I’ve always been a strong believer that we can’t compare modern parenting to the parenting of past generations. Modern parenting is a vastly different landscape to what it was in the 1970’s and 80’s, or even the 90’s, when the internet was only just kicking off.
Now we have a wealth of child development and parenting information literally at our fingertips. Expert advice and studies on every topic can be accessed with the swipe of a screen and we are bombarded daily with new information about what practices are best for our children.
Of course, we all want to be good parents so we try to keep up. We send our children to extracurricular activities that will enhance their development and organise playdates so they are well socialised. We feed them the right foods, monitor their screen time, read to them daily, constantly check in on their emotional wellbeing and try hard to ensure we are #makingmemories. We do all this while running a household and, most likely, holding down a paid employment.
Meanwhile, we are tired, stressed and on the verge of burnout with little time left for ourselves.
We want our kids to be intelligent, emotionally stable, high functioning members of society. But are we leading by example? Or are we projecting the image of a parent who is exhausted yet still wracked with guilt for not being able to do all the things?
So I pose this question: Do we really need to be so involved in our children’s lives?
At what point do we step back and let them develop crucial skills like problem solving and independence without actively facilitating the process?
Because our parents sure didn’t. At no point did my parents think “Gee, we need to help our daughter learn emotional regulation and help her build resilience.”
When I was 11, they didn’t consciously think about letting me walk home as an exercise in building independence in preparation for high school. I just had to do it because both parents worked and I wasn’t getting home any other way!
Of course, it is great that we as modern parents are so invested in our children’s wellbeing and development. It’s what the experts say we should do. But at what cost?
Do you know who you are without kids?
Do your kids know who they are without you?
Our modern, intensive style of parenting has been described by social scientist and author Sharon Hays as: “child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor intensive and financially expensive.”
Yep that pretty much sums it up.
My kids expect me to be there for them 24/7. Which as a parent I should be there for them, if they need me. Not there to cater for their every whim and desire. To entertain them, stimulate them and ensure their emotional wellbeing at every moment of the day. That’s what I feel like my job is and it is wearing me out.
So this year I’m going to take a step back. Of course, I will still run them to extracurriculars, make sure they are coping at school and spend time with them. But I’m also going to let them be bored, make them find their own missing (insert random item here), teach them how to make their own snacks and show them what living an independent, well balanced life actually looks like.