Parenting was so much easier…until I became a parent. Welcome to ParentalGrit, where we kick off this week by desperately claiming that things are so much harder today than they used to be for parents. I can’t really use “back in my day” so I suppose I’ll resort to “here in my day” to vent about the evolution of parenthood. While I’ll gladly make the case that parenting used to be easier, it seems bizarre to type ‘parenting’ and ‘easier’ in the same sentence, no matter the situation. Easy is simply not a word that should be associated with parenting, no matter the era. If you’re a younger parent, nod your head and follow along; if you’re a generation removed from parenting, shake your fist as you follow along!
I would argue the single biggest change between parenting today and parenting in the past is social media. Social media’s effects are certainly not exclusive to parenthood, but the pitfalls of social media seem exacerbated within parenting circles. Facebook and Instagram are literally highlight reels of everybody’s lives (and yet my FB feed is nearly empty…hmmm….); they contain only the greatest of celebrations, the most stunning pictures, and always the happiest of posts. Supermoms abound as beautifully fit women wearing $6k in Lululemon apparel somehow dress their 7 children in matching outfits and only take photographs when their kids’ eyes are open. It’s an absolute subconscious drain when you have been fighting a rabid toddler for 15 hours, you haven’t showered, the baby’s vomiting, and you pop open your cellphone for a reprieve only to find nothing but glamour posts galore. Sigh.
I don’t have any strong opinions on women staying at home, men staying at home, or neither staying at home and letting the little critters raise themselves but it’s no secret that dual-income households disrupt the typical family profile from several decades ago. It is not necessarily a bad thing that both parents are often working these days, but it certainly is different. My wife and I are one such household, and it can be quite the nightmare to fight the daycare routine (apparently my wife doesn’t believe our girls can raise themselves), work all week, and cram as much family togetherness as possible in all the spare moments. When you slide in all the work a Stay-at-home parent might do (housework, laundry, dropping kids off, etc.), it’s rather daunting for parents to ever feel like they’re doing a good job.
Have you ever had a nauseating fever all over your body that led you quickly online to do some research where you then found out you had a rare genetic mutation that has only affected two people in the history of the World? Well it was either that or a common virus. One of the great things about modern parenting is all the information that is available; one of the worst things about modern parenting is that all the information is available. You are never more than one click away from learning that you’re sleeping your child wrong, your kids are eating toxic waste, and everything in the world is dangerous. While much of the information can be beneficial guiding parents through parenthood, there’s another wide swath that only results in hysterical panic for my wife.
ACTIVITIES! SO MANY ACTIVITIES! This is definitely our own fault, but it’s pure insanity how many things our kids are signed up for and at what ages. 4 year olds are traveling nationwide to cheerlead, 6 year olds are practicing soccer 4 times a week for 50 weeks out of the year, and it seems like each and every middle schooler and high schooler won’t have a weekend free until after graduation. I’m all for participation and music, sports, drama, and all these hobbies can provide great skills for children, but the commitments for these things are growing exponentially. It’s so bad I’m thinking about signing up my third daughter for a traveling basketball team next week to reserve her spot, despite the fact that she has yet to be conceived.
Did I make my case or am I nothing more than another overwhelmed, panicked parenting amateur? It seems like my wife and I work our tails off to be everything we can for our daughters, but can’t quite conquer that nagging feeling that we’re not living up to the standards we see on social media and in pop culture. In the interest of fairness, we’ll be back on Wednesday to explore why parenting was harder in previous generations. I’ll even do my best to suppress all jokes about outhouses, no electricity, and no running water. I might even write that post on a typewriter…or not. Cheers.