Parenting

Today's Young Mothers Don't Understand Sacrifice

| by Suzanne Venker

Today's moms have a lot more surrendering to do than mothers did in previous generations. There's a definite point in most women's lives in which you could say a line's been drawn: there was life before children, and life after.

Today it's as if the first part of women's lives was a big tease. Unlike previous generations, college graduates set off for their independent lives after graduation -- and the sky's the limit. They can postpone motherhood for at least a decade (unfortunately, many try to force it beyond this point -- which is foolish, since our bodies have an agenda of their own); they have unlimited, uninterrupted sex lives; they go out to dinner or travel at the drop of a hat; they live alone, according to their own needs and desires; and they basically live life unencumbered by responsibilities outside of work.

This is a relatively new phenomenon. It has only been about three decades that young people have been able to do this. Before that, men and women married young and started families right away. In so doing, they never got used to a life without sacrifice. Indeed, sacrifice has been part of the human experience for centuries -- except for my generation. My generation, as well as those after, have grown up having virtually all of their needs met. And at the click of a button to boot. Consequently, life at home becomes that much more challenging.

My father used to say, "It's easier to go up in your standard of living than it is to go down." Yet going down in one's standard of living is precisely what the current generation sets itself up for. Living a life without sacrifice prior to motherhood is sort of like trying to cook an elaborate meal without all the ingredients: it's frustrating, nearly impossible, and requires an enormous amount of ingenuity to get through it. This is one of the reasons modern women have such a difficult time with motherhood. The other is that they're trying to accomplish too much at one time.

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The women who have the easiest time surrendering to motherhood are those who started early. Indeed, we rarely hear from the women who didn't have long and varied careers prior to having children, but they are mothers who struggle much less. They are mothers who never got used to a life without sacrifice. Quite often they're mothers who are more religious than the rest of us. We may not identify with their chosen lifestyle, but we'd be wise to look to them for guidance. They may seem old-fashioned to us, but they also don't suffer the way modern women do. They (generally speaking) don't balance careers with motherhood; they don't routinely question their place in the world; and they don't have high expectations. These three things -- demanding careers, overall discontent, and high expectations -- have been the bane of the modern woman's existence.

Indeed, we have less to show for our "progress"than we imagined.