediate family, desperate wish to return to work, etc. Life is so full of nuances that it’s incredible such an important part of it should be painted in monocolor.

  4. My parents had four kids in six years, all by choice (defying CT contraception laws in the '60s). I asked them how they dealt with that, and they said, "We walked into a lot of walls." Also yelled, "Go outside and play! You're driving us crazy!" It was a good childhood.

  5. I'm 63, never had children, never felt a Biological Timeclock ticking loudly. Recently, I realized that as I get older more and more of my women friends are like me in this regard. So, is there really a Biological Timeclock women feel they must answer to for the survival of the species?? Or, do some women fear they aren't fulfilling their social role and they become desperate not to wait too long to get in that groove . . . fear of being old and alone, fear of regret, fear of poverty, fear of judgement . . . is this the true source of the anxiety some women call a Biological Timeclock? Yes, we're all "different" so it may be true for some, but that's so easy to say without really considering the power of social expectations and roles on our perceptions and choices. Like another comment below, as an adult I wanted and needed Peace in my home and I certainly didn't want to hurt children as I had experienced in my childhood. Thank goodness for Choice.

  6. Historically, codeine cough syrup was often 'mother's helper" when the kid burden got to be too much. Victorian access without a prescription made it all too easy. Or the opium poppies growing in the back yard if you made it yourself. The article does not mention how common this was tho I have never seen a statistic it was "common knowledge". In the 1950s, I still remember a neighborhood mother, an RN married to a doctor, with five kids who gave them "meds" to calm them down when it got to be too chaotic in the afternoon or when "doctor" needed his rest. Good Catholic family.

  7. The "natural" human society, the society that enabled our existence on this planet through the harshest of environments for 10s of thousands of years, presumed first motherhood to occur soon after adolescence, with an experienced grandmother-matriarch to share much of the burden of child care, fitted within a network of mothers and grandmothers. It is not reasonable to expect that an individual woman, isolated in a single-family household, older than 20, and knowing essentially nothing about children, should take on all responsibility for infant care immediately upon childbirth.

  8. Hard work, but oh so rewarding. If I could go back to those first couple of years I would in a heartbeat. I always joke with parents of young children 'you know they grow up to be teenagers, right'? That's when it gets really difficult. Anyway, motherhood, best job I ever had. Never has the word "miserable" entered my mind.

  9. I have two children, and was able to afford to stay home with them during their early childhoods. It was at times strenuous, frustrating, isolating and boring. But it was also fascinating and prifound and delightful. For my kids, because they were able to have the unstructured time that’s now so rare for children in some kind of group care or programmed activity, I see it as having built their independence and creativity. I wish it were a social priority to permit more parents this option or some version of it. Not to be domestic goddesses or drudges, just to live life.

  10. The myth of the happy maternal mother and family has also been perpetuated through TV and media. Father Knows Best and similar TV programs created an unrealistic fantasy family life that does not exist. It is still perpetuated in social media as mommy influencers but at least in film media the myth no longer exists (Shameless).

  11. I enjoyed the essay and the comments (as a father rather than a mother) but could not escape an alternate image of mothers living in poverty with no fathers of their children to help, no money, having to search constantly for a place to live, etc. etc. You get the picture. Few of them read the NYT and none of them worry about tummy tucks.

  12. When I had two small children of my own, my car wore a bumper sticker that said "Every Mother Is a Working Woman." My favorite reaction came from a male stranger who laughed sadly, then said, "Not many people realize that." And yeah, it was work, 24/7 for more than 20 years. I would do it again. These children remain my true poems. Meanwhile my husband was always saluted for his professional achievements, while our contemporaries looked through me as if I had no value at all.

  13. Yep, that’s exactly correct. Brava!

  14. @K Yates Just too bad we as a society don't expect bumper stickers saying the same about men.... My mother was an executive and my father stayed home to care for us. IT's always so strange to me that people always expect women to be the sole provider of childcare...and it shows just how deeply embedded it is in society through subtle stuff...even a bumper sticker.

  15. @K Yates When I stayed home (briefly ... went back after he was 6 months old, so my husband could finish college), one of my chores for the day entailed opening a checking account for my relatively new young husband and myself. When it came to the question about what our jobs were, I had written "None." The (male) bank officer crossed it out, looked at me and said "Housewife and mother is actually TWO jobs." I hadn't remembered that until I read this article. We settled on "Homemaker." I never forgot him.

  16. "I would lie down & die." And many of them did, before they were 30, worn down and worn out. I was shocked when I started doing a family tree to discover just how many children some of my ancestors had, and how many of those mothers died far too early deaths, only to be replaced shortly thereafter like a farmer going out to buy a new cow.

  17. @Jan N - We have a family genealogy that goes back to 1653. It was common for a husband to have 3 wives, with one after another dying in childbirth and being replaced within a month or two by a new wife. It was also common for families to have 13 children and raise only 3 to adulthood.

  18. I wanted my child, and I was glad to have her. Giving birth to her, however, had some unforeseen complications, which took a few months to recover from. I really don’t remember much about that time. It was a haze of sleeplessness and pain. My mother strictly limited her availability to Saturdays only, when I would take a pile of laundry to her house, to use her washing machine and dryer. (The laundromat near us didn’t allow diapers, as they recycled the second rinse water of the last cycle into the first wash water for the next customer. Disposable diapers were not readily available in those days.) My husband’s military duty took him overseas when the baby was three months old, just as I was finally able to operate without pain and the baby had finally settled into a somewhat predictable schedule. Most of my real memories of early motherhood date from that time. Those first months, in my mind, are still a gray blur, a time when day and night melded together. My child was very much loved and wanted, but that didn’t mean motherhood was a completely joyful experience right from the beginning. I am still glad that I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, so I had time to heal and get my act together before I was on my own. I don’t know how I would have made it otherwise. Thank you so much for this article.

  19. For two weeks, when I was 23, I was responsible 24 hours a day for my 6 month old niece and 18 month old nephew. I love those two children — now adults in their 30’s —without bound. But I never recovered from that experience of trial by fire to contemplate having my own kids. I love other people’s kids. I believe they need adults in their lives who aren’t their parents, handy for me! I also know I would be a different person if I had been a mother. Not a better person or a worse one. Just different.

  20. @Clare I can identify with you. From the ages of twelve through twenty oneI took care of my niece and nephew from around 7:30 to 5 every day during summer vacation. My mother had taken care of a niece and nephew when she was young. It was expected of me. I’m 53 and never had children. It was difficult and lonely each day especially since one of the children was mentally handicapped. Children are wonderful but stressful. However, being an unpaid nanny scars you.

  21. "Women in colonial-era America helped run family farms and small businesses" ... and then there were enslaved women who did all that, were exploited, abused, raped, and had their children sold away from them. Why does this author not think about including these other experiences!

  22. @xyz The article is about the joy or lack thereof in early parenthood. The fact that it is not, nor has it ever been the unalloyed joy women are told it should. The issue of slavery and women is a separate issue. Perhaps another article will more closely match your needs.

  23. @xyz "Working-class white women and women of color were excluded from the cult of true womanhood — they always worked, and they never got any kind of societal respect or support for raising their own children. In fact, they were often forced to leave their own babies to help raise wealthier children."

  24. @xyz Because we can enjoy an interesting article about motherhood without feeling it necessary to address racism in every column.

  25. I wish in this article there was some information and insight available into black woman's experiences from late 19th century up to the 1960s. Not much comes across from that time period.

  26. @ahimsa Here's your chance to do research and get published. No single article can be all encompassing.

  27. I was an only child until I was six years old, and then my mother had three children in less than four years. I remember the house being chaotic, and at one point all three of my younger siblings were in diapers. I used to find empty wine bottles hidden around the house and I talked to my mother about it when I had become a mother. She said she thought that she was losing her mind when my siblings were small. My sister is the youngest, and after she was born in 1953, the family doctor told my father he had to do something. He said that one more pregnancy would send my mother to a mental hospital. My father did the right thing and had a vasectomy. My mother loved us all dearly, but the years of small children took a terrible toll.

  28. @Carole A. Dunn, my mother was a thwarted 1950s mom with too many children, and she later fell into alcoholism. Most women back then had little choice. My mother had a good university degree, solid work experience, and was an outing and charming person. She could have had a fulfilling career. But marriage and children was the expectation, so that is what she did. I think she was a deeply unsatisfied person.

