21st Century Parents – You’re Doing Just Fine!

posted by Andrea | 04/19/2016

family photo

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a really annoying trend in newspaper columns, magazine articles, blog posts, and even Facebook rants… all about how 21st century parents are apparently trying too hard, doing too much, making life too easy for our children, getting the raw end of the deal, etc. etc.

Many of the articles (written about parenting in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s) make exaggerated statements like (some are paraphrased)

My mom just drank Tab and locked us outside all day… she never volunteered at school… she didn’t entertain us because we entertained ourselves.” (source)

We played outside ALL day while my mom stayed inside talked on the phone…. now days, kids can’t play outside unless they are fenced in and have multiple parents watching everything they do.” (source)

We only got 2 gifts at Christmas… my parents didn’t care about entertaining us… they never did a single craft with us.” (source)

My mother served as supervisor for the indoor chores… that’s why people had kids… we were free labor.” (source)

I could list 50 more statements with 50 different sources if I spent the time digging them all up — but I think you get the idea.

Basically (for those of you who don’t want to read the full articles), they state that parents today are putting too much effort into parenting.

The articles also subtly imply that it’s NOT cool to be the parent who:

…is overly concerned with the safety and wellbeing of their children.

…devotes lots of extra time to their family.

…plans fun activities, crafts, birthday parties, etc. for their kids.

…invests too much time and energy into their children’s lives.

…puts their family’s needs before their own and makes sacrifices for their children.

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While I understand the overall thought process behind many of the articles (and I do agree with a few of their points) I’m quickly tiring of the condescending tone, and don’t think it’s a healthy message for today’s parents.

Yes, parenting today is MUCH different than parenting back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s — but LIFE today is also MUCH different than life back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s! 

There are good differences and bad differences… pros and cons… but no matter how hard we try, we cannot go back to life in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

In case you forgot, it’s 2016!

If we want to be good parents for our kids in 2016, we can not pretend to live in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s in an effort to appease the people who apparently think 21st century parents are overprotective and too focused on our children.

Yes, it’s probably true that children of past generations had more freedom and more responsibility BUT that’s in large part because parents in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s (and even the 90’s for that matter) didn’t have to worry about half the things we have to worry about in 2016.

They didn’t have to worry about child trafficking… at the grocery store. (source)

They didn’t have to worry about being arrested for letting their 9-year old play at the park by herself. (source)

They didn’t have to worry about someone calling Child Protective Services because they left their toddler in a locked car for 5 minutes on a cool day while they picked up their 4 year old from preschool. (source)

They didn’t have to worry about someone calling the police if they let their 7 year old walk to the park alone. (source)

They didn’t have to worry about having  their children taken away because they had a homebirth and didn’t take the kids in for a routine checkup even though the children were healthy and thriving. (source)

And don’t even get me started on all the cyber-space and technology issues that I haven’t had to think too much about yet (but I know those days are coming!)

So you see… we CANNOT parent the same way.

.

Yes, there are always parents who take things to the extreme by planning insane birthday parties, buying over-the-top gifts, planning every minute of their child’s life, giving cell phones to their 7 years olds, and doing everything for their children — but I have a feeling those types of “extreme parents” also existed back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

In my opinion, the vast majority of 21st century parents are doing a fantastic job navigating the ever-changing, ever-evolving culture, as well as adapting to the constant influx of new technology, new rules and regulations, new safety guidelines, etc. (seriously, these change ALL the time!)

I promise, we love our children just as much as they did in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

You know, I actually find it humorous that on one side, we are “scolded” for investing too much time and energy into our children’s lives, and at the same time, everywhere I go, I have older parents tell me to “cherish every moment, because it goes so fast” and gush about how they wish they could go back and spend more time with their children.

So what is it? Are we doing too much or not enough?

You want to know my opinion?

I think we’re doing ENOUGH!

We are doing the best we can with the information and resources we have — and that’s all anyone can ask.

We will most likely “fall short” in some areas — at least according to others. However, there’s a fairly good chance we will soar in other areas — providing many more opportunities and resources for our children than ever before in the history of time.

In my opinion, the majority of the articles I referenced above are written from a “grass is greener on the other side” perspective… and with rose colored glasses.

They only recall a tiny sliver of what life was like back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s — they leave out lots of details.

