Is This Generation of Parents More Thoughtful, or Just Plain Neurotic?
When I was growing up, a favorite refrain of my mom's was, "Because I told you so." An attempt at bargaining was rewarded with punishment. There was a level of respect demanded and no question of who was in charge.
We didn't go to the doctor unless it was vaccine time or there was a raisin up somebody's nose that refused to be extracted by a mere mortal. There was no WebMD or Google, and a lovely and appropriate level of naïveté about what could possibly go wrong prevailed.
As far as anybody in our neighborhood knew, all parents operated the same way, and kids everywhere were raised the same way we were raised. I imagine that the phone conversations among most moms those days alternated between bragging and complaining about their kids.
I doubt there was enormous speculation about technique when it came to feedings, schedules, discipline and every teensy detail to come to mind when it came to child rearing. You just did it, and you were pretty sure your kid was going to grow up to be a normal adult.
Too Much Information
These days, the dissemination of ideas over the internet lets us know that we're mostly in small minorities over every last little aspect of parenting. Why do we know this? The anonymity offered allows an unfettered sharing of intimate and inane details that would have been unthinkable when I was growing up.
I witnessed a mother get verbally pummeled for admitting on an online forum that, if her child is asleep in a poopy diaper, she won't wake him up to change him. I'm not even going to offer my opinion, because, well, who the hell cares? But whatever anyone's opinion, the level of verbal abuse between some moms online is akin to stepping into the ancient Coliseum (or what I imagine that would be like since I've seen Gladiator no less than 53 times.)
Since people are more likely to spill their guts, we all know what can go wrong. There's a lot of information out there - but few people make an announcement when things go right. When's the last time you tuned in to the 5 o'clock news to hear, "All is well! And now, here is the cutest footage available in the world today."
Between the omnipresent judgment, unsolicited advice and ultra-strong opinions inflicted on parents, and all the bad news circulating, there's a level of fear that hovers over today's caregivers about all the bad things that could happen if they don't do everything right.
Here's Your Advice With a Heaping Side of Abuse, You Ignorant Cow
The level of scrutiny offered to parents by their peers is enough to make anyone paranoid. It's tough for moms today to feel confident in every single one of their decisions, knowing that some people would have them flayed for even thinking they might be on the right track.
I recently read an online post from a mom requesting advice on weaning. Instead of being told how to wean, The Breastfeeding Enforcement Squad appeared to inform her that she's selfish and that she's not doing what's best for her kid. She countered by saying that her baby is old enough to transition to cow's milk, and she is exhausted and unhappy with breastfeeding. The Breastfeeding Enforcement Squad asked her if human babies suddenly turn into cows at a certain age. Um, what?
Even when mothers aren't bullying the living crap out of each other (gee, I wonder where all those kid bullies get it from) there is a constant outpouring of opinion and advice and a seemingly endless array of options, each of which will harm or help your child in astounding measures.
When I was researching baby carriers, I saw a large contingent of moms who saw a factoid somewhere about the potential for hip dysplasia if the wrong carrier is used. There was also the issue of carrying a child facing outward because the inability of babies to filter relevant visual information could lead to a brain short-circuit that would cause small metal springs to eject from your baby's cranium while her eyes swirl and piping hot steam shoots out of her ears, causing second degree burns to the mother, which will make her drop her baby down a storm drain. Baby carriers are death traps and you are an IDIOT if you use one.
Was the Old Way Better?
My mom has observed that many of today's mothers are guilt driven and so afraid of doing something wrong that they are constantly researching every symptom and every milestone. Maternal instinct is continually thrown into uncertainty with the bombardment of information.
On the other hand, now we have more choices when it comes to raising our kids. If we really do need advice and information, it's there for us.
Was the unexamined life better? In short, it doesn't matter. Pandora's Box has been opened, and we can't go back to the unexamined life as parents. News travels and too much information will find you whether you try to avoid it or not.
We all need to find our own way and realize that being good enough is good enough. Regardless of every small decision we make along the way, I'm pretty sure our parenting will still meet its ultimate goal: our kids will grow up to become normal adults.
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