  29. @Carole A. Dunn - I constantly warn young families about the dangers of sleep deprivation that comes from living with small children. I kept telling my landlady to put a bed in the manager's office and that she and her husband should take turns getting a night off. Mon, Wed, Friday, she would sleep in the office and he would watch the kids (twins and a baby). On Tues, Thurs, and Saturday, dad would sleep in the office and mom would take care of everything. People think I am joking when I suggest this but now, she is divorced and the twins have just started school. No one can function on poor sleep and my neighbor's baby woke up every night at midnight screaming for close to a year. I knew there was no point in going to bed before 12 because he would wake me up next door. But I'm retired and can get up whenever I feel like it and families can't do that. Parents would do better if they played tag and made sure they at least got some sleep a couple of nights a week instead of never for the first decade or so.

  30. @Passion for Peaches It was almost the identical scenario for my mother. A woman of great talents and great frustration. She too became an alcoholic. While my brother and his wife chose to have children, I made the decision not to. I was too afraid that I would not be able to fulfill my ambitions either and would not be the best parent to a child. I don't regret my choice, but often wonder had my mother been happier/ would I have chosen parenthood.

  31. No, early motherhood is not miserable for everyone. No-one should assume that their experience is universal, even if others may share it. I am sure that for some the experience is difficult. Maybe having a child later in life gave me a different perspective, but I felt great fortune in having a healthy child and great joy at experiencing every life stage. Sure, there were more challenging moments (worrying about a sick child at the top of this list). But as a "professional" woman with a high-level career, I can honestly say that for me nothing was more fulfilling and rewarding than raising a child, including the early years. Your mileage may vary.

  32. Thank you! I look back at my kids’ first years as the best in my life. Yes, it was often exhausting and difficult; yes, my husband travelled a lot; yes, it was often tedious and boring and frustrating. But watching them grow into individual little people was a delight, starting with their first moments. Maybe I didn’t start out with any romantic ideals, or maybe I was just super lucky (I certainly wasn’t later). But I was certainly not miserable.

  33. @CBeth Absolutely agree. I was 38 with my first child, 40 with the second, worked full time, no parents or family to help, but I had a loving husband and was just so grateful to have healthy children full of curiosity. Was I exhausted? Of course. The first years of little sleep were difficult, sometimes nerve wracking, but I never had regrets and got enormous pleasure from just watching them.

  34. @CBeth Hear, hear!!! We had our daughter when we were both 40, and my husband and I agree that it was (is still) incredibly rewarding -- to say nothing of fun! She's 30 years old now, and just as delightful as she was when she was little. I think she benefited from our maturity -- the ability to laugh at some of the unexpected things kids do as they learn to explore the world. It was also helpful that we were more financially secure than we were earlier in our marriage. Of course there were challenges, but working together to overcome them was part of the growth process for all three of us. I hope these harried mothers and fathers take time to write down all the witticisms and observations that come from their kids. That allows them to take a breather in the moment and will give them many fond memories in the future.

  35. I have a three year old and went to visit my 4 month old niece last week. My husband and I had already decided not to have a second baby, but there were lingering worries of making the wrong decision. A few days with a new baby confirmed we were right. I know I would love another baby, but I don’t see how I could actually be happy with the additional stress, exhaustion, and responsibilities. You can’t always sacrifice your self for others, and sometimes we have to recognize our limits.

  36. @LN My mother had 4 sons in 5 years. I don't know how she did it.

  37. @LN As an only child I can applaud your decision to only have one, but remember-they aren’t babies forever. I have two daughters, 22 months apart and it’s awesome. Do what’s best for you, but please know that having two is not a total nightmare. We’re now at ages 12 and 14 and having a great time.

  38. Super hero, she needs a cape and a really cool Logo

  39. If you believe the google searches, of the leading causes of poverty in women is early child birth and early marriage. This usually interrupts or ends their education and often leads to higher birth families which usually places higher financial strains on families that often are not ready for it. Early birth mothers are also more likely to get divorced. 35% of single women with kids live in poverty. Like one researcher said, "if you're a woman and want to be poor, get married young and start having kids". Of coarse, not being married usually makes it even worse. TV and our pop culture in general have trivialized the stresses and life changing ramifications of young people having babies. Too bad.

  40. @Al Yep. I have a cousin the same age as I. She married at 20 and had three kids with a gambler/alcoholic/abuser. She is in a low-paid "pink-collar" type of occupation. Her life has been one long struggle and heartache, all because she was encouraged by her family culture to get married young and start popping out kids within the year. She finally ditched the man after 30 years but by then he had squandered every bit of savings and home equity she had built up. In her mid-50s she is essentially starting over financially. She can't even afford the paint to DIY her ktichen. Her kids, as you might imagine, are damaged and burdened with student debt; one of the three is aimless and extremely depressed. I have had a successful career, am totally debt free, own two houses, have traveled the world, have a solid nest egg and am able to do a lot of charitable giving and volunteerism. We started with basically the same tools in life, no silver spoon, parents who were not educated, etc. -- and she is as smart as I am. It was the early marriage and early kids that doomed her to a Dickensian existence. All totally avoidable. Sad.

  41. I"m a mother to three girls now in adulthood. When I was a new Mom, my mother told me to just listen to my own instincts and not the myriad voices of advice. I was fortunate to have a baby clinic nurse who listened first and foremost - and almost exclusively - to the mother. There were hours of pacing with colicky babies and fevers; there was the desperate seeking for five minutes to think straight and everything else that goes with new babies. But I knew it wouldn't last forever and sort of went with the flow, knowing that "this too shall pass". Calm down. Stop trying to please everyone. Stop trying to keep up with trends. Enjoy - they really do grow up so fast. Hugs to you all!!

  42. Ha! I was thinking as I read the article that, when my kids were little, my mantra was “this too shall pass.” And then your comment was the first I saw.

  43. As usual I don't know what is more interesting: the article or the comments. Never a father of infants but as an observer my experience is that this all comes out somewhere in the middle. My step-daughter really, really struggled with early motherhood with almost catastrophic results. My daughter-in-law did well but three win the towel after #1. Yet I have seen countless other women seem to approach it all effortlessly and without complaint.

  44. We raised two sons and a daughter that today are productive citizens children of their own. It was hard work in the beginning, especially when our third child arrived, but it got easier with each passing year. I wouldn't have missed parenthood for anything. It defined my life and is our legacy. After all, without children there is no future.

  45. Over 30% of my medical practice is pediatric. I am so happy that I never had kids.

  46. It's clear from the article and many of the comments that women should not have children if they really don't want to. My mother had her 3 children in the forties, when it was expected that women have kids. As it happened, she was one of those parents who should not be a parent. We were neglected to an almost criminal degree as she pursued her career as a commercial artist (unusual in the forties/fifties). I, on the other hand, loved having and raising my 2 babies, being lucky that my husband's income allowed me to stay home with them in their years before school. It's plain to me that the psychological effects on unwanted children are devastating. Luckily, these days women have many choices, and don't have to march to the drum of outdated expectations. If you don't want to take care of kids, don't have them.

  47. I'm truly happy for you. But since most mothers don't talk about their disenchantment, young women think that motherhood is going to be the ultimate fulfillment. ( It sure looks good on TV and Instagram.) They have no idea what it really entails. And then they face that strict no return policy! Many are truly blindsided.

  48. When I was a child with two younger siblings Mom would say “you’re going to drive me to drink.” Not until I was a parent did I understand what she meant by that. Mom and Dad were great parents. But they never took an active interest in their grandchildren. “We’ve done that already,” Mom would say.

  49. I loved having children and being a mother, but that does not mean I loved being home with them all day. I didn't. I found it isolating, often boring, and just exhausting. I was fortunate that I was able to work half time, so I had adult time with peers doing non-mother stuff, as well as plenty of time with them, and without the stress of trying to fit "quality time" around the fee post-work, pre-bedtime hours. Many do not have that privilege. Now I'm a grandmother, something I desperately longed for. I adore my grandchildren and I want to help my children, AND I still don't want to provide several days of free childcare each week. I don't understand why they see any contradiction there.