While I know some of them are written simply for a reaction, it still bothers me because I know some parents are much more impressionable and “swayed” than I am. Maybe they aren’t as confident in their decision making as others, or maybe they’re struggling through a rough patch and these articles simply solidify that they must be doing everything wrong.

Obviously, I can’t stop people from writing what they want to write, but I CAN share my opinion in hopes of encouraging today’s parents.

I promise, you are not completely ruining your children’s lives by planning a fun birthday party, giving them a nice gift, spending extra time with them, going above and beyond for them, or raising them differently than your parents raised you.

You’re doing just fine!

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35 comments

  1. Kris

    04/22/2016

    I agree with this 1000%! The funny part is that the same people saying “my Mom just kicked us outside” probably had Mother’s who were being told they weren’t doing it right either.

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  2. Marisa

    04/22/2016

    You know, it reminds me a bit of “thin-bashing”: Because fashion media often seems to prefer women of thinner build, and because the average woman is neither healthy nor comfortable at that weight, a lot of women seem to think it’s okay to be rude about a person’s size or weight as long as the person is thin or little. it’s as though they imagine a sort cosmic balance, and feel the weight is being tipped in favor of Thin People, so they do their best to “balance the scales” for the other side. Only, of course, there is no such thing, and people of every size and weight are sensitive to unkind remarks about their appearance.

    Seems like something similar is happening here. Some people see a balance being tipped in favor of careful, cautious, involved parents. They themselves are not comfortable, or not able, to parent in such a way, so they work to “balance the scales.” They ridicule. They pride themselves in hands-off parenting. They long for the Good Old Days, when [they feel] “their” kind of parenting was popular.

    It’s a common, but very nearsighted and unempathic response to perceived social pressure.

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    Andrea Reply:

    this is a good analogy – – thanks for sharing!

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  3. Jennifer

    04/21/2016

    Things ARE so different now, in so many ways. I am a 43 yr old mother of a 4 yr old. My mother, raised me through the 70s and 80s (which were AWESOME). She and I talk about these differences all the time. She couldn’t see why in the world I wanted to nurse my baby or stay home from work. She and my mother-in-law both say their doctors did not encourage them to breast feed at all. They were into the women’s lib movement and were both all about women not being pressured to be housewives, to nurse babies all day long, or to be caretakers of children. It seems to me that, at least in my group of mom friends, being a stay-at-home-mom is becoming more desired and popular again.

    I also thought of a time when I took a picture of my son (about 18 mo. old) standing naked in a sprinkler with his back side to me and sent it to my mom on her phone. I remembered pictures she had of my brother and I running through a sprinkler naked, both very young and from behind–so cute!!–and I was excited to have the opportunity to take a matching pic of my son and send it to her. She called me so worried about some pedophile stealing my picture and using it on the internet. Definitely not something anyone worried about back when we were kids.

    It’s saddening, but there are many ways things are better now, too. There are so many things I wanted to learn to do growing up that my mom would not pay for lessons/classes and I am able to teach my son via free youtube lessons, etc. It’s awesome to be able to instantly share photos with family far away, even though we have to keep the cute naked bums to ourselves. Thank goodness nothing has changed about good old sports and leisure!

    Great post! Thanks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, yes, yes! Many things are better and “improved” now, and many things were simpler and less complicated back then. There are pros and cons to every generation… I guess we just need to keep focusing on the pros!

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  4. Gervy

    04/21/2016

    Devoted reader, very occasional commenter – just wanted to say I think you perform a great service to mothers with your posts! So reassuring and useful. Thanks.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Gervy!

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  5. JJ

    04/19/2016

    I was just thinking about this today! And without getting into details, there have been family issues with sexual abuse that was kept secret for years(read, that happened back in the “good old days”). So, while Mama was talking on the phone or locking the kids out, things were happening that were NOT okay. I LOVE this post!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I didn’t want to bring this up in the post, but I know of SO many situations where alcoholism, depression, abuse, neglect, etc. just got “swept under the rug”. Not saying these things never happen today, but we do have more systems in place to prevent (or seek treatment) for such things.

