1. “Modern Parenting is Hard”
Affirmation and a pep talk for the modern uber parent
Parenting is fun and easy.
Good. I see your mouth agog, bulging eyes and raised eyebrows. I have your attention.
Let’s get real. Parenting is NOT easy but is can be a lot easier than we imagine. The shift that is required to lighten the burden is also important for our kids. But best of all, balanced, moderate parenting is a lot more fun than today’s super parents imagine.
This series from one modern parent (me – hi I’m Jody) to you. I am 48 years old and I live in a lovely town in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada with my hubbie and twin fifteen-year-old boys (and two dogs, 20 chickens, 2 guinea pigs and 3 budgie birds). I am not a parenting expert. In fact, I knew very little about parenting when I became a parent. But I am one of those type A, driven moms who relentlessly searches for parenting methods, advice and support that promise that my kids will grow up to be healthy and happy adults.
What follows is a series of my own personal insights, by no means an authoritative guide, but more of a pep talk for our shared parenting community.
First I invite you to celebrate modern parents and how hard they are working to be the best they can be. Next, we will examine why parenting has grown more demanding over the past 50 years and where we have landed today. The case will then be made that today’s parenting expectations and uber parenting practices may be actually hurting our kids, families, communities and ourselves. After taking a pause and reminding ourselves of our common priorities and goals, I share some of my personal experiences and introduce some concepts that can help us focus on what’s important for healthy development of our kids.
In the midst of raising our kids and trying to make sense of all of this, my friend Joanne and I instinctively developed (or stumbled upon) a way to play with our kids that reinforces these important concepts. We’ve assembled a play kit with everything you need to get started and we have a fantastic website and app to further support your family’s creative play time. (For more information see Kabooterknomes.com)
Let’s start off with: “whoot whoot” to you and all of the hard-working parents out there who are giving parenting their all. You are super heroes!
Happy? Bucket full? Awesome.
Now let’s get real and talk about how incredibly tough and demanding being a parent really is. It’s like the longest marathon in the world (without getting you in shape, it often leaves you smelling just as bad). It’s indisputable that 21st century parenting is really, really HARD.
The good news is that I’m here to throw you a life line and show evidence that being a responsible parent doesn’t have to kill you. And if you aren’t convinced of this, consider that countless studies suggest that the trends and tendencies of modern parenting may be doing our kids, our families, and our communities more harm that good. Choosing to achieve less and play more might be the best thing for all of us.
Parenting is THE most important and noble human calling.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that we don’t take our roles as parents seriously and give anything but our best efforts at raising our kids. Parenting is the most important and noble human calling and most parents rightly take this responsibility very seriously.
And the shared fundamental goals of most parents are to raise healthy and happy kids. We aim to launch our children into the adult world as confident and competent people. We want our kids to carry fond memories of childhood with them, and we dream of someday having healthy adult friendships with them
We all share the same goals – to have healthy and happy kids.
It’s hard to believe that these goals seemed relatively straightforward before I welcomed my boys into the world over 15 years ago. I now know that reaching these objectives is anything but straightforward. Trying to be a good parent is the most challenging and complex undertaking I’ve ever tackled — often complicated, confusing, and thoroughly exhausting. Although without a doubt, being a mom is a truly meaningful, life-changing experience.
Granted, it’s difficult, but is it only me, or does it seems like it didn’t used to be this hard? Thinking back to my childhood and stories of the “good old days”:
Yesteryears. Most of those who grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s or before, knew a completely different set of parental guidelines than are set forth today. Most kids were sent out after breakfast to play with neighborhood kids and told not to come home until the street lights came on. Or until dinner was done – whichever came first [….] Kids were gone with no supervision to get dirty, create their own entertainment and yes, get into plenty of trouble on their own…35 Years Later. Compare that to the story today of the mother who was arrested for allowing her kid (who was 9 at the time) to play at the park while she worked. Quite a different scene today.