  50. @Calisson - My late husband and I provided full time childcare for our two oldest grandchildren, and found those to be the best years of our lives. I'm remarried now, and my husband has two young grandchildren. We care for them two days a week, and more often in case of illness or school holidays, and I love it just as much this time around. When I was raising my own children, I had no outside help, and a husband who worked three jobs and was never there. It was awful. I'm delighted to help another generation with the family assistance I never had, and it couldn't be more rewarding. We have moments like the recent one when I tried to turn on an electronic toy and it didn't work. The 21 month old said succinctly, "Bah'eries." (Batteries). Those moments are priceless.

  51. While historically interesting, this column is just sad. The word "love" is absent. I've had a full life, successful, satisfying career and nothing has been as powerful and important as my love for my children and grandchildren. As young parents, my wife and I dealt with screaming infants at 3 a.m when we both worked full time. We washed our own diapers and struggled to pay the rent. Even in the most stressful moments, my eyes meeting those of my child filled me with love. I suppose we are atypical, but the pragmatic difficulties of parenthood are trivial compared with the utter magic of being in the presence of a small, curious, evolving human. My love for my children and grandchildren is the center of my existence.

  52. @Barking Doggerel Breeding was and still is the center of your existence? What in heaven's name stunted and limited your growth and enjoyment of the big, beautiful world prior to procreating?

  53. @Maggie Ha! Breeding! Well, the breeding was fun. And Maggie, I have enjoyed more of the big, beautiful world than you can imagine. I won't enumerate, as that would be unseemly. I also have great respect for those who choose not to breed. But even then, being enchanted by children seems a pretty good thing. But in the end, love matters most.

  54. I remember when my kids were little and I was very surprised that no one told me how difficult raising little ones would be.

  55. And Fatherhood is no walk in the park, either, though I get that this piece is written from, for and about the female perspective. For me it comes to this. You have to be mentally and emotionally ready to take on the birth and rearing of a new human being. And it's done best by two in partnership, though sometimes that is not how the cards fall. Regardless I find it an interesting Insight into the nature of the creator; that source which gave us bodies quite capable - and from an early age - of procreating yet in almost all cases lacking until much later on the wisdom to appreciate the whole idea of rearing someone new. Truly the creator must be a comedian; one playing to an audience oft-times too befuddled to appreciate it and laugh. So it goes. John~ American Net'Zen

  56. This story needs to be republished on Mother’s Day. If guys even wonder why Mother’s Day is a more important that Father’s Day here is the reason. I would suggest a couple things about men. Men can make things a lot better for Moms if they are modern Dads and really step up as caregivers. Other societies facilitate this by paternity level for Dads with newborns. On the other hand, if husbands view themselves as decision makers and expect their wives to be the primary parent, they sell her short and provide a very poor example for children. Being a parent is the most important men and women ever have. The hard work, which can be very taxing at the time, pays off. Working it together creates close, loving families where children are emotionally close to both Mom and Dad. And guys, if you do the right thing consistently without being asked, you get extra credit!

  57. You are right that a hands on father makes all the difference in the outcome of the children, the wife's happiness and the marriage itself. Time off for new fathers is so important to the fabric of our society.

  58. This comment presupposes that raising children really is women’s work and men are just assistants. Was that supposed to be the point?

  59. I doubt mothers in old days lacked joy in their babies (or lacked sorrow in their frequent loss) just because no one wrote about it. Just as a I doubt most modern mothers are as driven by "influencers" as much the media thinks we are. Most of us are just too busy for that. Every woman has a different experience of being a mother. Some are miserable. Some are joyful. All are complex. I'm a mother of young children, most of my friends are mothers, and while there is frustration - as there is in any endeavor - there is also a great deal of joy, which many of us, the superficial glitter of Facebook and Instagram aside, find far more transgressive to voice in public, because we all know mothers, especially stay at home mothers, are really supposed to be overworked, unwashed, and miserable. It's just another cliche in the tired genre of Female Misery and Oppression that includes such gems as fearing getting old, the insecurities of adolescence, and husbands who still don't run the vacuum. Frankly, as a mother, I think women acknowledging and celebrating our joy, including joy in marriage and children, is far more radical in today's society than constantly ruminating about feminine misery. And by joy I don't mean the fake joy of social media, the vacation pics and humblebrags about a second grader's literacy level, but the real joy, the everyday, hidden, messy joy. While we are at it, lets talk about the joys of being a girl and an old woman, too.

  60. There's no way around those painful months before the baby is sleep trained. You simply need to operate on a different time schedule. If you don't square that circle, you'll be miserable. Many mothers find a way. The problem of course is the world is generally unaccommodating to a mother's schedule. If you have maternity leave at all, you're generally expected back at work in 6 weeks. Baby's start sleep training around 4 months at the earliest. It doesn't matter how society wants you to feel about motherhood. There's about a ten week gap where society refuses to support motherhood. You're going to be miserable. The only workable strategy is to outsource responsibility to family, friends, and businesses. If you can afford it, hiring someone to clean the house every few weeks is worth the money. Starting a meal train is a great idea. Have a group of friends donate one meal each week for the first few months. Grandparents are awesome. Use and abuse their goodwill to maximum benefit. The only thing I'll add is misery is partly dependent on the child. Every child is different. Some are easier than others. You won't know if you have an easy child until you find out. That's one of the more nerve wracking things about parenting. You're basically playing roulette with the genetic dice. The rest of your life is decided by the outcome. If you don't want to play, best not to play.

  61. Being a mother of two daughters was the hardest work of my life, yet I would not trade it for anything. I suppose I was lucky to have a hands-on husband who joyfully participated in all aspects of fatherhood. As a joint venture, it was very satisfying in many ways. There certainly were moments, though, and I can appreciate the sentiments in this article. Well done!

  62. I graciously thank the author for the validation of the fact that motherhood is an individual challenge .Married young in the Donna Reed sixties in Queens and after 3 kids in 5 years and a tubal ligation at 25 was divorced at 30 . After 3 years of struggle trying to work , care for my children and doing it without any support after our previous move to Texas I couldn't do it anymore. I was beginning to look at my babies as a burden and falling apart. Needing a break I asked my ex husband to take them for a while so I could get things together. Without me knowing it he and his new wife went to court and cut my parental rights when I was out of state . The point is if we had affordable state run daycare to help struggling families and particularly singles, all the pain and suffering that affected just this one family wouldn't have happened. Moms and some Dads, need a break to return to school ,to work and primarily to not have to live with guilt and recriminations all their lives . I am now 74 and still carry the burden.

  63. For those of us whose children have serious disabilities, the infant stage lasts forever. There’s an unimaginable toll of decades of feeding, bathing, and diapering a dependent person, locating competent or at least non-abusive caregivers, and tremendous financial expenses. And yet I feel lucky that my son smiles at me, snuggles (yes, after all these years), and stands enough to help transfer. I have friends who aren’t so fortunate. Yes, the baby stage is difficult and we must do better at alleviating the burden, but if your child is healthy, I strongly suggest that you spend a moment counting your blessings that your “early motherhood” has a time limit. And please vote for improved disability services.

  64. @Hope I think the financial services industry should come up with disability insurance that prospective parents can buy, in case their child ends up being born disabled. It's bizarre to me how few people factor "what will we do if ur child has a serious illness or disability" into their life planning. They stand around going "duh, didn't think it could happen to me," after the fact. It must be grim.

  65. @Earthling Nice idea, but disabled-child insurance, like short-term disability insurance for maternity leave, would merely contribute to inequity. Affluent parents would have insurance; financially strapped parents would be uninsured and blamed for their failure to plan ahead. Life with a disabled dependent need not be grim. (Mine is more “carefully orchestrated” and “financially limited” than “grim.”) High quality programs and parental support should be part of the social fabric. We fund subsidies for soybean farmers but not caregivers. But what can I expect from a society that expects moms of newborns to be back at work in mere weeks?

  66. @Hope - My daughter gave birth to her second child on a Saturday and was back at work on Monday. Her first child was born 14 months before the second, so she had used up all her accumulated sick leave and couldn't afford to take any time off work.

  67. I think the cliché is, "The days go slowly (when they're young), but the years go quickly." Or reverse it for a slightly different emphasis, but same thing. It's quite true. A day alone with a fussy infant or even an ordinary active two-year-old can be a hundred years long. Then you blink and they're graduating from college.

  68. My mother was born in the 30s, did very well in school, passed the foreign service exam in the 50s but felt the pressure to get married and have children. She was deeply, deeply unhappy. I think of like a polar bear pacing in an Arizona zoo. A wonderful book that helped me understand her state of mind was Ruth Reichel's book, "Not becoming my mother".

