Every year, around this time, I start reading lots and lots of blog posts, news articles, and social media posts that rant and rave about how “spoiled” our kids are and how they depend on adults for almost everything — including the fact that our kids apparently expect to be entertained 24/7.
I get it… the summers are WAY harder for most parents than the school year. As I mentioned last week, I have the HUGE luxury of a husband who is home all summer — so I actually look forward to the summer months because they are easier for me than the school months!
I honestly can’t even imagine what it must be like for parents to go from blissfully quiet school days without children at home… to then, all of a sudden, everyone is home all day long. I’m certain it must feel overwhelming to care for and entertain school age children who are home for the summer (especially for parents who also work outside the home).
Maybe our kids aren’t as good at entertaining themselves as kids from previous generations. Maybe we do rely on TV and video games more than other parents. Maybe we are putting too much effort into make sure our kids have activities to fill their days. Or maybe we’re just being good parents and trying to ensure our children enjoy their summer break to the fullest.
At this point in my parenting journey, I have no “answers” or strong convictions either way.
However, I am fairly confident in a few things:
1. As with EVERY generation, there are shifts and changes in the way parents and children interact and relate. These changes are NORMAL and based on many factors — including the environment, socio-economics, and technological advances. They really have nothing to do with one generation of parents being better or worse than another.
2. I’m sure there are times when my mom and mother-in-law think I’m doing something “wrong” when it comes to caring for my kids… and in 25-30 years, there will be times when I think that Nora is potentially doing something “wrong” with her children. However, it’s most likely not “wrong,” it’s just “different”.
3. The vast majority of our children will grow up to be perfectly content, well-adjusted adults who will be able to focus and entertain themselves — just like the vast majority of EVERY generation has grown up to be well-adjusted adults who can function normally in society. Yes, there are always some outliers, but that’s just simple statistics — just ask Dave, he’s the math pro! 🙂
4. There are many parents who truly DO enjoy coming up with fun activities for their kids, planning special outings, etc. Maybe it’s their “one thing” and the way they bond with their kids. And even if they post the pictures to Facebook and Pinterest, their primary objective is not always to gain recognition from their peers, it’s to delight their children.
5. Today’s parents (or any parents, for that matter) certainly do NOT need someone telling them they are “trying too hard” or “doing too much” or “being over protective” when they are obviously just trying to love and care for their kids (or grandkids) in the best way they know how to.
Yes, I think there ARE parents who probably go over-board and spend every waking moment trying to be the “cool mom” or the “cool dad” who plans the best parties and makes the best snacks and buys the most expensive toys for their kids. But then again, when I was growing up, I knew a few kids whose parents tried WAY too hard to be the cool parents too. They sacrificed their own lives and their own happiness to give everything to their kids… and most of the time, the kids just turned out like spoiled brats.
It happens in every generation — and I’m positive not all of today’s young children will grow up to be spoiled brats just because there are more parents who go to playgroups and plan a few crafts for their kids to do during the week.
In fact, although I definitely do not think we must entertain our children 24/7, I do think it’s actually a privilege that we are able to spend so much time and energy raising our children and being together as a family.
Just think back to the classic 1950’s housewife (some of you might more easily recall that time than others!)
Obviously, I have no actual memories of the 50’s, but for some reason, I am fascinated with that time period. I’ve read books on it, heard countless stories from my grandma and other older ladies from church, and I’ve watched many documentaries and movies that are set in the 50’s.
EVERY time, I am in awe of what those women had to do on a daily basis — just to keep their home and family running smoothly. I can’t even fathom how much more challenging it would have been to be a wife and a young mother in that day and age.
Not only did they have to look fabulous every day, they also had to do many more household chores to do every day:
- cooking 3 full meals (usually for larger families than today)
- washing dishes by hand after every meal
- cleaning the house with inferior cleaning tools, and holding a much higher standard of “clean” than today’s homes
- doing laundry by hand (and boiling diapers on the stove) — and then hanging everything to dry
- canning and preserving everything, because they HAD to, not because it was a fun activity to do or a way to ‘go green’
- sewing their own clothes and/or mending clothing
- ironing EVERYTHING!
Those women didn’t have time to plan craft projects or play dates or go on special “dates” with each kid because they were too busy doing what had to be done for their home and family to function on a daily basis.
They didn’t get “girl’s weekends” or “spa days” or have monthly “date nights” with their husbands. In fact, from what I am told, the dads were far less involved in the child-raising process than they are today — so the mom’s rarely ever got a break.
Of course their children had more freedom to run around, play outside, and entertain themselves — because they HAD to. It was either that or sit at home and help with the chores.
