I am the first to agree that being a parent is an incredibly demanding job, but this joke that all we really need to do is "keep the kids alive" has gone too far.
I know that the phrase "just keep them alive" is meant to relieve the intense pressure that moms feel to be perfect. Moms are under constant scrutiny from others, and we have hoards of Insta-moms to compare ourselves to. Does the oatmeal really have to be organic? Can we put on some Peppa Pig so we can get the dusting done, but then just not?
Everyone deserves a break, and no one should put their mental or physical health on the back burner. But let's get real: Moms need to do a lot more than "just keep the kids alive" and joking about it is honestly offensive.
Please remember that there are actual moms out there who just keep their kids alive and that is not okay. That is neglect and it has lifelong consequences on kids who deserve to grow up in loving homes.
In the United States, 4 million cases of child maltreatment are reported each year, 120 thousand of which are cases of neglect. Nine percent of child abuse victims die from neglect.
Suffering from neglect has serious effects on a child's entire life. It can lead to problems with brain development and a higher chance of having mental health problems, including depression.
Kids who are neglected can have difficulty with relationships later in life, including with their own children. They are more likely to end up in dangerous situations like running away from home, using drugs and alcohol, breaking the law, or getting into dangerous relationships.
While there are children whose parents willfully neglect them, there is also a massive number of families worldwide living in serious poverty. Children in these places are suffering, and failing to thrive because they do not have access to enough food, water, or basic sanitation. Parents in these places do not the means to do anything but keep their kids alive.
According to the Food Aid Foundation, about 100 million children living in developing countries are underweight because they do not have enough food. One in three has stunted growth.
In the USA, 11.9 children live in poverty.
I'm sure you're getting my point by now, but I know some of you are still shaking your heads. Of course, you don't mean to trivialize the serious topics I'm bringing up. You are only making a joke that helps you get through day, right?
Maybe you have 2 kids under two or 3 kids under three and admitting that you are in survival mode helps you be gentler on yourself. I get that, but once again, I don't think you should be making the joke that you just need to "keep them alive." At least, not too often.
Here's the thing: joking about this might make you feel better for a while, but it can also start to bring you down. This kind of attitude can make us lazier and lazier. It is a slippery slope until we are really not expecting the best of ourselves. Giving ourselves grace is not the same as giving up.
Letting ourselves go as parents is honestly not best for our kids. It is beneficial for them to see us prioritizing our own mental and physical health. It helps them understand that others have needs, and it models good self-care for them to emulate in their own lives.
You can do this. There will be bumps along the way, and there will be days when you do feel like you're barely hanging on. But repeatedly joking about doing the minimum can turn into exerting the minimum amount of effort necessary. This is bad for our morale and it can get us depressed!
Sometimes it's better to motivate moms to keep trying rather than give them passes to stop trying.
Our kids deserve our best. Deep down, we all know that. It doesn't mean we have to wear ourselves out. But we should take this job seriously, and put our all into doing so much more than "just keeping the kids alive."