  69. This an angry, bitter and less than delightful history of women who were far less than fulfilled or satisfied to have children. Women felt trapped, reduced to role playing and subjected to endless toil, labor and despair. They received no respect, no help, little empathy and bore the brunt of ideological criticism that was influenced by the church, the devil, men's deep prejudice and feelings of biological inferiority. It seems that women were allowed to take little joy in their bundles of joy. Demonology, fear and insecurity ruled the lives of women. I recall reading in history class of women who worked on farms, cooked, cleaned, held quilting bees, churned butter, milked the cows, fed the hogs, did the laundry, serviced their men, had 9 children and then died young. All this before Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were even born. My mom and dad were born in the 1920s. I didn't learn much about their childhood and how their parents raised them except that they were raised in strict households and there was work to be done shared by the children and their mother. Our grandfathers were expected to work and then they expected to come home to a clean house and well behaved children. Clearly there was a division of labor. Also older kids were expected to help with the younger kids. I know my sister and I were always "taking care of the baby". Who ever came home from school first, me or my sister, opened the door to find mom waiting to put the baby in our arms. Times changed.

  70. I remember discovering that one of the most difficult things about parenting babies and small children is that it's often not very interesting. What's important is to be consistent. Always be there; do the same thing, day after day. And then what one did was eaten, dirtied or thrown away. To show myself that I had existed the day before, I began making things—knitting and sewing. It was physical evidence I had indeed accomplished something.

  71. Much of this experience endures because most men still do not come anywhere near close to contributing their fair share to household and child-rearing duties. And people wonder why, in 2019, with the myriad of choices for how we can live our lives, women now want children at a lower rate than men do.

  72. @Not Surprised Many men do. Women need to be more discriminating in their choice of mate, not snatch up the first available prospect and then complain endlessly when the predictable scenario ensues.

  73. As a parenting consultant and parenting author (Smart Love: The Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Regulating, and Enjoying Your Child) I am no stranger to parents', especially mothers', episodic negative feelings about their roles. But mothers feel less burdened when they realize 1. that everyone has caregiving and personal motives and that the personal motives (to see a movie, have a date night, do yoga) need to be nourished so there will be energy and enjoyment for caregiving - that parenting should not equal martyrdom) and 2. that contrary to most advice, parents do not have to socialize their charges at an early age into miniature versions of adults who share, say please and thank you, never bend the rules at games etc. Children's minds are not like adult minds, and it takes all of childhood to produce a compassionate, functional, civic minded adult. Trying to rush this process leads to frustration and irritation on both sides!

  74. People have told me they want more than one child so the oldest won't be alone later in life. My sister, 15 months older than me, resented my birth, and I grew up feeling superfluous and in the way. Had I been an only child, I probably would have fantasized about how wonderful a sister would have been.

  75. All I ever wanted was to be a mother. I had three children, one of which was a special child. I loved it and felt I was good at it. My children have repeatedly told me that I was a very good Mom. Now that they are adults with children (some grown), I disagree with many of their choices and how they sometimes treat me. I keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I feel that we should take the advice of animals and let the kids go when they reach maturity.

  76. What’s miserable is women being told what to do with their bodies and babies. Early motherhood was challenging for me, but with good health, a present father, family support, and no worries about health care or income, it was rewarding. I can’t imagine the fear mothers face when they have health issues, absent partners or family, poverty or lack any support.

  77. "servants," took care of the white women's children, Really? Enslaved African American women and children would be more correct. Paula Marie Seniors, PhD, Africana Studies

  78. Check out Loretta Lynn :The Pill"

  79. I personally found the newborn and toddler phases exhilarating. I don’t remember poop being a theme. Naturally babies cry, but I enjoyed figuring out if it was a hungry or tired cry, and helping them. What kept me sane was making new mom friends, taking walks together, & having playdates at the playground. This helped immensely with the tedium factor of long weekends. One of my kids has some special needs, and has been more work into his teen years than i ever expected. But I would have crumbled if I never had the experience of being a mother. I grew into a whole different person, far more capable of caring than i ever saw myself prior. My own mother was no example... It brought me joy to give my little humans what i did not receive.

  80. Of the three prevailing American myths--marriage, motherhood, and home ownership--motherhood is the only one that's forever. Get it wrong and you don't just screw up your own life, your mistakes ripple through time... As a childless women (b. 1957) who's mother was deeply dissatisfied being stuck in the burbs with three kids under five, I feel sorry for young moms who are stressed. Anyone would be. I mean trying to puree organic yams in the baby-food blender, be successful solopreneurs, keep a HGTV-style home. get theur 10,000 steps in, and have transcendent sex (so he doesn't stray) too. At least my mother had booze and cigarettes. (Which by the mid-70's added to her guilt and hastened her death.) I admire all of you, and envy none.

  81. My family came from the original puritan garbage that were thrown out of England for being crazy evangelicals. Welcome to 2019

  82. @Erick R Same here. But they weren't thrown out, they were sold and sold themselves into indentured servitude to pay their boat fare to the British aristocracy and merchant class. Yes, it's true they were so crackpot fervent religious that no one in Europe wanted them - even the Dutch, but they also brought with them a feudal misogynist class hierarchy that models the horrific setting of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Women were hanged right and left for daring to speak "out of turn", not kiss their husband's backside enough, not breed accordingly, or for just sewing nice buttons on their plain dress.

  83. Nice piece. Good history lesson and fine call to arms for the moms. One thing, the words that should disappear from the popular lexicon are: basically, unicorn, idiosyncratic and of course, influencer. What is an "influencer"? Is it a gasbag like Ivanka Trump? Word is over and miss used. Get rid of it. Otherwise, we beed more columns just like this.

  84. We are animals. She has eggs. He has sperm. We reproduce. What the heck else are we here for? Does it make sense? Who cares! We need the babies. "We need the eggs". “It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.” - Woody Allen / Annie Hall

  85. Overwhelming love compensates for the mother, but so self absorbed and geared up to self actualisation taht we send these babies to be cared fro in childcare at 20 dollars and hour. These poor women then have to look after 4 apiece.

  86. Never wanted children. Glad I never had them. Why bring more humans into a world already overpopulated with them, to become part of an economy that exists to enrich the people at the top of the pyramid at the expense of all in the middle and bottom. Overpopulation is the main cause of climate change. Do the world a favor don’t reproduce.

  87. Blah blah blah. We did a lot of horrible things in the past including treating women and children and men too as slaves. Thankfully most of us are more enlightened now.

  88. "By the 1950s, we got the smiling and never-tired Donna Reeds and June Cleavers of black-and-white television." 1. The perfect WASP mothers. 2. Their children were either teenagers or pre-adolescent like like Beaver. Never infants "mewling and puking in the nurses arms". 3. You forgot Harriet Nelson (another WASP).

  89. @Joshua Schwartz 4. You forgot: Middle class and did not work outside the home, or seem to ever leave the home except to get their hair done. 5. Plus, dad was faithful, sober and involved.

  90. This is a ridiculous generalization. I don't even like babies but my son's early years were an absolute delight for me.

  91. My mom had a daughter and then 6 sons. I was the middle child. And this was before automatic washers, disposable diapers, and baby formula. Cooking, cleaning, washing, sewing, ironing, dealing with sicknesses, fights, breaking things, bathing us, and on and on....7 days a week, 365 days a year. She didn’t become an alcoholic, and she rarely had time to rest. To this day I don’t know how she did it and I am forever awed by her strength and devotion to family. And there were families in our neighborhood who had even more children. I doubt if women today would be able to, or should handle the same situation. But like my mother, I have learned to always play the cards that I am dealt in life. I find myself regularly doing what she would want me to do in all situations and I smile to myself. I miss her immensely.

  92. This is a terribly biased article that says nothing to help those who want to hear some encouragement or those who have learned to love motherhood to share their experience

  93. @feng xie - My son didn't sleep through the night for 18 months. He was ADHD and never sat still for a minute. I remember standing in front of the washing machine and fantasizing about putting him in and letting him agitate with the rest of the laundry. He's now a well-respected healthcare professional, making a difference in many people's lives. Both of my children turned out well and gave me wonderful grandchildren. IMO, it's the grandchildren who make it all worthwhile.