We’ve all heard about the good old days, when a parent’s job was to provide their child with food, shelter and leave it up to the kids to entertain themselves. The result was that kids were afforded a lot of space and time to be kids, to explore the world with their siblings and neighborhood friends, and make their own fun using ingenuity, imagination, and whatever was on hand.
I’m old enough to remember those days. I remember being told to “go outside and play”. My parents didn’t apologize for having adult jobs and responsibilities and my brother and I were expected to entertain ourselves a lot of the time. So we rose to the challenge and learned how to make our own fun. We used our imaginations and found fun ways to play and incorporate our toys and anything else we could find around our home. And it was fun. Really fun. Some of my best memories are of the long days of summer, outside in the yard, with my dolls, his cars, some old boxes, and other odds and ends. Hours would fly by while we took a journey through various renditions of our game, taking turns (my doll would ride his car, then his superhero would come over to my house for a dinner party), crafting stuff we needed to make the game “better”, arguing and negotiating, solving problems by sharing ideas, and making constant adjustments to up the fun factor.
When many middle-aged people think back to their childhood, they remember roaming the streets with their friends during long, hot summers. Our parents threw us out the door in the morning and instructed us not to come back until dinnertime. Often in charge of younger siblings, we strayed further than we should have, got into trouble and, by the end of the summer, had a collection of triumphs, scars and memories for life.
The degree of parental involvement and supervision in the 1970s was not a tenth of what is expected today. Fast forward to 2014 and a woman was arrested for allowing her nine-year-old to play in the park while she worked.
According to an article in The Conversation, “A recent survey of children aged 8-12 found that indoor play is now the norm, a third have never splashed in a puddle and the distance children are allowed to play from home has shrunk by 90% since 1970”.
That’s an astronomical shift in parenting tactics.
No matter how much you adore your offspring, it’s hard not to wonder, exhaustedly: “Why is this so dang hard? I don’t remember my own parents being this stressed.”
Mom Blogger Constance Hall once asked her father how her grandmother managed to raise 11 children. “My dad responded that she wasn’t given half the pressures I was,” she wrote:
“She didn’t have to go to the bank, the supermarket everyday, she wasn’t expected to look a million bucks straight after birth and she never put pressure on her kids to have reached all of their milestones by the age of 3 weeks, have the house clean and own a thermomixer,” she added. “She just hung out with her kids and enjoyed them.”
On a lighter note, Amy Wruble writes that on “stressful days, I just want to crank my DeLorean up to 88 mph and travel back to the 1980s, when parenting seemed less taxing and came with a far skinnier rule book”.
She presents a list of fun examples of why it was so simple for parents in the 80’s including:
- Instead of fussing over car seats, parents could toss kids in the “way back” of the station wagon and let them roll around like oranges.
- Everybody in the family shared one phone. Not only was a land line way cheaper than individual mobiles, but Mom always knew who was calling her kids — and her husband.
- It was totally acceptable to send the kids out to play after lunch and ask only that they be back by dinner. Or dark. Bug bites were a bigger concern than child predators.
- Swimming pools had diving boards, bicycles were ridden without helmets and newborns could sleep on their stomachs. Sure it was riskier, but think how much easier it must have been to keep kids happy.
- Flight attendants (back when they were called stewardesses) would bend over backwards to entertain your kids on the airplane, taking them on field trips to the cockpit, doling out coloring books, and awarding those coveted wings. Now you’re lucky if you can score some 2% milk.
- Childcare was a combination of grandma and the teenager next door who charged a buck fifty an hour. Today, our babysitter makes ten times that amount, but I’m pretty sure we don’t earn 10 times what our parents did.
- Remember the four food groups? Carbs were an essential part of the daily diet! Ice cream was considered a reasonable source of milk! Moms weren’t scorned for serving a microwaved TV dinner — they were just being modern and efficient. I reflect on this when I’m shopping for organic kale and learning to make quinoa.
All kidding aside (actually…I remember all of these things being practiced on me and my friends in the 80s) it’s generally accepted that parenting is tougher these days.
So why is parenting these days so hard?