It’s Never Enough Is It?

Salon has a new article called “The Littlest Shoppers” by Helaine Olen about the way marketers target the under three-year-old demographic. I think Olen’s point is refreshing: The “intensive parenting” trend is not only driving Generation X parents off the deep end, but it’s also not the answer, that just being with our kids is enough. We don’t have to overachieve to be worth something. This is a refreshing message since so often Generation X hears that we’re slackers because we don’t stage political protests and we’re basically lackadaisical about life. Never mind that many of us are children of divorce, have seen our parents pushed out of corporate jobs at 45, the very same jobs that caused us to be latch-key kids. It seems to be a no-brainer why we job hop every few years, or we opt out of corporate America altogether and start our own businesses that can be molded to suit our family life instead of the other way around. Some of these particular events don’t apply to me personally (so don’t freak out, Mom, K?), but are apt generalizations for many in my generation.

Back to Olen. Here’s the money quote at the end of the article that I found refreshing and really singular in the parenting articles I’ve come across:

Life itself is very stimulating — children don’t need a lot of this extra stuff. Just being with your parents and getting to relax and hang out, or even just sort of sitting in the bouncy seat and watching your mom type on the keyboard as she does her work, or going to the market, or just taking a nap and cuddling, is all the stimulation a baby needs.

This is a great message. Our kids just need us, and it’s OK if mom works.

So get off our freaking backs if we do let our kids watch a Baby Einstein video for 10 minutes while we shower. Olen says:

But everyone needs a break, and instead of just letting kids freak out or complain or whine or cry, Generation X thinks it is OK for them to spend that time in front of the television. Even the naysayers say, “I know that it’s not making him into a genius, but at least I can take a shower.” And this is really the first generation of parents for whom taking a shower has become a high-stakes proposition.

There was a period of time when I could put my daughter in her bouncy seat while I showered, when the play of light above her or her toes were the most fascinating thing in the universe. But that doesn’t last forever, and while we’ve tried to teach our daughter that she can entertain herself, that her imagination can take her places the TV can’t — sometimes I needed 10 minutes of peace to take a shower. It was for ME, for my sanity. Olen is falling prey to her own point when she, however gently, chides parents for not letting their kids cry while they shower.

It’s the same old conflicting message I’ve been hearing for the past four years since my daughter was born and I started to pay attention to parenting advice: Be there totally for your kids at every moment, but somehow find time for yourself; make every moment a learning opportunity so that your child can become the genius she was meant to be, and if she doesn’t then it’s your fault; but for goodness sake, relax about it; make it look effortless.

It’s never enough, is it?