  94. It would be swell if every two people who procreate restricted themselves to one kid. Easier than having a brood, and you'd cut the planet's human population in half (with the occasional twins and triples thrown in I guess).

  95. Here's what I learned and am still learning as a mother. 1. Once you become a mother, that is giving birth to a living human AND take care of them so they don't die, you will always be a mother. 2. I say this honestly because first hand knowledge of spontaneous abortions and one 6 month miscarriage, did not leave me feeling motherless. I had miscarriages before my RH- was born and after. They felt like a mixture of failures on my part and disappointments for missed opportunities on the other. 3. Supposedly there are hormones when a woman goes through labor and gives birth vaginally. Supposedly the medical teams inject the same identical hormones into women who have a c-sect. These are suppose to infuse the woman with adoration and unending love for the newborn. BTW, these same hormones occur when a woman has an orgasm during sex. All I can say is I have witnessed one birth where the woman felt no attachment to her offspring for perhaps 2 years or longer. 3. If you succeed in loving your children or child you will never go a day the rest of your life that your don't worry about them. I don't know if this is the same for men, but IF I were to find out that the child I had been raising wasn't mine it would not change the way I felt about the child. 4. Raising a human is nothing but hard work the first 30 years. Get over it. 5. Yeah. I'd do it again.

  96. Mothers are overrated:)) What is the first question a therapist will ask you? "So, tell me about your mother".

  97. In Mexico City - in Colonia Cuauhtemoc, the trendy haute-bourgeoisie ghetto across from the Zona Rosa - tattooed Moms in their yoga pants and $160 Nike sneakers push their plump well-fed nippers in $500 Italian perambulators and worry whether it's going to be quinoa with roasted organic vegetables or Basmati rice with responsibly-sourced jumbo shrimp for a light supper tonight. (Eat light!) Six blocks away, a kid sits on the curb with a scrap of avocado in a dried-up tortilla that came from God-knows-where. Fourth-wave feminists advocate for greater representation of the masses in politics and business, while they stay at home fulfilling their be-all-end-all destiny of breeding and interior decorating, and argue that society would be more equitable if policies and practices incorporated the perspectives of all people. A radical perspective: Could it be OK for women not to have kids?

  98. @Omar Temperley A very unfortunate tendency of recent feminism is an acceptance of many of the things that previous feminists fought hard to eliminate - such as near-compulsory motherhood, and the belief that it is somehow women's "nature" to have kids. The narrative now seems to be "it's OK to re-create the oppressive situations from the previous century, as long as we *choose* to do it!". Earlier feminists saw very clearly that motherhood is often a trap for women, keeping them from fulfilling their goals and ensuring they won't cause too much trouble for the patriarchy.

  99. This is news? I heard nothing-but growing up. And it wasn't just Early-Motherhood. It was NOTHING-BUT how awful children were, how TERRIBLE teens were, et cetera. And I vowed to never, EVER become like these women & to limit my time around them. I have succeeded. Thank God.

  100. Yes. Early motherhood is often miserable. Bears repeating for each new generation … Too many mothers think, "It must be me." It's not you. It's awful. It's really truly awful. You certainly won't be sorry in the long run, but yeah - it's awful, and you want to kill people who gush about how you must cherish these blissful days blah blah.

  101. This is the reason that we don't have to force women to have small families. They have one kid (or maybe two) and it is "No more of this!!!"

  102. Great historical content. Bringing it home .... my gram was born in 1898. By age 7 she was tasked with making sausages in her parents Front Street Hartford Ct. grocery store next door to her dads shoemaker shop. At the end of a grueling workday patrons would arrive for their pc. Of sausage which gram Lucy would hack off the links she made. These folks lived in their boarding house and were immigrants in Ct. She attended grammar school and took piano lessons too. These are stories I grew up with. I loved the fact I was born mid 20 th century. At age 4 I met many centenarians with 19 th century lives. I learned about suffragettes too. Voting day My gram Lucy would get dressed up and wear a fancy hat and white gloves on Election Day when she went to the polls to vote. She didn’t drive so the registrar of voters would send a driver for her to get to the polls. Her friends were activists post WW1 and 2. She sent two sons to war and my gramps was injured in WW1. I am an activist in my community and a lifelong “ political junkie “ because of my observations of my “ flapper “ gram. And her first person stories of history in the making. Edison , Wrights, Lindbergh. Etc. Women ! Our time is now. The onslaught has arrived to minimize our abilities to run America as President. Hey guys! ..societal idealization is and did kill us in spirit and intent to live fully. But hey ! Some of us birth babies and chew gum at the same time fellas. !

  103. Malcolm Gladwell writes extensively in his latest book, "Talking to Strangers," about the torture of Al Qaeda 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM). The interrogators used stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding 183 times, etc. Can you guess which technique worked? Answer: repeatedly allowing him to enter a REM cycle, then waking him up to perform a mundane task - up to 5 times per night. He finally talked after only 3 days of this method. What do mothers of newborns experience for 6 months to a year, 8 times per night? ....Repeatedly entering REM cycles, only to be woken up to perform mundane tasks such as nursing and diapering. Night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year we mothers of newborns experience what the CIA defines as enhanced interrogation techniques (colloquially, torture).

  104. An interesting point (sincerely) but it must be recognized that new mothers are “completing the mundane tasks” of nursing and diaper changing for a child with whom they are deeply in love and that for most new mothers (even in the midst of sleep deprivation), the “tasks” of nursing and changing their babies are not actually mundane.

  105. Lovely as it can be, face it — parenthood (mostly motherhood) is a 18-year sentence. Sometimes longer for those with “failure to launch.”

  106. @Atikin Sorry, Atikin, but motherhood only ends with death. Your concern and love for your children(adults) never ends.

  107. The message in this essay is that idealized versions of motherhood are false. Motherhood is no party, it is difficult and it can make a woman feel trapped. The message in the headline is that early motherhood is miserable. The headline writer may be offering his or her personal view. Or he or she may have read the wrong article. Or he or she may be illiterate. Or he or she may have a thing for LSD. Still, you have to wonder if anyone else at the newspaper reads the newspaper.

  108. I love my kids, but if I had to do it all again I’d probably give parenthood a hard pass. It’s a trap, just like Ali Wong said.

  109. During research on my family history I was shocked to learn that my 33 year old great grandfather married my 11 year old great grandmother in South Carolina in 1881. And that she died in 1900 four months after giving birth to their 9th child. That was a moral abomination even then and there. But for their 'union' my grandfather wouldn't have been born and I would not exist. My great grandfather died in 1930. And their kids were raised by his common law wife along with their kids together. I recently discovered that he also had a third family with his third teenaged paramour. More evidence was uncovered that showed that my great grandfather was a serial pedophile. And I along with other family members are very troubled by that.

  110. To bring life into this world and nurture a newborn baby is glorious! I loved being a mother to my children through every age and stage of their childhood. It was a magical time of my life. I feel so thankful to have been born a female so I could grow babies inside me and have this experience of being a mother.

  111. Lucky you! My experience was in nowhere near as glorious as yours. I used to be awed by women like you and your incredibly wonderful experience. Pity I was not so inclined, but cheers to you.

  112. Maybe I am not allowed an opinion being a man. The mother of my children is no longer around to speak for herself. Those were without any doubt the happiest years of our lives. Photos from the time all show her just beaming. She did not work outside the home when the children were small. She nursed on demand and took the babies into our bed, practices not in favor now. Although I helped, she did the lions share of the care. The harder time was when they were teens.

  113. @Steve Weber There's a reason so many young women in the 1950s and 1960s died getting abortions, while others who did have babies soon subsumed themselves in drudgery, as well as alcohol and pharmaceuticals male doctors prescribed just to get those often depressive and even suicidal women through every day till small childern were old enough to go to school for 9 months and then a couple months of camp or summer visits with relatives. The research is clear how many of those women lost their minds and slipped into addiction and mental trauma, neglecting and abusing then all those unwanted kids. Litters of Boomer children were born due to social pressures and the denial of any rights to women after WWII. It correlates to high numbers of unwanted kids who knew they were unloved, olders ones forced to help raise younger ones - but who often bullied and abused those younger siblings, even deaths. Boomers are the original latchkey kids. More than one can still recall getting kicked out the back door in early morning and told not to come home until dark, as mom locked the door. It's one of the main reasons so many Boomers procreated an utterly spoiled snowflake generation of marshmallow Millennials.

