1. There’s more of a “right” and “wrong” way to parent than ever before. And the “right” way to parent is an extremely unrealistic, kid-centered perfectionism. If we raised our kids the same way our parents raised us we’d be considered lazy and neglectful by today’s standards. But it begs the question, we turned out okay, didn’t we?
2. We think we are supposed to be happy all the time. Before our generation, people knew that unhappiness was a part of life sometimes. It’s healthy to not be happy all the time. But we don’t accept this and it makes parenting harder. More than any group of parents in the past we want to give our kids everything, we need to do whatever it takes so they aren’t unhappy. And in the process we are robbing them of valuable life lessons.
3. Parenting is more public than ever before. Our friends and family can see how we parent not only in person but also on social media, and ask our kids age, they can broadcast their own feelings too. It’s hard not to fall into a bit of a trap with there where we do what will make us look good, or what most people would understand, or what our kid will like instead of using our judgement and doing what we think is best for our family.
4. We’re competing for our kid’s attention. Our parents maybe had to compete with TV for our attention but if we got in trouble we were sent to our rooms where we invariably did not have a TV. Now, kids have TVs but they also have iPods and phones and video games. Their devices are so small they can bring them to the dinner table and we might not notice right away. They’re like part of their limbs.
5. Bad parenting is more prevalent than ever, and it turns us into the “bad guy” with our kids. When other parents don’t set rules with their kids and try to be a friend before a parent or brush off their kid’s bad behavior as “kids will be kids” it sends a message to our children that that kind of behavior is okay, and the only reason we don’t let them do the same thing is because we’re mean.
6. We parent all alone. Kids used to grow up with a common set of rule enforced by everyone — teachers, friend’s parents, neighbors, bus drivers, etc. For better and for worse our culture is more politically correct now and we’re all afraid to offend someone or step on their toes, so we let other people do their own thing. In some cases this is beneficial but in other ways, each family is isolated and we’re enforcing our rules in a vacuum.
7. We’re working more. How luxurious do the families of old seem where there was a breadwinner and the other parent stayed at home to raise the kids, cook the meals, and make sure everything in the household was in order? Those responsibilities haven’t gone away, we still have to do all those things but now both parents need to have full-time jobs in order to survive. And if your job is anything like mine, it doesn’t end at 5pm when it’s time to go home.
8. Our kid’s lives are just as busy as ours are. Parenting was a lot easier when your kids came home from school for the day and disappeared outside to play with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on. Now they have after school soccer practice and lessons and clubs — all of which require us to drive them around and then feel pressured to stay and watch, as if we have nothing else in the world to do.
9. Expectations are higher — everyone else’s as well as our own. It isn’t enough to be a mom unless you’re also successful in your career and well-read and a marathoner and someone who can bake cupcakes when it’s your turn to bring snacks. We all feel like we have to be everything and the pressure to achieve is insane.
10. We put our kids ahead of ourselves. In my family growing up the rules were simple: God first, my parent’s marriage second, us kids — third. Family was extremely important to my parents, but doing what’s best for the family meant spending time and energy on their marriage and making rules that might be unpopular with us kids because they believed it was the godly thing to do. I’ve yet to meet a parent around my age that won’t say, “my kids are the most important thing in my life.” And I love my kids, I love them very much, but they aren’t the most important thing in my life, and it benefits them because they grow up with a role model that can take care of herself and provide for a family and have a great relationship with their dad.
11. It’s no longer okay to make a mistake. That’s a popular expression right, “people make mistakes.” We teach it to our kids, but we don’t practice what we preach. In today’s outrage media culture when someone makes a mistake, we publicly shame and humiliate them until they’ve lost their job, cut ties with their family and left public life. For anyone with a minuscule, mildly public job, the thought of ever messing up and ending up in this kind of news cycle is terrifying. Even for those of us not in the public eye, there’s no way for us to be so judgmental of others without internalizing the judgement and turning it inward.
12. The world just isn’t kid friendly anymore. Swearing is commonplace and public, there’s sex on network TV, and the news is full of sensationalized stories about how “bad” the world is. If you want your kids to stay away from other people’s messages, good luck, you’ll be in a cabin up on a mountain all by yourself.
13. We prioritize instant gratification. We’re trying to do what will make our kids (and ourselves) happy now instead of happy down the road. We exchange life lessons for momentary happiness. We assume the avoidance of any bad feelings is a worthy goal instead of being confident that these things are necessary components of being a healthy adult.
14. We know more about parenting practices, and so we feel more pressured to learn and follow through with the best advice. It’s a rat race, constantly scrutinizing your behavior and trying to be the “best” parent with the healthiest, most well-adjusted kid. No matter how much you do, there will always be more blogs, more parenting magazine articles, more child psychology experts with advice to give.