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  6. Chris K in Wisconsin

    04/19/2016

    Young parents are doing a fine job! But, please remember that though moms and dads before you did not have the challenges that you do today due to social media, technology, etc. they did have their challenges as well. When people speak of their moms and grandmothers spending so much time “just keeping house”, and not spending more time with their kids, remember what they had to use. Back “in the day”, it wasn’t as easy to just throw in a load or two of laundry in the washer and dryer anytime you wanted to do so. Usually all dishes were done by hand, most people washed their floors on their hands and knees, they didn’t have a full size freezer or large refrigerator, so they had to shop more often and many grew most of their produce and canned it for the winter months. Ironing was a chore added to everyone’s days because of the fabrics of the time. There were not nearly the products at the grocery store to help many of us to make “semi homemade” items, so most were fully homemade. Keeping house was much more of a physical workout, I think. I know my mom and my aunts and grandmothers were never worrying about losing weight!! 🙂
    Each generation has their challenges and we all are just trying to do our best. Great post, Andrea!! Makes us all think……

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    Andrea Reply:

    Oh yes, definitely!
    I frequently talk with my grandma and some of the 80+ crowd at church about how I can’t imagine doing everything they did EVERY SINGLE DAY to raise their families with no dishwashers, no washers or dryers, and not many other people to help out or rely on.
    Although it’s fun to hear their stories, I am very grateful to live with so many modern conveniences!
    I did actually think about including some of what you said in my post, but it was long enough already and I felt like that was getting off topic a bit 🙂 Thanks for bring it up though!

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  7. Grandma Ann

    04/19/2016

    I am a wife of almost 50 years, mom of 3 plus 3 in-love children, grandma of 14, great grandma of 2 and almost 70 years old. We raised our children in the 70’s. First I love reading your blog everyday that you post. Great job. I agree with what you said in your post. Every generation is different. And things change. I feel for parents raising children today. Yes it is very different and far more concerns that we didn’t have back in the day. I think Social Media is fine and use it to keep up with our family but it also creates a lot of problems. Discontentment, jealousy and so much more. First I think you and your generation are doing a fantastic job. I think my generation needs to encourage today’s parents. It is a very hard job to be a parent, and very rewarding at the same time. My mission on Facebook is to encourage my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews in the job they are doing with their children. We, old people, need to come along side those younger than us and help out when possible and give praise and reward these jobs well done. So keep up the good work and don’t listen to the crabbers and critics where it isn’t due. If everyone would offer a good word instead of constant criticism, life would be so much better.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Ann, sounds like a lot of people could use a Facebook friend like you 🙂 I’m sure your family greatly appreciates your encouragement and kind words!

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  8. Lynda

    04/19/2016

    Love this! Well said and thank you for saying it!!!

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  9. Nicola

    04/19/2016

    I raised my kids in the nineties and noughties and I agree with everything you have written in this post. If you are doing the best you can with the resources, experiences, education an d environment you find yourself in then you are doing all anyone can ask of you. These factors differ for each generation and across cultural and economic situations too, all that stays constant is the absolute need for love, kindness and patience.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes — good summary Nicola 🙂

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  10. Emily

    04/19/2016

    *clapping* Well stated!! Thanks for posting this! 🙂

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  11. Sandy

    04/19/2016

    I add my ‘AMEN’ to the others and think this is point on. It IS a different time and I think those that say parenting ‘back then’ was better than the way people parent now, well…..I think they’re showing their age just a bit, as well as longing for the ‘good old days’. It IS 2016 and times HAVE changed so it’s only natural to figure the way people parent now HAS changed compared to back them because it NEEDS to be different. I’m sure if we were to ask the generation before these ‘baby boomers’ about their growing up years there would be stories about how they worked from sun up till sun down, helped raise their siblings while both parents worked to put food on the table, only ever wore hand-me-downs and barely survived The Depression. That generation probably thinks those raised in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were spoiled rotten. It’s all in one’s perspective!

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  12. Diana

    04/19/2016

    Maybe the 70s moms drinking Tab and sending their kids outside all day are the ones now regretting it, saying “cherish the moments”? 🙂 Mostly kidding!! I know NOT all of them are! I know many excellent moms who fully enjoyed their kids’ growing up years who still tell me that, and those are the moms whose comments I take to heart, too.

    Great thoughts, and it’s so true that we do the best we can in the time we live in. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Debbie

    04/19/2016

    Amen! Like! Well said!

