PARENTALK : Why is parenting more complex now?
Today, I choose to write about a controversial topic. A lot of us would agree that parenting has become tougher today whereas others would argue that it is us who are making it more complex. Two of my close friends (non-parents) have strong opinions about how I think a lot about every aspect of parenting and how that is the source of my troubles. A neighbor aunty keeps pointing out how the parents of today have it easier because they have diapers. She, by the way, had full-time house helps who did all the cleaning and washing.
Does this say anything about the complexities of parenting today?
Constant judgment is the primary source of difficulties that parents face today. Thanks to a more connected world and unending contact through social media, judgments have become a lot more pronounced than ever. That doesn’t mean that our parents weren’t judged enough, they just came to know about it a lot less frequently.
I do not mean to say that it was a cakewalk for our parents. However, complexities have surely increased because of the change in family dynamics, changing parental responsibilities, expectations, etc.
Here are some reasons parenting is tougher than it was for previous generations:
Change in family structures: Many of us have moved to nuclear setups whereas most families in the previous generations had several people living under one roof. This meant that there were many people to look after the kids. Also, the responsibilities were shared and it was rare for a single person to shoulder all responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, earning, child-rearing, etc. The increased load of responsibilities on parents has made it more challenging for them.
Changed career preferences: More moms than ever are joining the workforce now. With the transition to nuclear family structure, an arrangement with both parents working, and increasing childcare costs, it is trickier to come up with a setup that focuses on children and also allows parents to keep up with their career aspirations. It is even tougher for mothers who are expected to do well on both fronts and are still judged for each decision.
Increased working hours: Parents now work in 24*7 environments and work commitments have increased. This leads to a divided focus on parenting and work responsibilities. Not only does this make it difficult to juggle but also leads to parent guilt.
Access to an abundance of information: Most of our parents were unaware of the cons of packaged juices or biscuits. They didn’t know that eating roti and rice doesn’t guarantee healthy eating and were ok to offer sugar and ghee as a staple food. They believed the claim that walkers could make your child walk early and chocolate malt drinks could increase their height. It was easier to just go to the store, pick what they could afford, and ensure the children were fed. The access to information has made it more complex to make parenting decisions keeping in mind the child’s well-being and ignoring the false claims of advertisers. It has also urged the parents to think before they go into auto-pilot mode with respect to parenting.
A decline in the quality of food: This study has found that the quality of fruits and vegetables has declined considerably over the past 50 years. The increase in the use of pesticides, the reduced quality of soil, increase in water pollution, adulteration, and other human mistakes have made choosing safe food a stressful task for parents today. The pressing need to look for organic produce, to think of the suitable oil to cook, and to find unadulterated food are some common concerns for modern parents.
When we know better, we try to do better: Fairytales, a lot of tv time, more belief in authoritative parenting than child-led methods are some of the numerous ways in which parenting was different in previous generations. Research, analysis, and experience have led to a change in the way we parent. This requires us to research more, think more and look for alternatives and ensure our children are exposed to stuff that shapes them differently.
More options, more confusion: Globalization and capitalism have increased the number of options we have. Right from feeding bottles and bibs to toys and clothes, there is an overwhelming variety of products. This confuses parents, causes the fear of missing out, and overwhelms them with clutter. It also makes it imperative to research even little things like the brand of toothpaste, type of diaper, and the right kind of toys.
Social media and peer pressure: Peer pressure has always been around but the previous generation had only the neighbors and relatives to compare with. With the world at their fingertips and an abundance of seemingly perfect lives on social media, it is natural for parents to compare and feel worried about not being adequate. The world of social media creates a template that parents feel obligated to fit into. Right from conception, there is a pressure to love the phase, to continue working out, to get back into shape, and to drink insta-perfect smoothies. I remember being worried about not craving for anything specific during pregnancy. Instagram stories of other pregnant women waking their spouse at midnight to get ice cream, didn’t make it any better. Funnily enough, I was craving to crave. This is where it all begins. Right after childbirth, you get to see advertisements that tempt you to teach your 6 months old to walk and 2 year old to read. And then you come across parents who make 5 healthy snacks per day and claim that their children don’t throw tantrums when you are barely surviving and serving jam for breakfast.
Parent shaming: If peer pressure is not enough, parent shaming makes it worse for parents. It is not the distant aunts that shame parents anymore but the numerous other people they meet on social media, at their workplaces, and other places they go to. It is a tough nut to deal with when you are shamed and questioned for all your moves and decisions.
Exposure of kids to video content: The negatives of a highly connected world affect children the most. The news is full of instances of children falling prey to explicit videos, dangerous games, and groomers online. It is a constant stress for parents to keep their kids safe from the content they are exposed to.
Increasing mental health concerns: The pressure to perform in school, to do better than others, constant exposure to damaging content, and numerous other factors are causing poor mental health in children and youth. The increase in cases of anxiety, depression, and suicides among children is alarming. In the era before vaccines, antibiotics, and proper healthcare, parents were worried about the physical health of children. However, the growing concerns around mental health have troubled modern parents.
All eras have a unique set of challenges and it’d be unfair to say that the previous generation had it easy. We surely have more resources and information by our side. As parents, we must recognize these challenges and try to figure out ways to get over them. Staying informed will help to stay prepared and help to raise children better despite the complexities.
Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.