Good, bad, or just different?Your grandma had no cell phone, your mother no online shopping, but despite these modern conveniences — and all the medical, technological, and cultural advances over the past two generations — about half of you think being a mom is more difficult today than it was back then. Do you agree?
When comparing motherhood now to when our moms raised young kids, 53 percent of you said the previous generation had it easier. And 47 percent also said Grandma had an easier time being a mom — despite doing it without cable TV, microwave ovens, and readily available epidurals.
For many moms we asked, the ease of modern-day life doesn't compensate for the lack of friendliness and safety we feel. Some pined for the "good old days," a golden time when children played safely together on the block while moms chatted over coffee.
Whether those times of close-knit communities are real or imagined, we've definitely got Leave It to Beaver on our minds. "People stayed home more, so it was easier to make friends with other moms and children," said one mom. "Neighborhoods were more like one big, happy family."
But there's more to our affection for the past than simple nostalgia. Many moms said they long for a simpler era, one that came with clearer rules and expectations and shared values. As one mom put it, "Moms today have it harder than our moms or grandmothers because we have too many choices and worry too much about what others think about our style of parenting."
Of course, whether it was easier or harder for our moms and grandmothers may be begging the question. Motherhood is always throwing up strange days and tough questions, as well as many unique joys. One of the moms surveyed may have said it best: "The problems were very different for all three generations — but equally scary."
What we wish for mostSelf-help gurus tell us to find "balance." Advertisements for spas and chocolate bars urge us to take a moment for ourselves. Unfortunately, this doesn't feel possible for many of the moms we asked.
So it's not surprising that when asked to choose one thing you wish you could have more of, you picked time (42 percent). Next came money (38 percent). More friends, love, good looks, and nice things barely captured your votes. What would you choose?
Not having enough time to balance the demands of your job and those of your family is your biggest challenge as a mom (16 percent), followed by trying to get enough time to yourself (14 percent).
"Moms are still expected to do the equivalent of a full-time job at home, plus meet the demands of their jobs outside the home," one mom said. "There are just never enough hours in the day to get it all done, let alone have any time to myself."
Lack of time is also to blame for some of your worst feelings of "mommy guilt." After letting your kids watch too much TV, you said your biggest guilt triggers are not spending enough time with your kids (35 percent), not setting a good enough example with your behavior (33 percent), and working outside the home (27 percent). What makes you feel mommy guilt?
Many moms said that although some modern workplaces are more flexible these days — offering jobs that are part-time, at home, shared, and so on — most don't respect the realities of your priorities as a mom.
"I fear that I'll have to work even more and have less time with my kids," said one mom. "Where does the enjoyment come in? We're practically strangers. This isn't what I signed up for!"
"I worry that I'm not a good mom," said another. "I'm too stressed and too tired to take care of my kids."
Who's today's ideal mom?When asked for your mom role model, your answer was clear: It isn't Angelina Jolie (8 percent), Katie Couric (3 percent), Laura Bush (2 percent), Hillary Clinton (3 percent), Michelle Obama (3 percent), Reese Witherspoon (13 percent), Jennifer Garner (12 percent), or any of today's other famous mothers.
The majority of you (23 percent) picked "none of the above" when given a long list of celebrities — including actresses, politicians and politicians' wives, and media personalities — to choose as today's motherhood ideal.
"None of these represent the 21st-century mom very well," said one mom.
Many moms expressed conflicting feelings about celebrities and their babies. Most of you are intrigued (59 percent), but very few (8 percent) will admit to full-blown obsession. Significant numbers of you try to ignore celebrity mom news (15 percent) or are completely sick and tired of it (18 percent). What about you?
To see who you really idolize, it helps to look back a generation or two.
"I admire my grandmother," said one mom. "Seven kids, cloth diapers, boiling water to heat it. I don't think I could do it. She gave me the best advice I've ever received: 'Love them, be strict and honest with them, live a good life full of love and happiness and they will seek out the same.'"
Motherhood: Still worth itOur yearning for the past, complaints about the present, and admiration for how our moms and grandmas lived begs the questions: Are we that old-fashioned? Is being a mom today really that bad?
No, you answer. Modern motherhood is hard — but you love it anyway.
The vast majority of you (82 percent) say you're happier now that you're a mom. You laugh more (74 percent) and find that motherhood is more enjoyable than you imagined it would be (77 percent). Do you agree?
The best parts of being a mom, some of you said, are the aspects that don't change from generation to generation, like the love that flows between you and your children, the kinship you feel with other mothers, and the wonder of watching your kids grow.
You appreciate the elements of modern motherhood that enhance the essential joy of being a mom and dislike the ones that steal from it. And in the end, despite all the challenges of being a mom now — and the difficulties moms have always faced — you know the payoff is worth it.
"As a mother, you feel so many emotions — happy, sad, scared, and uncertain," said one mom. "But after you get the first month or so under your belt, it has to be the best feeling in the world!
"Words can't describe how much being a mom changes your life," she continued. "But there's nothing that can give you so much happiness. It is and will be the best thing I've ever done."