I'm partial to warts-and-all parenting articles so I was intrigued by a recent column in Britain's Daily Mail with the headline "Sorry, but My Children Bore Me to Death!" The piece, written by Helen Kirwan-Taylor, a 42-year-old writer with two boys, ages 12 and 10, argues that mothers are "enslaved" by their children and admits that she often chooses work, shopping or going to the gym over doing kids stuff -- even reading bedtime stories! -- because she finds it all so mind-numbingly dull.
"I know this is one of the last taboos of modern society," she writes. "To admit that you, a mother of the new millennium, don't find your offspring thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable at all times is a state of affairs very few women are prepared to admit. We feel ashamed, and unfit to be mothers." Kirwan-Taylor feels alienated from those mums who have made raising children their de facto careers, but her guilt subsides once she starts talking to friends who also find aspects of parenting dreary, and shrinks who tell her that child-centered parenting just creates narcissistic children anyway.
To be sure Kirwan-Taylor is in a privileged position. She can choose to opt out of singalongs and birthday parties because she can afford to dispatch a nanny in her place. And maybe her insistence that her kids are self-reliant is simply a huge rationalization for her absenteeism. But before you label her a shallow, whiny woman who never should have had kids in the first place -- Daily Mail readers beat you to it, anyway -- let's take a moment to appreciate her candor and to consider what I think is her important, if smug, conclusion.
"Frankly, as long as you've fed them, sheltered them and told them they are loved, children will be fine. Mine are -- at the risk of sounding smug -- well-adjusted, creative children who respect the concept of work. They also accept my limitations."
Let's start our week by hashing out some of the thorny issues raised by this article. Are parents today too hyper-vigilant, or do too many outsource child-rearing? Does someone who admits to finding aspects of parenthood really dull love her kids less than one who enthusiastically attends baby sign language class? If a man wrote a column about how boring he found fatherhood would we find it more -- or less -- distasteful than a column written by a mother? And would this article ever have been published in an American newspaper?