Is it more difficult to be a mother today compared to 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 years ago?

From our local public radio station: “I Love My Kids But I Loathe Mother’s Day — Especially This Year”.

… our culture has a pretty long rap sheet of under-appreciating women. And day in and day out, those moms tend to not get the credit they deserve because they make so much look easy: holding together infinite moving parts to accomplish the mission of the family machine, plus adding glitter. Metaphorical glitter. Sometimes real glitter, added by real children. Which the moms are usually stuck cleaning up.

The truth is, of course, that at this moment nothing’s okay for anybody. And I get that it isn’t the holiday’s fault that we need to adjust gender and work roles and laws and unwritten rules. But right now, it’s easier to imagine a marginally improved version of Mother’s Day (minus the false pedestal mess) than to dare to dream of civilizational change.

Solidarity, moms. Each and every one of you: Happy sub-optimal holiday in these sub-optimal times to some of the most superoptimal people on Earth.

In other words, something humans have been doing for 200,000 years is now intolerably burdensome, despite a climate-conditioned home packed with labor-saving machines.

Readers: Is motherhood in fact now more burdensome than in earlier eras? Or it was always intolerably burdensome, but mothers did not have as many outlets for complaining about the burden so we don’t how unhappy women were in Ancient Athens, Siddhattha Gotama’s India, or the China of Confucius?


5 thoughts on “Is it more difficult to be a mother today compared to 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 years ago?

  1. Oh, this is an easy one, it has mouse utopia all over it. (It’s mildly surprising the Wikipolice have left the Calhoun page up in that form. The paragraph beginning “After day 600” explains so much about the western world; I guess they haven’t noticed.)

    (The Great Coronahysteria of 2020-?, on the other hand, presents some problems for mouse utopia theory – Belarus as a heretic nation makes sense, but Sweden? And both India and South Africa showing such zeal in the Corona faith is also unexpected. If science ever returns in whatever replaces the western world, that might be a challenging field of study.)

  2. From a past useful blog, now gone

    I was born, raised, and went through school with feminism. I believed all of the propaganda about the idyllic new world we were creating, a world in which no one would suffer discrimination; a world in which anyone could take on any role that they wanted in life. I really believed that stuff. As well, looking around me and looking back, I must say that for Canadian and American women this dream has pretty-much been realized, at least as best it can be in an imperfect world.

    The rub is that for men the quality of life has gone in the opposite direction. Now, I’m not talking about men’s fortunes going downhill in the feminist sense. You know: men having been at the pinnacle of power, controlling everything, running the home, running the political world, the financial world, and pretty much every other world there was to run, and now having to share that power with women. I don’t believe that bunkum any more.

    After all, Fred Everyman who dragged his butt to the factory every morning and back home every evening thirty years ago is still dragging his butt around the same way thirty years later, if he’s lucky enough to have a factory to which to drag it. It is true that the high-rolling, über-boss men of yore now have to share the corner office with high-rolling über-boss women, and this may upset them (I wouldn’t know), but life options for the average working Joe haven’t changed much in three decades.

    One thing that has changed a lot for Fred Everyman is married life. There once was a time when Fred would wake up in the morning, sit down to a nutritious breakfast made for him by his wife, head off to work carrying a lunch made for him by his wife, work all day, then return home to a dinner cooked for him by his wife, in a house that he didn’t have to clean, perhaps with kids that he helped raise but didn’t have to tend.

    What we refer to as “modern women” see this scenario as a kind of slavery. Jane Everyman was stuck at home, cooking, cleaning, and wiping runny noses. Many of today’s women have sworn that they would never cook, clean, and raise children for any man, and many of them have managed to avoid these things, principally by convincing men that men ought to help out with the household chores while at the same time she goes out to earn a bit more money. This still seems like a fair trade to me, and this was why I supported feminism: not to free women from slavery, but to allow men to become more involved in their homes and their childrens’ lives.

    Then two things went terribly wrong. First, rather than signing up for boring but profitable work like computer programming, or dangerous but profitable work like underwater welding or garbage collection, women signed up en masse for people-contact professions that had always paid—and continue to pay—lousy wages. Second, in addition to insisting that men learn to cook, clean, and look after kids, many women decided that the best way not to be caught in the housewife / mother trap was not to learn any of this stuff, and ultimately not to do it.