  114. My Mom died six months ago. That’s hard to write. I sure do miss her. Life tends to be hard no matter what you do. You know anyone with an easy one?

  115. @Kindnest I know exactly where you are coming from, but in my case it will be three years. Decades of arguments, disagreements and embarrassments occasionally poked through the fabric held by the glue of love and understanding that only a mother can provide. When younger, my mother sometimes half-jokingly said that my younger brothers and I were ruining her life, but we all understood that us boys were her life. You are right. Life is hard and life is short. That is why life is so precious.

  116. When I was old enough to talk, but not much older, my mother attempted to bring me along on a shopping expedition. I found it very entertaining to hang myself along with the garments on the racks, and my mother became livid. She parked me outside the dressing rooms, and began trying things on. She heard me conversing with a saleslady, who stopped to say, "What a nice little girl you are!" "Yes," I reportedly replied, "but I'm ruining my mother's life!"

  117. My little sister used to hide from my mother in stores. After she did this several times, our mom bought a device that kept her tethered to the stroller. Problem solved! And this was back in the early 70s - I'm not sure it would be socially acceptable today.

  118. @Elizabeth Ellis Hurwitt This reminds me of another reason I didn't choose to have children: When Mom was really angry she'd say, "I hope someday you'll have a daughter just like YOU!" Ha- I sure fooled her :) She was a wonderful person, a very gifted woman and mother, but it seemed to be an impossible job too much of the time . . . I miss her.

  119. And so what's the answer? Desist from the bearing of children? Why, of late, these subtle attacks on motherhood?

  120. @BD The article isn't "attacking" motherhood. It's calling for everyone to be completely honest about the costs that it imposes on women, so that women can CHOOSE to go into it, eyes fully open, and without constantly kicking themselves as new mothers because they are "failing" to live up to a standard that was never more than sheer fantasy.

  121. @m ... yes, motherhood is difficult; but is also necessary for perpetuation of both society and species, assuming such is considered desirable among today's ultra chic Left. And as such it should be venerated for the heroism that it is.

  122. If we are to have a planet that we would want anyone to have to inhabit 100 years from now people need to have less children. The more we discourage women (and men) from having children the better for those who are born. Every child a wanted child; every mother a willing, educated and realistic mother.

  123. Interesting to consider how with such overwhelming and thorough misery our planet has become overpopulated. Perhaps we should knock it off for a while.

  124. Mothers only have to be good enough. Another aspect of life being ruined by social media. Mothering is now a competitive sport? A little baby can drive a person bonkers! If you don’t think so you’re not being truthful or you’re filthy rich, like those very perfect mothers in the comments section who loved their children so much, they “chose” to stay at home. Must be nice. I did my best and fortunately I could tune out the crying. The lack of sleep was another story. But I was good enough and that’s all I had to be.

  125. 56 here and gleefully childfree. Why any woman would tie herself down to that life is beyond me, when there is so much else in the universe to explore and enjoy. And then all they do is clamor for more of our tax dollars to “support” them in their 100-percent voluntary lifestyle choice. No thanks, on an overpopulated planet. My money is going toward wildlife conservation, not breeding more Walmart shoppers.

  126. @Earthling I think everyone should be free to be gleefully childfree if they want, that is fine, but your ponderings seem rather nasty to me overall.

  127. @DW I’m no fan of the selfish people overpopulating the planet & killing off worthier species.

  128. I’m so thankful that I never had kids!

  129. @Shannon Me too!

  130. Selfishness has overtaken our society in so many ways. Sacrifice, meh.

  131. Not a word about birth control. Now that motherhood is a choice, all babies should be wanted. The planet cannot sustain more humans, so you all should be really sure about creating new people.

  132. One of the more persistent and maddening societal mistruths is that caring for babies is hard but the good times make it all worth it. This is a false dichotomy. Yes, there are beautiful moments but they do not offset the hard. The sparkle in the eye, the toothless smile, the gurgling chuckle, do not ease your suffering when night after night after night you must rise from bed at some ungodly hour, alone in a dark house, and tend to the screaming creature. It’s sooo worth it. Maybe, but you will suffer.

  133. An interesting and thoughtful article. But I doubt if the unfortunate term "mom" was in use in 1828.

  134. The smartest decision I ever made as a young woman was not to have children but to focus on my own desires and dreams. I'm so very thankful that I didn't choose to repeat my mother's misery.

  135. Children are nice to visit. But I wouldn't want to live with one.

  136. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am 60 and still need at some level validation that my experience of stress, anxiety and frustration being with a newborn was normative. Even knowing as I did that the flowing white dressing gown while feeding a tranquil infant was a myth I still felt the pressure to "get there." And the cultural myth creates shame which is so toxic. I love your historical perspective as well as including Wong's " festival of feces" remark. Well done.

  137. Still, one of our biggest problems is that (especially white older) men presume it's their right to force not only women but also young girls to have babies that for one reason or another they cannot care for--or are horribly malformed or sick. Witness the latest unbelievable harrassment of men in power keepipng political records of women's periods. I seem to recall inmy fertile years that this was considered a most personal bit of information--something one did not necessarily share with one's husband in the form of written data! Best mothering is when one is grown up oneself, with at least minimum earnings to support a family. Oh--and yes, preferably a husband on hand too!

  138. “If you look back through the diaries and journals of middle- and upper-class American women, you’ll see that they have been talking about the difficult reality of motherhood ever since the idea took hold that women were supposed to feel fulfilled by their maternal role.” Let’s not pretend that the average white Christian American woman was middle – or upper- class back in the 1800’s. As late as 1915, “The predominant occupation group was that of craftsmen, laborers, and operatives,” (FEBRUARY 2016 The life of American workers in 1915 https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2016/article/the-life-of-american-workers-in-1915.htm). So, why not focus on the more typical lives of women married to farm workers, craftsmen, and laborers at the time?

  139. @Oceanviewer The problem is that the vast majority of working class people were illiterate two hundred years ago, which means that little history exists of them recorded in their own voices. Instead, historians have to rely on second or third hand accounts of the working class, written by the educated (middle or upper class Americans) or draw conclusions based upon excavated archeological findings. The writings of their middle and upper class contemporaries, in contrast, are relatively plentiful. I agree that this gives a skewed picture of American life and regret that more cannot be done to recover the voices of this lost majority.

  140. @JW Many young females were indentured servants (white slaves) forced to marry and breed or were raped and forced to breed, because the male merchant or landowner was alloted more money or land by the English crown per head of ownership. This then also followed suit in all the same appalling ways when black slavery was introduced. FYI: Young European immigrant and American females were sold into marriage during the 1800s and 1900s and even today, just as their offspring have been.

  141. In every culture throughout the world, mother’s who can, choose to “outsource” motherhood. Whether it’s to get a nanny, starting with “baby nannies” ; in certain cultures and levels of society a maiden relatives gets brought in to the house, food and shelter in exchange for caring for the kid. Is the norm. There are hundreds of ways, throughout the world to avoid caring for one’s own child. And, let us not forget our bestie across the pond. Even Duchess Kate’s parents, who were of modest means, made sure all 3 kids went to boarding since since they were tiny. The Brits only see their kids at Christmas (often during a ski trip) or in summer (often during a Southern European vacation). And, even those two times a year they being a nanny along! Same thing with Latin American and Asian elites....boarding school since the age of 5-6 and limited interactions during vacations. I don’t understand all the American angst about good “parenthood”. The rest of the world has figured this out centuries ago. No parental guilt and the kids are alright.

  142. Most of what I read from new mothers makes the experience seem utterly unappealing.

  143. I had a friend that posited that we romanticize marriage and babies because if we didn't, no woman in her right mind would ever go there. I wouldn't quite go that far, but at times all those white-washed stories and photos seem (at the very least) like a marketing plot. When my second daughter was born, I had my husband take a picture of me sitting up in bed, eyes swollen and red from crying and exhaustion, nursing one baby while the two-year-old wailed inconsolably beside me. I wanted an honest record of those days. I do think it would be better for women to have a more realistic sense of what they're getting into. At least then, we wouldn't feel guilty on top of all the other difficulties we face.

  144. @Carol Your story reminds me of the time when I was nursing my second baby daughter while my older daughter was hanging on my leg as I dragged her along the kitchen floor trying to make dinner. I thought at the time; this is unbelievable but will be funny someday.

