Life in America has changed a lot over the past 20 years and so, too, has motherhood. Parents and experts agree that while bearing and raising children has become progressively easier, motherhood remains an intensely challenging experience.
Many modern mothers feel luckier than their mothers. That's what a group of young mothers told NBC news recently.
"I can do my work here, from my kitchen desk. I can write my stories, send them out in an e-mail and be done with it. My mother didn't have that choice. I do," one mother said
"On my blog, I keep track of what my kids are doing, so my parents and my husband's parents know what's going on all the time. I can use the Internet to connect with a lot of moms from different backgrounds," another added.
Along with advances in technology, other trends have made modern mothers' lives easier than their mothers', according to a recent survey by Parenting Magazine.
"Dads are spending about as much time taking care of their kids today. It's up to 7 hours a week in average. That gives moms more flexibility," Parenting Magazine editor Lisa Bain says. "Modern working mothers also have a more flexible work life" she adds. "It used to be, 'I work or I stay home.' But now, moms are not seeing it as just black and white. They are trying to create scenarios for themselves."
But in the magazine's survey, Bain says, 73 percent of moms said yesterday's moms had it easier. Ninety-six percent say today's moms are more stressed.
"What everybody sort of underestimates is the amount of pressures that has placed on us," says Trisha Ashworth, a mother of three children. "This generation is seen as very lucky. We certainly are. We have many choices. But pressure is put on us to fulfill those choices, this dream of being able to do it all and do it perfectly. This is a tough generation to be in."
Ashworth says modern mothers even create more pressure for themselves.
"The past generation kind of knew what was expected from them," she says. "For the most part, they had to have dinner on the table. They had to do the laundry. They allowed their kids to run outside and play by themselves for 3 hours at a time. Our generation is trying to figure out, 'What is a good mom?' A lot of us put pressure on ourselves to be with the kids a lot. We don't allow them to run outside and play. We define ourselves as good moms if we are on the floor playing with them. That's a lot more pressure too."
Ashworth, along with her friend Amy Mobile, who is also a mother, interviewed more than 100 mothers across the country, searching for the tools and the resources to help today's moms handle the increased pressures of motherhood. They describe their findings in a book titled, I was a Good Mom Before I had Kids: Reinventing Modern Motherhood.
"One of the conclusions in the book is there is no magical right path," Mobile says. "We can all be good moms as long as we are really adjusting our expectations to what's real and making conscious choices based on what's right for us," Mobile says. "Learn to redefine what a good mother is for your family, for yourself, something that's attainable,"
Young mothers also need to trust themselves, follow their instincts and learn to worry less about their kids, according to writer and parenting expert Paula Spencer:
"Worry and guilt are two things that every mother has," she says. "You can't make them go away completely. We certainly have many things to worry about, but it certainly doesn't warrant the degree of hysterical worry that people put into it. Moms are worrying about getting their child to college while the child is still in pre-school. They worry about every morsel of food we feed them because they are afraid of some future diseases 50 years from now."
While raising her 10 kids, Kathryn Sansone says she also learned how to face her worries and reduce most of the pressures she felt. In her book, Mothers First, Family Always, she recommends that mothers be sure to take care of themselves, so that they are better able not only to juggle their roles as a woman, wife and mother, but to thrive in all three.
Not only will you benefit from being a healthier woman, so will your husband and your children, she says. "You have to keep things in balance: physically, spiritually and emotionally. Physically, you have to work out. On a spiritual level, I can't possibly take it all on myself, all the worries, all the stresses that I have with my children, family and husband. I give it up to God and let it go. Then emotionally, you have to reconnect with the friendships that you had before you got married and had children. So you don't feel alone, and learn from other people."
Sansone says whether they're stay-at-home or working, married or single, older or younger, today's mothers are stressed out. They need to take better care of themselves. Mothers who take care of themselves are happier. And happier mothers, she says, can raise happier children.