    What we’ve ended up with is something that boggles my mind: thousands of women who made career choices that stressed “easy” over “profitable,” who as well know next to nothing about keeping house, complaining that they can’t seem to meet the man of their dreams.

    This does not surprise me. Who the hell would want them?

    Don’t get me wrong: love is a wonderful thing, and it’s one of the biggest rushes in life to meet someone who turns you on sexually, enjoys spending time with you, and likes many of the same things that you like. However, the harsh reality is that eventually some meals must be cooked, some dishes washed, some babies changed, leaves mucked out of gutters, toilets repaired, and oil changed. This is the stuff of everyday life, and someone has to do it. Love and friendship are wonderful things, but one must also address the practical matters of living. The garbage won’t take itself out.

    I know far too many “modern” women who make lousy money, are hopeless in a kitchen, couldn’t change a tire if their lives depended on it, get vertigo on step ladders, and don’t want children. These same women think that they deserve to be married to some wonderful guy just for existing. I had a short discussion with a school teacher friend of mine in which I asked why men had to bring women flowers, but women never bring men flowers (I like flowers). Her response? “Our presence is our gift to you!” I guffawed. I haven’t been invited back. Women who are of no practical use to anyone think that they deserve everlasting happiness with some dream prince because, well, they’re just such great company.

    Except that they’re not.

    Men typically don’t spend a lot of time in card stores, but you should pop into one some time. It’s instructive. Carlton or Hallmark, it doesn’t matter. Drop in and check out the “for women only” section. I’ll give you a sample: “Congratulations on your marriage. Your new life will require energy, determination, and skill…. Training a man isn’t easy.” Or, how about this one: “All men are scum…. Oh, for a moment there, I was feeling generous.” Women—the same “modern” women I’m talking about—buy these things. They actually believe stuff like this, and have a hearty laugh over it. I know, because my cousins buy these things and send them to each other. My female friends post them on their kitchen walls.

    So who, I must ask, wants to stay home and look after a house for a woman who, even if she did make good money, thinks you’re a loser just because you’re male? Who wants to listen to “stupid men” jokes year after year? And who, short of the most masochistic among us, would agree to both work and take care of the house only to be told by a woman who is inept at anything that could be labeled “work” that you’re somehow sub-human?

    Men helped open up the workplace to women when they demanded it. Men even changed the workplace to make it better than it had ever been when it was only men working. Men introduced new laws to accommodate women in the workplace. A good number of us learned to cook, and even more of us took up scrub brushes and pails of Pine-Sol to help with the cleaning. We learned to do laundry and ironing. We learned to change diapers and how warm the milk should be before baby gets it. Many of us now know more about looking after a home than many women.

    After all of this, we get sneering disrespect from junior secretaries who have trouble cooking pasta. Then, when they get tired of us, they divorce us and take the kids, the house, and the car the way their grandmothers did.

    If I sound depressed by this modern condition, I am. If I sound nostalgic for the Fifties, I’m not particularly. You see, my dream had always been to marry a woman who made good money. I love cooking; I love kids; I enjoy decorating although I’m not that good at it; I can take or leave cleaning, but I did it for twenty years so I could do it for sixty more without much problem; I can also take a passable crack at repairing a car engine and I can climb ladders and move heavy furniture, which is more than the fabled Fifties housewife could do. I can also, in a pinch, make good money.

    Neither am I alone. I have a friend on my sports team who brings cakes and squares after every practice. I have another good friend who does prize-winning needlepoint. A lot of my male friends are single and although, as I’ll freely admit, some of their places are strictly utilitarian, others would surprise you with their tasteful decor. There are still a few “Neanderthal” men out there, but there are also a lot, like me, who have grown up self-sufficient, tidy, and capable in the home.

    After all of this, I find that I look around at the single women I know, and I shudder. I listen to them giggling about how stupid and useless men are, and it makes me glad that I can take care of myself. Women think that they have finally arrived at a place where they don’t need men any more. They can make their own money, and modern technology makes much of men’s strengths and skills obsolete. However, I have news for those women who think that this gives them a leg up on us men: many of us don’t need you, either. We can cook, clean, and look after ourselves.

    For men like me, the only remaining reason to start an intimate relationship with a woman is her personality.

    Which is why so many of us are single.

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