  145. Hallelujah! Thank you Jessica Grose for such an honest article! My first year of motherhood was horrible! My baby was delightful and sweet, but he also was awake All the Time! Naps? Not for him! Sleep when my baby slept? Please. It’s a myth. You gotta eat, you gotta shower, and you gotta read the paper and your emails. You gotta run errands, go to the doctor, and deal with baby related tasks, including breastfeeding (or not), diaper changing, clothes washing, spit up removal, soothing, playing, burping, etc. I found it to be hard, physical labor (even small babies get heavy) exhausting and terrifying and felt I’d made a terrible mistake. There was no peace. And I had a wonderfully helpful husband! And a nanny! I remember wandering the streets of my neighborhood, with my baby in the bjorn on my chest, thinking “how the heck are there nearly 8 billion people on this planet?!” As I must have looked terribly forlorn and defeated, a stranger walking toward me looked at me, smiled knowingly and said “it gets better.” And it did! I love my son fiercely and he is the essence of joy. He impresses me every day with his wisdom and compassion. But I’m not doing it again. Ever.

  146. A poem by Avrom Reyzen (1876 – 1953) translated from the Yiddish: A household of eight And only two beds-- And when the night comes Where lay they their heads? The father gets three, And three to with mother, Hands and feet braided One round another. And when the night comes, When they go to bed, That's when mother begins To wish she were dead. She really believes, And it's very well-known, The grave's also narrow, But you lie there alone.

  147. It takes a village to raise a child. Think about that. Raised my two children in the '90s in the D.C. suburbs. Career Moms who dissed me -- ("Oh! Wow. You went to college?" "Oh, don't you think babies are boring? I mean, they don't even talk." "What do you do all day? Do you watch the soaps?" "Oh, I could NEVER stay home with kids.") -- always the first to call at 6 a.m. on snow days to ask if I'd watch their kids. I remember my mother telling me I was a "fool" and that I was "running a day care" on snow days and "feeding the neighborhood" when all the "latch-key" kids showed up for snacks after school. Yeh, nobody ever offered to compensate me for snow days or after-school snacks, but how could I have ever said no? To say no would've been to say no to the kids. That, I could not do. Some of us are cut out for hanging with the kids; some of us aren't. I was happy to help out career Moms who, even though they dissed me, loved their kids. And, so did I.

  148. No, it's not miserable. Ask my wife and daughter and daughter-in-law. I changed my share of dirty diapers, and didn't find that miserable. Wait until your baby starts smiling at you. You can make it miserable if you insist in ironing clothes (as in the picture) and otherwise wasting time in unnecessary chores. None of that matters: clothes don't need to be ironed or folded and it really doesn't matter if they aren't washed for a while, the floor can accumulate dirt, a casserole can keep a family fed for several days...cut out the unnecessary and save yourself for your children.

  149. @Jonathan Katz To turn that on its head, it sounds possible to avoid unnecessary children and save yourself from living with dirty floors and unironed clothes while eating the same casserole for several days. To have freedom to save yourself for yourself and, if you have one, your partner.

  150. @Jonathan Katz I’m glad you had a lovely time. I suspect if we asked the women in your life, they’d say, “He changed his share of diapers but never did laundry, floors, or cooking.” Contrary to your belief, those things really do need doing, and the laundry isn’t getting done by friendly elves.

  151. What is necessary for a mother is balance. Being with young children can often be more boring than exhausting so it is important to find some stimulation. Reading, walking, meeting women in similar situations to share the weight. Simple uncomplicated activities that don’t drain you. It’s a short period of a full life and worth the payback when your kids turn out well.

  152. @Jo Ann I agree. When my daughter was 2 months old, I had no family around and my husband was gone all day and she was wearing me out from carrying her around all day to keep her from crying . I met my neighbor across the way with her crying baby(we watched each other through our front windows bouncing the babies) and it was a lifesaver for me . We visited every day and were friends until she moved when my daughter was 2 years old.

  153. I wouldn’t call raising kids “miserable”. It is a lot of work. It is a lot of wonderful.

  154. Motherhood is both wonderful and awful all at the same time, forever. Awful because of the drudgery, the repetition (how many times do you remind your child to put their napkin in their lap - and they’re 16 already!), the societal pressure to be perfect. Wonderful because children are wonderful, fun, silly, funny and grow up to be good company. For women who want children, it is a difficult, passionate and fulfilling adventure. But, it can not be the only identity a woman has. Children grow up, leave and form families of their own. Women, therefore, need to find satisfaction and fulfillment in other work as well. Trust me, your children will love and respect you for it. My 4 do.

  155. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't. Miserable, mind numbing, overwhelming, unfulfilling, start to finish. I didn't want to do the awful things my parents did, so had to make it up as I went along, and I got no moral support from my husband, who seemed to think that it was mostly MY job. MEN are the ones who sell this fantasy.

  156. If we as a society treated mothers properly and kindly, there wouldn’t be a pay gap between men and women. Mothers are treated very very badly.

  157. @Temp attorney Nonsense. Anyone who chooses to put career on the back burner — for child rearing or any other reason — deserves to earn less. Why should people who made different lifestyle choices & kept nose to the grindstone lose out to those who keep taking extended breaks ( and being half there when they do show back up).

  158. @Earthling - "Being HALF there?" If you're LUCKY!!!! ~LOL~

  159. Whine, whine, whine. As a single father I can say that taking care of my baby was usually a delight. Sure, that's not everyone's experience. But still. So much whining these days.

  160. @Yo "These days"? Did you read the article? Like, even the very first line? Women have been shouldering the burden of the expectation of perfect, blissful, fulfilling early-motherhood since the 1800's, and have never been happy about it. As no men would be, either, if they had been given that exact same burden.

  161. @Yo, the whining is ingrained and the rights to whine are claimed to be an exclusively female privilege. Even those men who are single fathers (like you) or stay at home dads (like me) apparently have no standing to judge the difficulties of raising kids. In any case, one of my children was a dream and the other was a bit of a challenge, but in the end, you love them anyway. :)

  162. Slightly off subject, however still on... I have been watching 'Call the Midwife' and absolutely had no idea of the positions one could assume during childbirth !

  163. Coupled with raising healthy children is the 5 to 10% of women that experience mild to serious pelvic floor issues, serious orders of hormonal rearrangement and life altering disfigurement with demential changes in body shape and obesity . The percentage of women that are illequipted for labor and delivery and the roll-of-the dice selection of male DNA to mix with is a primordial soup happenstance game. This mix has a constant percentage that will result in physical and mental birth defects that most are unprepared for. All these risks and burdens fall squarely on women and one wonders why any female would ever get near a man. The female libidos' might throw risk to the wind and twist fate. A weekend at a high risk neonatal critical care unit in a big city hospital should be on the education schedule for all preteens.

  164. “Life-altering disfigurement with DEMENTIAL changes”?? Lots of women’s bodies end up rounder, flatter, wider, larger, softer, etc after pregnancy and childbirth and nursing. But none of those size/shape changes are dementia!

  165. @Heather Hadlock I'm guessing that's a typo, or she meant "dimensional" or maybe "substantial."

  166. @Heather Hadlock I'm guessing that's a typo, or she meant "dimensional" or maybe "substantial."

  167. This is a terrific piece, Ms. Grose. Thank you for writing it. My children are spread out over 18 years. With two still at home, I have seen how the role of the "perfect mother" continues to evolve and change along with broader cultural expectations. In the 90's the emphasis was on self-actualization whereas today most parents prize competitiveness in their children. At all stages we are accompanied by advertisers who know the perfect thing to sell us to make our children into the ideal. But, as you say in your piece, the anxiety of the mothers is a constant throughout, as is the underground of resistance to the anxiety of maintaining the madonna d'jour. Someday even the instagram influencer mom will find herself out favor - though it may seem hard to believe to all the moms failing to live her lifestyle. As you so well describe in your article, the problem is the myth, not the mother.

