The world I grew up in was not what it is today. Parents now are charged with raising children in a vastly different world than parents of past generations. Life was simpler, and it showed. It’s not just that parents today need to “calm down.” There’s a reason we’re total basket cases. There’s a reason there are helicopter parents and a need for free-range parenting. This gig is tough! Childhood abductions are down. Childhood mortality, in the First World, is down. But there’s still a lot to contend with. Here are some ways I’ve had to adjust my parenting style from the examples I had as a kid.
- Raising my kids in a country where there’s at least one mass shooting per day. Whatever side of the fence you are on when it comes to gun control, you can’t deny that the United States has a problem. Random gun violence is everywhere, and there’s little a parent can do. The odds of being a victim of these random public mass shootings is low, but too high for comfort. And we always have that fear in the back of our heads. My son’s elementary school has lockdown drills. We certainly didn’t have lockdown drills when I was a kid. They make bullet proof blankets for schools to give kids in the event of a shooting. I have to raise my babies in a world where bullet proof blankets are a thing!
- Caring for an infant in a sea of unvaccinated children. I try really hard to not judge other parents for their parenting choices. But, when my kids are put in danger as a result, I get miffed. Infants who are too young to receive vaccinations are at a high risk for contracting possibly fatal diseases, and even school aged children who are vaccinated can be put at risk if vaccination levels are too low. So, I do my best to safeguard my child’s health, but in the end it might not matter anyway.
- Childhood food allergies have risen 50% in the past 20 years. My kids don’t have food allergies. That I know of. But, many of their peers do. And though I’m careful not to send nuts to our schools, I still wonder sometimes, “Did I forget to wipe the peanut butter off his face before sending him off?” And, allergies have this awesome ability to crop up at any point in our lives. Meaning, just because my sons don’t have life-threatening allergies right now doesn’t mean they won’t develop.
- Raising girls is a shit show. People think this isn’t an issue for me because I don’t have daughters. But, parents of sons have to raise them to be respectful of women, and to treat women as equals. And to not be intimidated by empowered women. As a mom, especially a stay at home mom, it’s easy to fall into the role of doormat. But it’s important to stand strong and give your boys a good example of womanhood. I don’t even know how parents raise their daughters to be strong in a world that tells them to play weak. To simultaneously be proud of their sexuality, but also to guard it with their lives. To be open and honest in a world full of victim-blaming. My hat is off to you, parents of girls.
- Parental guilt is at an all time high. Hospital birth or home birth. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Starting solids too early. Starting solids too late. Vaccinating or not vaccinating. Preschool or no preschool. Circumcised or uncircumcised. Non-organic food. Fast food. Television. Cell phones. No matter what choices you make, someone is going to (verbosely) criticize you for it. We have the Internet to thank for that. And before you even have kids, there are people telling you how to raise them. People who don’t even have their own kids! It’s treacherous. You literally never know if you’re making the right choice or not. You just have to close your eyes and point to make the choice, and then just cross your fingers and hope you won’t fail. And grow a super thick skin for all the mean words coming your way.
- Other people will try to parent your children. And I don’t mean making them follow the rules. I mean, the choices you make as a parent could get you in trouble, even if you’re not really putting your kid in any kind of danger. Leave your kid in the car while you run into the store? Send your kid outside to play without you? Put a soda in your kid’s lunchbox? You get fined. Or CPS takes them away. Or you could even go to jail! So much for making your own choices, there’s always someone looking over your shoulder.
- Raising my kids to be present and in the moment in the age of technology. Screens are everywhere these days. Admittedly, I spend too much time staring at my phone. And I use the TV as a babysitter more often than I’d like to admit. Silicon Valley is basically our backyard, so technology is pretty prevalent here. And it’s hard to find a balance between taking advantage of all that technology allows us these days, and not using it too much. We have to teach our children when to be present, and when screen time is ok. We have to filter what they watch, because left unsupervised, they can stumble on some pretty scary stuff. But we have to allow them to learn how to use technology because their world demands tech savviness.
- The media will have you believe your kid can, and will, be snatched from you. Even though abductions are actually less common than they were when I was a child, the media coverage of kidnappings is rampant. One kidnapping story can be their focus for weeks. And it’s not just the TV news, it’s newspapers, magazines, and social media. You can barely make it through a day without seeing reports of yet another child gone missing. I had to stop watching the news altogether to calm myself. And this is why people turn into such busybodies when they see your kid more than five feet away from you (see #6). The fear has permeated our generation of parents.
- College is basically a necessity, but also completely unaffordable. If you don’t start saving your money before you even have kids, it’s unlikely that you will be able to pay their way. And if you don’t pay it for them, you send them off into the world already dragging around the largest debt of their lifetime. And even if they do well and get a good degree, there’s no guarantee that they’ll land a job. As the population grows, the job market doesn’t. Not to mention the ups and downs of our unstable economy. If they don’t go to college, they walk a rough road. If they go to college, they walk a rough road. There’s just no winning. It’s tough to help them decide what to do, because you don’t even know the answer yourself.