If it gets me a week off, I guess I’ll take it

“Parenting is overrated. A secret for child-rearing success: do less http://theatln.tc/ifc4ae #longreads”

The Atlantic‘s tweet makes it sound as though we don’t have to parent, because nature takes care of most of it. In fact, if we try hard, we’re screwing them up. But the article says different. The article says if we do everything we’ll screw them up. If we are perfect, our kids will suffer.

No risk of that here. I’m not trying that hard. And I’m failing with a nice steady rhythm that would back a hot hiphop routine.

But I was all prepared to let up a little. Twitter promised me a parenting vacation, seeing as how all my attention was killing my children’s future potential. I had a lot of reading to catch up on, so I was willing to try lounging and reading and ignoring.

But all Lori Gottlieb argues, really, is that overprotecting children, carefully directing and managing their every moment makes for unhappy future adults. Duh. If you don’t let them feel disappointment, handle their own sorrow, wallow a bit in a stew of lonliness and marginalization, we rob them of coping skills.

Who are these parents who have so much time they can get them invited to every party and armwrestle teachers into better grades? I can barely get three meals and two snacks into them. I can barely get books back to the library within ten dollars of their due dates. I can’t even remember their jackets half the time. How the hell am I gonna micromanage their emotional lives to spare them disappointment? Please.

I’d be happy to back off more, except that if I back up much further I’ll need binoculars to see them grow up. My goal is not to make life perfect for these amazing, sweet, interesting, wonderful little boys. My goal is to give them every chance to figure out who they are and what’s important to them. To offer them what I can and have them make the rest for themselves.

So I felt betrayed by The Atlantic, whose tweet had promised a parenting vacation of novels and bonbons. But I couldn’t hold a grudge because an hour or so later I got really mad at Rolling Stone.

I saw in a Rolling Stone piece that Michele Bachmann was raised by two lifelong Democrats. Too much parenting? Not enough parenting? All I’m saying is that what keeps me up at night is that if we try really hard and parent in earnest, and then wind up with a borderline psychopath for our efforts, I’ll have to explain myself to Rolling Stone. In an issue with a reinvented, 80-year-old Madonna on the cover.

The Loh Down on doing your best

I told you when I posted about Sandra Tsing Loh’s divorce article in The Atlantic that her perspective is interesting and intriguing. Much more so than Waldman’s (or any of the other so-called bad parents out there). Now that she’s posting about the difficulty of being a real parent in the era where all decisions seem judged crucial and the bevvy of “bad parents” are a disappointing group of flawed but decent parents who think it’s somehow funny to claim they’re failing while the rest of us struggle to make it through each day with our selfhood intact.

“Today’s Professional Class mothers are expected to have, above all, the personalities—and the creative aspirations—of elementary-school teachers. But if you’re like me, you can’t compete with those seasoned professionals for whom child education is an enthusiastic vocation.” Bless you for saying it. I love my child, I’ve said before, but I’m totally not cut out for this work. I’m doing a kick-ass goddamned great job, but this is not the job I want. Thank you for voicing what I’ve been desperately hoping is true: that smart, overeducated, middle class women who’ve hacked their way through the jungle of independence and career to carve themselves a creative niche make for depressed parents.

My favorite quote from the Loh article, in which she returns to second-wave feminism to decide who and what she is in this 1950s MadMen clusterf*ck of a society we find ourselves in:

“The 21st-century Creative Class mom’s life is actually far worse than that of her 1950s counterpart.”

She says in one sentence what I tried to say here and here and here, and Susan Maushart says in The Mask of Motherhood, a text I recommend to all families with or about to have a new baby.

And that prescient, erudite brevity is why Loh gets paid the big bucks.

The Loh Down on Divorce

Sandra Tsing Loh, whose writing I admire and whose voice is all too often in my car, is ending her marriage of 20 years. And she has some intensely interesting things to say about women, marriage, and American culture.

Check out her intriguing article over at The Atlantic.

Made me thing of Orenstein’s book Flux, and of several conversations I’ve had lately with friends about limited hours in the day and priorities. Consider, for instance, her argument that “To a certain extent, men today may have more clarity about what it takes to raise children in the modern age. They don’t, for instance, have today’s working mother’s ambivalence and emotional stickiness.”