The Evolution of Parenting

The topic of the generational gap in parenting has surfaced in various areas of my life, and I know I am not alone. I have read articles circulating the internet, talked about it with friends/fellow moms during playdates and had a few conversations with different family members. Because I have a 14 month old, it is something that resonates with me. Everyone has on opinion on child-rearing and most people like to make that opinion known to you. So like it or not, it shows up at my door.

The generational gap in parenting can cause quite a rift between the current parents of little ones and the past parents of little ones. If not a rift, then certainly the gap leaves room for plenty of awkward moments and heated debates. Depending on the parenting style you identify with, if you do, it can feel like the only thing you have in common is the desire to keep them alive. I don’t know about you, but I remember a childhood of riding city buses to and from the mall, walking to the near by 7’11 (which was across the street at a busy intersection) and spending the night with a friend that my parents barely knew. Forget about meeting parents. All at the ripe old age of 9 or 10. Perhaps I had too much freedom, but I certainly was not the only latchkey kid in my neighborhood. It was a much different world when I was growing up. Kids were out of their parent’s hair and both were happier for it. Now, in my generation of parenting, parents are being investigated when they let their kids walk to the park and back.

Looking at the evolution of parenting though, I get it. It makes sense how some of these parenting traditions came to be. Previous centuries of parenting was as much about survival as it was about love. Kids became helpers very early and luxuries certainly did not exist. Living situations made certain arrangements like bed sharing just a normal part of life and when the opportunity came about for something different like NOT sharing a bed, who the hell wouldn’t jump all over that. People breastfed due to necessity. I don’t see many moms back then going, ‘well she wasn’t a good latcher so we decided to bottle feed’. Life was much different, so parenting had to be. No one can argue that. Strength is a virtue that definitely wasn’t lost on previous parents to pass down.

We have to acknowledge however, that life has changed. Even in the last 40 years it has changed dramatically. And much of the traditions, techniques or whatever you want to call them don’t really make sense to continue today or could use some modifications. For instance, we are a society obsessed with technology; which was not a concern of the past. An upside to all this technology is that current parents have the internet at their fingertips. Which means access to an overwhelming amount of information 24/7. What an invaluable tool. It has changed the game in parenting. Having information to look up is relieving, convenient and easy to do. It is something I would definitely be lost without. Before the internet parents had to rely on professionals or word of mouth. Which usually meant taking what you have been told for face value. Now if we don’t like what someone says or are just plain curious we have the internet to rely on. Downfall, well, it can also cause you to second guess everything and make something out of nothing. It’s pretty much guaranteed. The internet itself brings about issues that require parent’s attention. Internet issues can range from monitoring screen time to worrying about and being vigilant to online predators. Oh, and don’t forget the MAJOR problem with online bullying. Parents today face challenges that simply did not exist before. New challenges mean new parenting.

Sadly for my generation, the days of latchkey kids who are kept an eye on by neighbors is long gone. The saying ‘it takes a village’ derives from somewhere, and it sure as hell isn’t from today’s society. In generations past family, friends and certain education staff were not only welcomed to discipline your kids, but expected to. Remember school spankings? Now if you catch someone disciplining another person’s child, you can almost bet there is going to repercussions. In the past, parents were more inclined to back other parents before any kids. Now its the other way around. Today specific parenting styles are popular and this leads to identifying with and surrounding yourself with those you see as like-minded. When groups form, it can set the stage for judgement and criticism. For example, it is common to see moms who chooses to bottle feed being questioned or criticized and at the same time hear about a mom breastfeeding in public being asked to move or cover up. So not only does my generation not have this crucial village to help raise our tiny humans, instead we have learned to tear down other parents who do it differently then us.

In the past, parenting was pretty much something that was learned. You know, ‘this is how it has always been done’. You have heard all the same wisdom passed down from pervious generations before, I am sure. Don’t hold them too much, you will spoil them. Put cereal in the bottle, they will sleep longer (which I am sure works today), don’t let them sleep in your bed, it will ruin your marriage… and so on. No harm no fowl. Some of the things I have heard are a little odd and some things I couldn’t imagine myself doing, but maybe for some it would work. Just feels odd to me to not acknowledge that times have changed, children’s needs have expanded and our sources for information has grown immensely. Reading a book, looking up stuff on the internet and or attending one or two of the classes offered. You can learn a lot and see how times have changed. Even baby sleeping placement has evolved over time as information has emerged.

As a mom, I know many modern mothers don’t always see eye to eye because being a mom today can mean so many things and there are so many ways to go about it. Moms hold so many titles today and it  seems like being the stay-at-home mom isn’t the traditional thing to do anymore, working is. It’s very easy to find to topics to debate. However, one thing I feel is pretty universal among modern parents and it is that we agree parenting has evolved. Makes you wonder what the hell it will be like in another 40 years. Maybe insurance will cover live-in nannies, epidurals will come in pill form and men will be able to lactate as well. One can hope.


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