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  14. Avia

    04/19/2016

    Amen!

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  15. Michelle

    04/19/2016

    Thanks for this post! I read one of your source links and thought about how our lifestyle has changed a bit since the last time I talked with my daughter about what to do when someone approaches her at the park or the store or when someone comes to the door. So we took a few minutes rehearsing what to do and how to be safe.

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    Andrea Reply:

    awesome! That’s such a great idea! I’ve done some of this with nora — and will continue to do more as she gets older!

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  16. LoriB

    04/19/2016

    I started reading your post today with a little fear and trepidation but you had some great points and I really appreciated seeing both sides of this coin. Many of the excesses we see today started in the 60-80’s. There are many good reasons for doing things differently. Please don’t think badly of us older parents who tell you to “cherish every moment, because it goes so fast”. We’re not all scolding or gushing. Our intentions are good. We were told the same thing by our elders. Life is short and we’re on the short end of it so please give us a break. Appreciate your blog and your good common sense so much.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lori!
    Also, I completely realize that your intentions are good when you say things like “cherish every moment”. Those types of comments definitley do NOT bother me at all!
    I just wanted to include that into this post to show that on one side of things, we are told we are doing too much, but on the other side, we are told to “do more” “don’t miss out” “don’t let it slip away”. It can be so conflicting for some parents who are always trying to do the “right thing”.

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  17. Jennifer

    04/19/2016

    My mom was raised in the 60s, and in some ways the picture she paints of her childhood is similar to what those articles describe – more freedom, for example. And she described her mom seeing her occupation not as a stay-at-home parent but as a homemaker, and her job was keeping house, not caring for kids. She did the same things before and after having kids at home as she did while they were at home. But you know what? My mom also says she grew up wishing her mom would spend more time with her instead of doing housework all the time!

    So even if those articles are right about how things were in the 60s, that doesn’t mean everything about it is better than now, or that the kids of those parents were always happy about how they were raised. My mom was probably an ‘involved’ parent (she homeschooled us), but a lot of that was her reaction to being raised by less-involved parents, and wanting to do things differently with her kids. But both generations of kids turned out fine!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for your thoughts Jennifer!
    My mom was also raised in the 60’s and (although my grandma is amazing) she has told me similar statements about growing up with a mom who was OBSESSED with keeping the house perfectly clean.

    And yes, we all seem to turn out just fine — so once again, there really is no one “right way” to parent any generation of children. We’re all just doing our best every day!

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  18. Rhianna

    04/19/2016

    YES! Andrea, I almost always agree with you and this is no different. I hate reading all those things, too. Thank you for this post as a reminder that we are all doing just fine.

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  19. Shelley

    04/19/2016

    I think there are extremes today just like there were years ago. I really think one of the things that saddeneds me the most is the way moms use daycares now-everyday/all day. I worked at one and it broke my heart to see almost newborns through school aged children dropped off for 12 hours even on the mom’s day off during the week:(

    On the flip side, I think there are more parents “trying” now to be a good parent. However, some are substituting things like parties/big gifts for their lack of time. To me, a good parent is a mixture of love, discipline and time. Emphasize the discipline part at Walmart please-lol

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    Andrea Reply:

    I agree that parents are trying to be good parents these days. I think this is especially true of dads. In the past, I feel like it was almost “uncool” for dad’s to have too much of an interest in family life. Now there is paternity leave, and stay-at-home-dads, and they are really taking an interest and getting involved in their kid’s school life and personal life. I even know a couple home-schooling dads!

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    Barb T. Reply:

    Love the photo of “the grooming of Dad”.

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  20. Mirjam

    04/19/2016

    Thank you for this post. ❤️
    Greetings from Switzerland.
    Mirjam

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Mirjam!

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  21. Elizabeth

    04/19/2016

    Hello Andrea,

    I just want to thank you for your post today. I really need to hear it again….I am doing “just fine”. Sometimes it is so hard to believe it.

    Elizabeth

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes! sometimes it IS hard to believe!
    I guess I always figure that if you’re actually concerned as to if you are (or are not) a “good parent”, that probably means that you’re putting in plenty of effort and doing everything you can to be a good parent. (Hopefully that makes sense! It was difficult to type out what I’m trying to say without sounding too wordy!)

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