The Joy of Motherhood: Reality or Myth?


May 16, 2007 — -- Is it a social taboo to say that raising children bores you? Do you secretly hate having to read the same bedtime stories to your children over and over again? What about having to go to their music recital, all three nights?

For most moms, it is considered inappropriate to express boredom with these natural motherly duties, but freelance journalist Helen Kirwin-Taylor is one mom who isn't afraid to break those taboos.

Kirwin-Taylor, a mother of two young boys, says that "day after day after day, I think it gets very boring." She was so disturbed by the unwritten rule against saying anything negative about child-rearing that she wrote an article for London's Daily Mail entitled "Sorry, But My Children Bore Me to Death." Now a stay-at-home mom, Kirwin-Taylor admitted that she was bored stiff when taking her kids to birthday parties, to play dates and to school plays, and her article caused shock waves on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Good Morning America Radio's" Hilarie Barsky brought up this hot topic last week on her morning show. One woman who called into the show said, "I just have a real problem with someone who is so selfish in the idea of, you know, that's what motherhood is."

And it wasn't just on the radio show where reactions to Kirwin-Taylor's article ran the gamut of extreme emotions. One person wrote on an Internet blog in response to the article, saying, "do the world a favor and don't reproduce." Another post read, "Your lack of parental love borders on child abuse."

Kirwin-Taylor is quick to respond to these negative comments. "I think a lot of women read it as I was interfering and that their lives are meaningless," she said. Kirwin-Taylor adds that she sees more mothers like herself losing the freedom to express themselves in a more child-centered world. "You know, ten years before I started having children, there was no more cult of the child. Much, much more is expected."

Stephanie Coontz, the director of research for the Council on Contemporary Families, says that today's mothers and fathers are spending much more time with their children than their parents spent with them. "Somehow we've ratcheted up our expectations of what mothers should do and how much satisfaction we should get out of creating perfect little things."

Coontz says mothers are more aware that there should be an interactive relationship with their kids and that parents are more likely to feel guilty about not doing enough with their children in today's more competitive world.

Kirwin-Taylor feels that women who trade full-time jobs for full-time motherhood, as she did, end up transferring their drive to succeed from the workplace to the home. "I think we turned it into a profession, and it became competitive," she said, "and that is when everything changed."

She also says that since she waited for a long time to have children, she expected it to be the most fascinating thing in the world and, when it wasn't, she wanted to talk about what she experienced.

But some moms say that Kirwin-Taylor is missing the point of parenthood and strongly disagree with her when it comes to reading bedtime stories and participating in children's activities. "Why did she have children in the first place if she wasn't gong to be all into it? You're going to have to do things that you don't want to do and hopefully you will want to do them because you'll see the joy in your child's face," said one suburban mom.

Another mom said, "There are some people who are like that. You know, anytime it takes away from themselves, they're not happy and they don't like it."

Kirwin-Taylor laments the fact that her article created a war, instead of dispelling a taboo. But is there a middle ground when it comes to the mommy wars?

Authors Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile, who co-wrote "I Was a Really Good Mom Before I had Kids," think they have found it.

"We're not united enough," Nobile said, "and we're kind of pitting ourselves against each other in order to just make ourselves feel like, 'Oh, I'm doing a good job. I'm making the right choice.'"

They make the point that mothers shouldn't expect perfection of themselves or each other.

Now that Kirwin-Taylor's sons are 13 and 11, she feels that her relationship with them has matured and now enjoys sharing activities with them.

"I had this idea that good mothers read three bedtime stories. Good mothers do not get tired, they do not get stressed, they do not lose their temper. They do not think any homework is boring. They don't think anything is boring," she said.

"I'm quite proud of myself because now, we've come out of the war and now, I'm in the fun bit. And now, we can talk about everything and we're all great friends."