This week, I asked Boston-area parents what it means to be a mom in 2023, in honor of Mother’s Day. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Humor? Gratitude? Complaints about camp waiting lists? The flood of responses that I received was clear: No amount of Mother’s Day cards, flowers, breakfast in bed, or air-conditioned naps in a darkened room can mitigate a pervasive sense of dread over insidious technology, school shootings, hate crimes, pandemic-induced isolation, and on and on. These are just a few of the replies — a snapshot of the state of American motherhood right now.
Being a mother in 2023: saying goodbye to your child when they leave for school and hoping they won’t be victims of a shooting while there. – Stacy, Acton
Being a mom in 2023 is about the never-ending search for balance and learning to be OK with not being able to give 100 percent. It’s about accepting that we have limits and we’re just doing the best we can. It’s about forcing yourself to turn off the “noise” (the Instagram parenting accounts, the TikTok hacks, the constant e-mails/texts/DMs, the desire to document everything with your phone) and figuring out how to just be present, in whatever way you need to be, even if only for a few moments. – Lori, Needham
The best part of being a mom today is the access to new ideas and parenting support that are free and easy to access through social media. I don’t have to find time to read parenting books like my mom did. And the parenting advice I receive has made me a better person.
The hardest part of being a mom is feeling like I live in a country that doesn’t value or prioritize children. Young children were the last to get COVID vaccines, but the world went on and put them at risk anyway. The lack of paid leave is a disaster, which COVID exposed as well. And the lack of meaningful action on gun violence is devastating. My friends and I often feel left behind. Our parents encouraged us to have kids, but as a group, our parents’ generation doesn’t seem very invested in seeing our children thrive. – Cara, Portland, Maine
Being a mom in 2023 means never not being a mom. I not only mother my child, I mother my colleagues, community, and as a member of the sandwich generation, my own parents. It has even been said that I mother my spouse, despite our best efforts for parity. There’s a strong case to be made that this is not only a problem for mothers but for women of my generation in general. We were raised with the idea that we could be anything we wanted, but we are still struggling to believe that we don’t have to be everything. The rest of the world surely expects that we will. – Leah, Somerville
There are so many things to consider: screen time (I grew up with Saturday morning cartoons and that was it!), social justice topics, LGBTQIA community, politics, hate crimes, environmental issues . . . all on top of the usual stuff that concerns my girl: friends and friendship, schoolwork, fashion, body changes. I have to answer questions and give opinions on so many things, and I can’t forget mental health, what to pack for lunches, new clothes and shoes, Roblox, and: Does she have clean clothes? – Shalini, Cambridge
Being a mother in 2023 is being forgotten by society. We are penalized if we stay in our jobs and penalized if we leave them. If we complain, we are told it was a “choice,” and we are being asked to do a job that is meant to be communal as individuals. We are expected to lean into paid work, but nobody has leaned into doing the unpaid work. We are told we are superstars and should be able to complete everything all the time. Our skills are asked for all the time. Mothering our parents, our kids, our spouses. And yet those skills are devalued, and using them actually works against us in many situations. – Leigh, Cambridge
I have a much larger pool of information at my fingertips than mothers before me. That allows me to parent in a radically different way than what I learned at home or could have invented on my own. However, I also have a much smaller in-person community.
My safety net is thin and far-flung. Becoming a mother can be isolating, but the depth of isolation of becoming a mother during a pandemic is something I can’t seem to impress upon my parents’ generation. Economically, most households have needed to shift to two incomes, but socially, the shift to two domestic contributors is lagging. Moms in 2023 are expected to power through it all. I hope my children will expect a more equitable dynamic in their adult relationships. – Brandi, Medford
Constantly worrying about school shootings and mass shootings. – Heather, Boxford
A year ago, my boomer parents observed that there seemed to be an inordinate percentage of kids with behavioral challenges at a preschool event they attended. I told them that I’m pretty sure this is what all schools look like right now, because this is what happens when kids live through a time of collective trauma and absorb all the fears of a world besieged with a years-long pandemic, weekly mass shootings, racism, misogyny, ecological destruction, and isolationist rhetoric. For me, being a mother in 2023 means calling on every ounce of empathy and emotional strength I possess as I try to hold space for my little family’s very big feelings and buffer them through these stormy times. – Carrie, Medford
Being a mother in 2023 means saying a prayer every day when your kids go to school, mall, movie theater, or supermarket because someone might show up with an assault weapon and shoot them dead, and nobody who can make a difference will bat an eyelid. The role of a mother in this era is to be an endless devotee to God because there is nothing she can do besides pray and be prepared to lose her children depending on which particular lunatic happens to cross paths with them that day. – Zeenat, Needham
It’s a balancing act between work and home and between letting our children be children but also protecting them from the harsh reality of the turmoil we are facing in our country. Being a mother in this era is more than hard. The bar has risen due to social media and the fact that mostly all of us need to work full time to afford to live. My hope is to raise children who are kinder to others, to themselves, and to the Earth so that they may live a better adult life than we are living now. – Amanda, Quincy
My husband and I each have advanced degrees, great jobs, a cheap mortgage, and even a 25 percent discount off our child care but still are going to be in the red when student loan payments kick in again. If we can’t make it work with all that, how can anyone with less fortunate circumstances? – Erica, Lynn
As a working mother, it means being stretched at work and at home. The demands at both have increased: COVID impacts to my job, challenges my children have faced with changing schools, friends moving, trying to engage in activities, et cetera. The mental load is so high even with an active partner. Balance isn’t possible, and depending on the week, home wins or work wins. It’s very hard, and I feel like my village is more limited than it was before. The joys are seeing the resilience of my kids through the pandemic despite all of the challenges they’ve faced individually. – Kristin, Boston
I know this sounds a little sappy, but I think after everything that has happened over the past few years, we have all had to be more vulnerable as mothers. I have two girls (13 and 9) and find myself trying to be more authentic — sharing my own struggles and triumphs — rather than trying to be perfect all the time. – Erin, Belmont
Motherhood is pure love: Love of your kids over yourself. – Tonia, Boston
I think being a mother in 2023 means learning (and teaching your kid) how to balance technology along with being present for those in person. I think the digital era is also hard on parents. All this technology makes them less present with their kids, and also I find that it hurts when I see others on Facebook hanging out and knowing that I was not invited. – Sara, Needham
I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be the Pinterest-perfect mom. The best parties, the matching outfits for Christmas cards, amazing dinners every night, being a single-digit pant size, and the perfect house. I have literally none of that and have spent a lot of time feeling not good enough as a mom because of it. Weirdly, COVID helped me realize my kids are happy (most of the time), they know they’re loved (all of the time), and they love me. – Laura, Boxborough
For me, it’s having the most critical job (raising the next generation) while being given the bare minimum support from our country, on top of having to worry about our children’s safety. It’s worrying what kind of world they are growing up in and how to both protect them (shootings, climate change, bigotry) and how to empower them to be the change that is needed.
It’s about being a working mom stretched so thin because we lack social safety nets, access to affordable child care, underfunded public school systems, et cetera. There are so many things mothers have to worry about and manage, and so much of that work is unseen and undervalued, if valued at all. I love being a mom more than anything. I don’t mean for this to be negative. I just wish moms were supported instead of taken for granted. – Jackie, Norwood
Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.