Nothing is the same. It's not like it used to be. Things have changed. At least that's what my mother always tells me when it comes to children.
I'm a good son, so I faithfully nodded in agreement, not daring to question the conventional wisdom of this view. Let's face it, older people always think they had it tougher than the current generation. Heck, I think I had it tougher than a lot of the young people I work with right now.
Then a few weeks ago, in a small antique shop I visited during a trip to Nova Scotia, I bought a 50-year-old magazine published by the hospital in my Mom's hometown of Truro. This magazine was given to each new mother after the birth of her baby. Since then I've probably read it half a dozen times, and each time I do, it makes me shake my head in disbelief. Because let me tell you, nothing is the same, it's not like it used to be, and times have changed.
For instance, there's an article titled "Doctor knows best!" that basically tells mothers to do everything a doctor tells her to do without question. The people who wrote this article never met my wife.
One day during a visit to her obstetrician's office when she pregnant with our first, the doctor, a woman, told my wife (who had been asking lots of questions) that she didn't need to know so much because her pregnancy was between "us" (meaning the doctors) and Mother Nature. My wife looked down at her bulging waistline, looked back up at the doctor and said, "I am Mother Nature." She got up, left, and went to a midwife.
There's another article, titled "What's your fabric IQ?" Well, I know a little bit about cotton, but I'm sure I would flunk the polyester portion of the exam. "What is a boy?" and "What is a girl?" I will leave to your imaginations. "There's an art to folding diapers" caught my eye, since I don't fold 'em, I just toss 'em. But my absolute favorite is: "Are you a model mother?"
According to the article, "You are if ..."
You make time for that little daily nap until you are 100 percent back on your feet.
The problem with this advice is that no one bothers to give it to the baby, who knows a lot about little daily naps, but is unfortunately on a completely different schedule.
You remember that your husband is still a member of the family.
My mother explained this to me. Each time she brought a baby home she had a lot to do, and my Dad was, well, basically useless in these matters. So after a few weeks, she would notice this guy hanging around the house and remember it was the guy she had married. These days, if I'm gone for longer than five minutes, my wife figures I'm out somewhere slacking off.
You let Dad pitch in with some of the nursery tasks.
Well, I won't bore you with my "pitching in" stories, except to say that I can change a diaper in a hurricane while hanging upside down in a dark room. But my Dad, well ... you know. In the late '50s, early '60s when Mom was in the hospital having my brother and sisters, this meant my Dad had to look after us for, oh, hours at a time. And not a single hour passed without a phone call to my mom in the hospital to ask how to use the broom.
You find enough time each day to keep your home neat, tidy, and fresh.
Uh-huh. Every time I read this one it reminds me that there was a reason that the women's liberation movement happened.
You don't let your newly added duties prevent you from careful grooming and dressing.
My wife is just 5 feet tall. All of our children weighed more than 8-and-a-half pounds at birth. After accomplishing these feats, "careful grooming" was not a priority. And if I had wandered up to her and said, "Gee honey, you're really looking a little dowdy" I would have become the first Canadian on the moon.
You still make tasty and appetizing meals for the breadwinner to come home to.
Stop it, please. You're killing me. I can't take it. I figure that after having a baby, the last thing my wife is worried about (or should be worried about) is making me a "tasty and appetizing meal." (Not to mention that she wins as much "bread" as I do.) That's why God invented take-out.
So now, I will give credit where credit is due. My mom did have a harder time back then than I do now. Just don't tell her I said so, OK?
Tom Regan is associate editor at csmonitor.com.