  168. My kids are now 31 and 27 and I simply ADORE them. However, it was a tough ride. I wish people had been more honest about the trials of raising kids. There were so many mothers who either were much more resilient than I was or were lying about the difficulties they were experiencing. I felt SO responsible for every little thing and I took the job extremely seriously, as though one slip up would ruin them. In the end, I wish I had enjoyed them more instead of just having survived the process. If my kids choose to procreate, I hope to be more available and supportive than my family was

  169. My mother had my little brother later in life. As a nine-year old girl, I was put in charge of my little brother because I could walk, talk, and follow basic instructions. Also, my mother desperately needed the help because she worked full time and had 3 other children, including me, between the ages of 10 and 7. As I got older, my duties were expanded to making the evening meal for my entire family, supervising my little brother, and making sure that he got his evening bath. All of this was on top of the expectation that I do all of my homework every night. All of this was necessary because my mother worked the 3pm to 11pm shift at the local hospital. This experience resulted with me not wanting not having children of my own...because I felt like I had already been there and done that. Furthermore, I waited until later in life to get married.

  170. This article's headline reads "Early motherhood has always been miserable". Pregnancy itself has many health risks and causes permanent damage to many women's bodies. The author writes "Since becoming a parent is now more of an active choice for many women than it had been previously, the pressure to find it delightful remains a norm." All of this avoids the real question, which is why women are still pressured so strongly to have children. Many are starting to see that choosing not to have children is often a better choice.

  171. I wish I had realized that "early motherhood is ALWAYS miserable" when it was happening and that "This too shall pass". It would have made things easier, I think. But I didn't know.

  172. I've always felt that having teenagers take care of very small children is the best form of birth control ever!

  173. My mother gave birth to my sister when I was almost 13. She taught me how to take care of a baby and I was prepared for the work when the time came, but you better believe that I went on birth control pills before I started having sex and continued to use them except when I wanted to get pregnant! When my older son was little, the local high school had a class in childcare. I enrolled him and he had a great time. Some of the students in the class told me how glad they were to be able to get experience in caring for small children and that it made them extra careful about using birth control. It's not a coincidence that the school district had a low rate of teen pregnancy

  174. I had two kids when I was in my early 20s and absolutely hated all the routine of baby care. Fortunately we could afford nannies and my extended family helped. The only advantage of doing it this way is I am in my late forties, still relatively young , and my kids are grown up. I love my sons to bits but they are not the center of my life. I find the American obsession with motherhood off-putting and frankly unhealthy. Having kids is nice if you can afford it. If you can’t or if you want to do something else with your life, you are much better better off not having them. Science has given us a choice in how to live our lives. For my younger friends, having kids is the bottom of their priorities, and this is how it should be.

  175. Reading the different posts here tells me that motherhood should be a choice not an obligation. Raising a child is not easy, we raised 3, but it makes a difference I am sure if you want to rather than have to. A mother who chooses to have a child should have every family and community support and know that her child, no matter her physical, ethnic or economic condition will have society’s support. Health care, education, housing and nutrition.

  176. I raised 2 boys. They have grown into caring, empathetic men. It was hard work, and yet it was a joy at the same time. On his first year of college, after being away from home for 4 weeks, my son called me and said, mom I am coming home home for the weekend. The freshmen in his dorm called him names, but my son being the man he had become had an answer for the other freshmen: you guys may or may not have a relationship with your mothers, so you think accordingly. I actually have a great relationship with my mom, I like her and love her. So that summed up the hard work-joy part. I am not saying things were always perfect, but there are so many other genuinely beautiful moments in my life, through motherhood, that could never be substituted by say, a career promotion, etc. and I have worked really hard at my career too.

  177. And sooner or later, most of those children end up in some teacher's classroom. God bless the teachers!

  178. Some time ago I had a conversation with two friends, both of whom chose not to have children. One friend is a nurse and near my own age, early 80s. The other in her mid 50s. I told them the story of my great grandmother dying six weeks after giving birth to my grandmother, her sixth child. I don't know how many pregnancies she had. I suggested the notion we are encouraged to believe, that women in the past were afraid of sex and considered it dirty, is misleading. I said, and still believe, that the knowledge that if every time you had sex you might become pregnant would make you think of sex not as a pleasure, but a chore. A chore with possible damaging consequences. They both laughed, and said no, no, no, women in the past were prudes and didn't understand how great sex could be. My older friend and I came of age when the pill became available. And, of course, my younger friend has always had many choices in effective birth control. The old adage "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" seems appropriate .

  179. Thomas Jefferson was 29 when he got married and his wife Martha was 19. She was already a widow and had a son. That child died. Over the next 10 years, Martha had 2 miscarriages and 5 live births. After the last child was born, she was so spent from the process that she literally died at the age of 29. Of the 5 live births only 2 of those children lived to adulthood. This was not an atypical occurrence. Motherhood or for that matter parenthood 200 years or so bears no resemblance to parenthood today. I realize that the goal of articles like this is establish victimhood, but given that Thanksgiving is coming up in soon, perhaps we could actually be thankful for what we have.

  180. I had two kids when I was in my early 20s and absolutely hated all the routine of baby care. Fortunately we could afford nannies and my extended family helped. The only advantage of doing it this way is I am in my late forties, still relatively young , and my kids are grown up. I love my sons to bits but they are not the center of my life. I find the American obsession with motherhood off-putting and frankly unhealthy. Having kids is nice if you can afford it. If you can’t or if you want to do something else with your life, you are much better better off not having them. Science has given us a choice in how to live our lives. For my younger friends, having kids is the bottom of their priorities, and this is how it should be.

  181. Yes it is difficult; yes it is rewarding. It involves heartache as well. Loving human beings through every stage of life is hard. We need each other to acknowledge that both the realities of the up and downside of motherhood is true. Hence I find the thrust of this story unhelpful. Every smart mother and child who grows into being a parent themselves realizes that like marriage and any intense commitment involves sacrifice. No one every fully imagines what that means until we are well into our relationships.

  182. Becoming a parent should always be a choice, not an expectation on the part of society. I was very well aware at a young age that most of the time my mother regretted having me around, and her regret eventually grew into actual hostility when I entered puberty. Women need to be constantly on guard that they do not lose their right to choose whether to become mothers or not. Motherhood simply isn't for all of us, for a wide variety of reasons and the different challenges faced by individual women everywhere. I have immense respect for women who choose motherhood and are able to devote themselves to nurturing their children. But I also have immense respect for those women (like me) who have the self-awareness to choose to remain childless in spite of social pressures to have children because "that's what women are supposed to do."

  183. We humans are animals, and if you look at the animal kingdom you will find the behavior of males and females vis a vis child rearing are is often quite different. In almost, but not all, species the female pulls the laboring oar. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that female humans have more child rearing responsibilities than male humans. Of course now that we can select our gender at will perhaps the answer is for women to identify as males as soon as they give birth and males can identify as females. The nursing will be a challenge but then so is most of life.

  184. The expectations put on new mothers are yet another instance of seeing women not as human beings but as utilities. Of COURSE, we are human and thus have limits to our patience and energy. How convenient to put the burden of caring for a helpless creature 24/7 on us and then try to make us feel ashamed if we complain. Young mothers need support (a break) and respect. Raising young kids is a hard job, and nobody should feel bad about asking for help or for venting. While I found parenting fun and meaningful -- despite a professional career, I'd say parenting was the most fun and meaningful thing I have done -- the early days are incredibly physically demanding. I estimated that I had 15 minutes to myself during the first year of my son's life. There was a case here in Colorado where an adoptive mother was accused of murdering her son. The son was mentally ill and screamed constantly. She asked for some time away, but some idiot (therapist? husband?) decided she should have a weekend alone with him to "bond." She killed him that weekend. When told this story, I said I could understand. It is so hard for mothers to ask for help that, when they do, it should be taken very seriously. The person who had told me the story (not a mother) was appalled and said, I bet the defense attorney would love to have you on the jury!

  185. Yes there are so many myths that thank god hopefully we have stopped trying to sell young women on. You as yourself as a person are enough, if you are responsible for your actions, can support yourself financially, that is success. You should only add on husbands and children if you really desire them. And having the neighborhood or family involved in child rearing is a mixed bag. I would say don't have them unless you and your husband can handle it, then think about how life will be with additional help. Whether you have a nanny daycare or stay at home you do you as there are successful happy children raised in all theses ways. I think the worst photos are of models breastfeeding while in hair and makeup or some such nonsense, I mean good for them but you can have the breast or bottle and the baby will thrive. It is not such a romantic experience for everyone. That one smile or when they start to talk or walk or those milestones will make your day. But there is a a lot of mindless drudgery and feces in between. Just be prepared for that.