My Papou came over last week for lunch and while we ate our way through french toast and bacon, we talked and laughed with the kids and my mom. At one point, my papou turned to me and asked, do you think motherhood is more difficult now than it was back then?
It’s funny because I had never really truly thought through what it was like to be a mom for my own mother or grandmothers. I’ve gotten glimpses with the stories they told, or had an idea looking through pictures, but I didn’t live through their experience, so it’s never really made sense to compare. For some reason though, without any hesitation, I immediately answered that it was more difficult back then.
The reason I was so quick to answer initially is because I feel like a lot of dads are so much more involved in parenthood nowadays. I know that’s not the case in every family, but it’s clear that it’s become a trend to take more of a co–parenting approach to parenthood. And it makes such a difference parenting with someone who is extremely engaged with their kids, changes just as many diapers and divides and conquers on bedtime routines, meals and everything else in life. Growing up, my dad spent a ton quality time with us, but he also worked around the clock to provide for our family, and my mom did a lot of the behind the scenes stuff.
As the day passed, I continued to think about the experiences the women in my family have lived through to get me to motherhood today. I thought about both my yiayia and nonna traveling from Europe to the U.S. by boat to build a better life for themselves and future families. I think about my yiayia raising three little kids in a one-bedroom apartment while trying to run a business. I think about my nonna working, raising three girls and saving every dime to put their daughters through college. And then I think about my mom, making us home-cooked meals pretty much every single night while working part-time and taking care of us. She’d go from store to store to get the best deals on groceries (she still does this!) and a lot of the time, had to spend holidays with just my brother and me because my dad had to work.
Each of them made sacrifices and took chances to create a better life for me and my children, and honestly, thinking about the things they had to endure for their kids (especially my grandmas) makes me kind of feel like a wuss. My mom didn’t have the luxury of going on Starbucks runs with the kids when we were little, my yiayia and nonna weren’t able to fly on planes to go on vacation, and they weren’t able to afford memberships or park district activities. There are days motherhood is really tough for me, and while I think it’s okay to have tough days, motherhood seems simpler when I look back on the circumstances they had to face. Their journey puts so much into perspective. I’m not saying motherhood is a breeze for me, because it’s not. There are days I get impatient, frustrated, and just over it, but I am SO blessed to be a mom in this day and age and grateful for everything the women I love have done before me (both my family and my husband’s family).
Motherhood today is a completely different world than it was 20, 30 or 50 years ago. I’m grateful that we have examples (good and bad) to learn from. Reflecting on the stories that helped mold our journey can help us see things in a new light. So, first, a huge thank you to papou for opening my eyes, sharing some of my yiayia’s story and allowing me to recognize the domino effect great motherhood can have on a life. Second, cheers to the mothers who have gone through all of this joy and chaos before us. And third, so much love to the women today working their tails off through motherhood to provide a better future for their families.
(featured photo at the top taken by Rebecca Haley Photography)