And then, let’s think a little further back to the late 1800’s when women literally worked from sun-up to sun-down simply to prepare food and care for their families while their husbands worked from sun-up to sun-down to make an income, take care of livestock, or work the land. (I often think about this time period since our house was built in 1890 and I wonder what life must have been like back then).
No crafts or planned extra-curricular activities back then because the children were often working and doing chores in their free time. I promise, life back then was not always as nostalgic as it was on Little House on the Prairie either!
Fast-forward 100+ years and today’s parents have the LUXURY of so much more discretionary time.
- We have super efficient appliances that will clean almost everything in our home in a fraction of time it did “back then”… and if we don’t want to clean, we can hire that service out to someone else.
- We have supermarkets to buy our food so we don’t need to spend hours and hours preparing every meal… and if we don’t want to cook, we can go out to a local restaurant.
- We can look through Craigslist or an online garage sale to stock up on frugal clothing so we don’t have to make our own… and if we don’t want to buy used, we have ample shopping malls that offer more clothing than we could ever need.
- For parents who want to (or need to) have a career, we often have the option of a flexible work schedule or working remotely which could allow us to work from home while still raising our children.
- We have fabulous baby wraps and strollers to allow us to get out and about and work around the house with 2 hands
- We don’t have to use cloth diapers… and even if we choose to use cloth diapers, we have tools to make them much easier and faster to wash.
- Thanks to technology, we have almost limitless resources at our fingertips — and thanks to so many time-saving modern amenities, we actually have time to implement some of those things we learn or find on the internet.
- Also, thanks to technology, we are able to stay connected with our friends and family — and build communities of moms and parents who can come together and share struggles, concerns, triumphs, and failures without nearly as much judgement as there has been in the past.
- We actually have free time — and we’ve learned the benefit of taking a little time for ourselves, as well as spending time with our spouse or significant other.
- We’ve learned that it’s OK for dads to be really involved in the child-raising process, and that moms are happier and less stressed when they have a little help with the kids.
All of these things (and so much more) have made it possible for today’s parents to spend considerably more time with our children than any other generation in history.
Yes, I realize there are more kids enrolling in daycare than ever before as well… but the (many) parents I know who send their kids to daycare during the day, do a bang-up job of spending quality time with their kids when they are together. And yes, that might involve doing planned-out craft activities, attending a playgroup, planning fun birthday parties, or any other number of activities geared towards the kid’s enjoyment.
But is that REALLY so bad?
In general, I am the type of parent who doesn’t care if her kids watch a little TV every day, I don’t care if they get a little bored from time-to-time, and we definitely DO play outside as much as possible when the weather is cooperating.
However, I also do enjoy planning occasional crafts or activities for Nora (mainly to keep her occupied so I can get something done). I enjoy getting out a couple times a month for playgroups or other local events, because it gives me an opportunity to interact with other adults and helps me to feel “normal” again. And I enjoy keeping my kids busy during the day as it most definitely helps them to sleep better and longer at night!
Oh, and I don’t think I even need to mention how hands-on Dave is when it comes to raising our children. I’ve shared many times already how helpful he is around the home and with the kids — and now that Nora and Simon are to the point where they can actually start playing together, Dave really enjoys playing with both of them when he comes home from school every afternoon (which I greatly appreciate).
So are we horrible parents because we enjoy spending time with our kids and making them happy?
I don’t think so.
I fully agree that today’s children are growing up in a completely different world than what I grew up in. Some of that is positive, some of that is negative. But I think we can say that for every generation — and it certainly seems like every other generation of children have grown up to be fully functional adult members of society. I don’t see why today’s children would be any different!
You all know I’m a HUGE advocate for “everything in moderation”, and I think that rule can also apply to parenting.
For example, if you’re planning a huge birthday bash for you kids just so you can impress the neighbors or post cute pictures on your social media sites… then that might not be the best reasoning. However, if you’re doing it because you know your kids will love the party and you really enjoy planning all the little details — then I think that’s just great!
I realize that I am over-simplifying this topic (what can I say, that’s what I do!) but in general, I feel like the issue of today’s parents giving too much attention to our children is somewhat ridiculous.
After all, it’s not like parents today are literally trying to do harm to their children by planning a few fun activities or events for them.
Yes, I think “simple” is often better — and I think all kids should learn to play outside, entertain themselves for a bit, and live without screen time every minute of the day. But I also think it’s fabulous that parents (and grandparents) today are willing and able to be more involved in their kids lives than in previous generations… and I feel that a lot of good could come out of that time spent together.
Only time will tell I suppose!