What is the biggest issue facing you today when it comes to parenting?
Financial problems? Scheduling logistics? lack of time? Critics, who think they know better than you of how to best raise your child?
As culture shifts, the ways we think about parenting and define being a “good” parent continue to evolve.
Parenting through the Ages
For many of our great grandparents, their main parenting problems were the very real physical necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.
Beyond that , they taught our parents to respect their elders ( mostly from a top down, often overly- harsh, authoritative view of discipline.)
Our grandparents role as children were primarily defined by being a workforce that would contribute to the overall benefit of the family.
By the time most of our grandparents were parents, the depression era and WW2 was behind the country. There was exponential market growth, and this coupled with new labor laws and better working conditions rendered the economy virtually unrecognizable from their childhood.
This meant that their children were born into a completely different economy, culture, and landscape. Modern conveniences were all the rage, the emphasis was on consumption. This is were the Mass Market was introduced, as well as the idea of keeping up with the Jones.
This generation had the ability to build wealth at a rate their ancestors had scarcely dreamed of.
Our grandparents values were obedience, loyalty, discipline and consistency.
They taught their children, our parents generation to be neat in their appearance, to have nice manners.
When our parents time came, they were the first generation to face a postmodern culture. Drugs , divorce, the sexual revolution… Thisnis the world they grew up in, and it contributed to making Gen X notoriously cynical. They taught us self reliance, which in turn meant that many were latch key kids, adept at making their own way.
Our parents valued education, enrichment activities, and self reliance. They managed our after school activities, but let us run wild too without cell phones or tracking devices.
Now that Milliinials (1981-1996) are doing the parenting , we are asking anew “What does it mean to be a good parent?”
Does being a good parent mean you are in tune with your children’s needs? A basic understanding of child development?
I think they are certainly part of the puzzle.
Having reasonable expectations will set you up for success, rather than demanding your child perform on a level that is developmentally impossible.
We do need to understand how our children think, and the way they operate.
This will naturally lead to some relief of the common parenting stressors.
What are the Modern Parenting Pain Points? If I had to pick 5 , they would be
In the arena of Time , many parents are simply trying to achieve balance. We want to balance work and family life as if there is some quantifiable measure that will tell us “ this is how much of your time you should devote to your marriage, your children, your job.”
Although the specifics vary wildly from situation to situation , this concerns all of us.
Do you work from home? Does your spouse travel often? Do you share custody of your children with an ex? These factor in to the slice of available time, but they don’t define for us where and how we should best put that time to work.
Many of us are overwhelmed and overschudled. While this isn’t a new problem, it is a bit ironic that we have more labor saving devices than any other point in history , and yet are more concerned with the passing of time. We have commodified it.
When it comes to parenting and spending time with our kids, it’s easy to get caught in the quality verses quantity time trap.
Do my children need me to be available to them wherever and whenever? Or if I spend fifteen minutes concentrating only on them is that ideal? Or somewhere in the middle? Or something different all together? And who gets to define quality time anyway? Is playing a game more or less valuable than reading a book together?
It’s easy to chase rabbits here, and then get overwhelmed.
As a homeschool mom, even though I spend the majority of my waking hours with my children I can still be prone to guilt , because so much of our time is spent on maintenance rather than that elusive quality time.
I mean, grading spelling or chopping vegetables isn’t exactly exciting, or the stuff memories are made of.
The reason we care about it is because at the end of the day, we love our children and want to raise them the best way we possibly can.
So, what is a parent to do?
Give your children your attention. No matter how much time that looks like. It most likely will vary from day to day and season to season.
Connect at mealtime. Dinner is ideal, but if breakfast better then utilize that! Go around the table and have everyone share something they learned or the best part of their day:
Create a special ritual that you repeat daily or weekly. Maybe before bedtime you do yoga or read aloud .
Put Family Time on the Calendar. Plan special outings or activities, or they won’t happen.
Don’t discount Gap time. In the car, talk or listen to music you all enjoy.
Ask questions. Become a student of your child. Learn their preferences.
Are you facing unemployment, or underemployment ? Maybe the fact that groceries and fuel have gone up drastically is causing you concern.
These are hot button issues right now. If you are facing job loss, you aren’t alone. However, that’s not exactly helpful is it?
Yes, we need to learn to live within our means. Yes we need to be responsible and resourceful.
However, sometimes our financial situation is out of our hands. We did the right thing, but we still get laid off.
This can be a huge source of stress to parents.
Creative budgeting , meal planning, couponing and side hustles can only get us so far. Some of us are really starting to feel the pinch of a stagnant economy.
