I was born in the 80’s. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, and parachute pants. I grew up in the 90’s. A time of boy bands, “Saved By the Bell”, and mood rings. Life in the 80’s and 90’s was different from today, and so was parenting. As a parent, I am always tired. There are day’s that I am so irritable that I get on my own nerves. I am sure that my mom and nearly every mother in history has felt the same way. Parenting today has it perks and pitfalls. It has it’s benefits and disadvantages. It is different than parenting at any other time in history.
For starters, technology has completely changed the way most people parent. With the invention of smart phones, tablets, social media, and a plethora of other technological advancements, parenting is no longer done by proximity. If going on a long road trip, most kids have tablets to play with to entertain themselves and to keep from arguing with siblings. When I was growing up, we entertained ourselves, which often meant we were loud and chaotic. If we didn’t stop when we were told then an arm would come from the front seat and connect with whichever one they could reach. Usually, it was me, since I was the youngest and sat in the middle. If an arm couldn’t reach, then you better believe a shoe or some other object that could extend my mother’s reach would appear.
Social media places an added stress to parenthood, and yet we all still use it. We highlight the great things in the day, but fail to provide the negative. This sends out messages to others that we don’t fail, and suddenly that mom who feels like she can’t hold it together anymore feels even more like a failure. Do we delete our account? No, because then we might miss out on something important. Day after day we compare our lives to those of others. Jill makes organic snacks for her kids, and Beth had a three ring circus for her kids birthday parts. Meanwhile, I am over here feeding my kids McDonald’s chicken nuggets and wondering why other kids need goody bags to attend my kids party. It’s their birthday, right??? Isn’t it better to give than receive??? Well, not when it’s little Johnny’s birthday, because then Billy gets sad that he didn’t get anything. I did goody bags for one year of birthdays. Now, I think it’s a waste. It’s my kids day, and they deserve to feel like the center of attention.
Our kids do not have phones, or tablets. They don’t even have a gaming system. I don’t want them to look back on their childhood and remember a device. I want them to look back and remember the trips we took, the games we played, the activities we did. I want them to have experiences. Do they want electronics? Absolutely, and they will get them when they are older. They use the computer for educational programs, and some free time, but they aren’t dependent on electronics to have fun. Right now, my 11 year old daughter doesn’t need a smart phone. She is with me 99% of the time. She doesn’t need a social media account. She needs to have an imagination and to fall in love with reading. She needs to be a kid for as long as she can.
Another way that parenting is different is the concept of supervision. When I was growing up I was outside most of the time. I would play in the creek, and ride my bike up and down the driveway. My parents would check on me, but they didn’t have to be outside 24/7 with me. Nowadays, I am afraid to let my children play outside without me being out there. For one, if someone reported to social services that my children were unsupervised I could be in trouble. Secondly, there are so many more cases of kids being abducted or reports of people trying to lure kids and following them around stores. Finally, what would people think? A few months ago there was a tragedy in a surrounding county. A little boy died, and the first question out of everyone’s mouth was “Where was his mom?” I was guilty of saying it myself. In today’s society it is almost taboo for children to play without supervision. This creates so much stress in the modern day parent. There is never a time that they can have some down time. All it takes is one second of being unsupervised for their lives to change forever.
Everyone has an opinion about how I raise my children. I will never find a person who parents exactly like I do. It used to be that if you didn’t agree with my parenting, you let it go, because it was my choice. Today, if you don’t like my parenting, you tell me and anyone else who will listen. You may even call social services to report me. This constant scrutiny causes so much fear in the parent’s. I see it every time I go to the store. A kid will be throwing a fit and the parent says nothing. Why? Because they are terrified of what people might say or do. I can remember once being in a store when I was little. A kid was throwing a fit. They were hitting, yelling, and trying to bite. That mom spanked their kid right then and there. There was no going to the car. There was no giving in. My mom walked by that mom and said “If you didn’t do it, I was going to”. The other mom smiled and they both went on their way. Today, if we saw a parent doing that, we would glare and report them to management. Instead of understanding that we are all just trying to survive, we cast down those who choose to be different. With that being said, I have seen some cases of abuse, where it is more than a spanking. I have seen kids who have been smacked across the face, drug through stores, screamed and cussed at. I have seen abuse. I am not referring to this. I am referring to loving, caring parents who are disciplining, not abusing. I will report abuse. I will not report the mom who is discipling. I will walk beside her and say, “We have all been there.” I will then walk away. Because we have. We have all been where she is. We have all had children who are pushing your buttons. You might not choose to spank. You might ground. You might use time-out. Regardless, we have all been there.
Being a parent in any decade is hard work. It is the hardest thing you will ever do. There will be days of great success, and great failures. There will be days when you are killing it, and days that it will kill you. Our parents might not understand all that we go through today, just like we will never understand what it was like to parent in their era. The challenges we face are different but we all have our challenges. Take it from this kid who was a terrible teen. I didn’t do anything illegal or anything like that, but I was mouthy and spoiled. I backtalked, and I slammed doors. I tell myself my kids will never act like that, but let’s face it, they probably will. I will take their door off their hinges, and will ground them indefinitely, just like my mom did.