My answer to this is self sufficiency, resiliency, and a brief history lesson.
Historically, droughts and famines were a part of life. Not so in the modern western world. We often don’t adequately prepare for emergency situations, because we don’t often experience them. We have come to rely on government institutions or insurance companies in times of disaster.
Let’s reclaim our own gumption. We can be self sufficient and resilient. We can put plans in place before we face dangerous situations.
So while I understand the issue of heat for the winter is real and dire, what I’m suggesting is what if we take this opportunity to learn self sufficiency skills before we are freezing and in crisis mode.
For our family, this means repairing our fireplace , and chopping wood, in the event we need to try on that for a heat and cooking source this winter. What emergency heat source do you have? What about for cooking? Don’t discount a camp stove and propane- they work great in a pinch.
Do you have some canned food and bottled water on hand? I’m not talking conspiracy theories level of prepped here. I’m saying it might be wise to have emergency heat and water sources, and some canned goods on hand.
No money to go out and do a big stock up? Me either. By purchasing a few extra canned good each week, your emergency stash of food can grow rather quickly.
Knowing that you can feed your family even in an emergency situation can greatly reduce stress that comes with the issues of finances.
Also. When it comes to parenting and finances, we need to remember that we are the adults. We need to not worry our children with our finically concerns.
We can teach them responsible money choices , and the realities of a budget; without making them fearful. An example might be telling your child that you can’t afford an extra treat this week. That’s appropriate. Telling your child you’re afraid you’ll be living on the street and that’s why you can’t get ice cream this week is not.
A large part of our job of parenting is to educate our children. This includes the areas of finance. Money shouldn’t only ever invoke fear and frustration. We need to teach our children that money is a tool. An emotionally neutral tool. We need to teach them budgeting basics, how to be wise consumers, about saving and investing, the dangers of credit, etc.
We can teach young children the difference between a want and a need , and this will serve them well all of their lives.
As parents we manage our expectations, as well as those of our spouse, our children, and other people in our social circles.
Modern culture is quick to discover and market the Very Best Way of doing various tasks , and the area of parenting is no exception.
Should you dare to venture outside of what your community deems normal, you can be sure you will be made aware of it.
Our culture had made a pastime of persecuting those we disagree with , right behind Baseball. Don’t believe me? The next time you’re at a social gathering, bring up one or more of the following topics: Breastfeeding, toilet training , Preschool, What Consists as a Nutritious meal , screen time, the “right” time for a child to walk,talk, or sleep through the night.
Comparison is a natural human trait. It’s something that we love to indulge in when we aren’t the ones being questioned or compared. It does beg the question however, is part of the reason that we feel so compelled to share our precise at of doing things , simply because we ourselves are insecure? And looking for validation?
Parenting is an area where there are no quantitively measurable results.
Are we trying to convince ourselves that we made the right choices by wildly criticizing those who are coming behind us? By comparing our best moneys , with the mere one time mistakes of strangers?
Every parent, every child, every family, has its own unique set of circumstances. Trying to prescribe that breast is best for all and sundry is sheer lunacy.
But that is precisely where the hope lies. If it’s lunacy to go around comparing parenting hour it’s, then it’s easy to dismiss other people’s hurtful criticism and dismal of us and our children.
Her.ie has an excellent list of the 40 tasks that most moms do each and every day. Of course there are variations. I find this to be a basic list, there are many things I do every day that don’t appear in the list, and a few things I don’t do. However, all in all, it is a good baseline . And a reminder of our labor that often does go largely ignored by others. If you are parenting , you are doing important work. Very
Basically, your job as a parent includes meeting the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of your children. Your children need a safe environment. They need a the basics of clothing, food, shelter , and hygiene. They need emotional support, to feel valued. They need you to teach them morals and values. They need to be taught good habits and self discipline. Which primary means you need to model correct behavior.
Beyond these basics however, your workload as a parent most likely included managing schedules and activities, stuff, celebrations,traditions, culture, staying involved in their school sports and activities, planning meals that are healthy that they will actually eat .., and much more.
This work is real. This work is valuable. And you are the only one who can provide these things for your child. They may have many teachers , coaches, and leaders, but they only get one mom.
As if work and home and marriage and parenting weren’t enough.
2020 brought another parenting issue to the forefront. Education.
Whether or not you were happy to your children’s schools response, School At Home was different and challenging for many families. Some families thrived, and decided to homeschool full time, while others did not.
Regardless, the issue of Quality Education came up for the first time in many families. Next time, we will explore the issue of education and parenting.
Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and frustrations below.