I have been thinking recently about the changing faces of parenting. Have you ever stopped and thought about the ways in which we parent and how different they are to the ways our parents, and certainly grandparents, parented? I think technology plays a huge role in this, for better and for worse.
One example, the simple washing machine. When looking for children’s clothes I try and make sure that they are machine washable and preferably tumble dryable. Can you imagine how different things would have been in the days before washing machines? I often feel like laundry is taking over my life – but think how much more hard work it would have been always washing things by hand? I know this doesn’t always relate to parenting but think of it like this.
I have no problem if Monkey’s clothes get muddy when jumping in puddles or climbing something or rolling in the grass. I don’t fret when he gets his dinner all down his front or drips porridge onto his pyjamas. I am less happy about paint getting on his clothes but for the most part that is washable too. I am sure I would feel entirely different about him getting in such a mess if I had the prospect of scrubbing out all of those stains by hand! Surely then this little invention makes us more relaxed about a bit of mess and dirty clothes, potentially making us more fun? I say this because I got stopped in a park once by a lady around my parent’s age and she commented on how wonderful she thought it was that we were so relaxed about Monkey jumping in the mud as she said she never was but that she loves seeing it now.
While on the subject of washing, Nappies have come ever such a long way in a relatively short space of time. There are disposables nappies which, although I am well aware are not that good for the environment, make life so much easier than it ever was for our parents! Cloth nappies have come a heck of a long way too! I have read some reviews lately that have made me consider them in a way I never have before. I am still not sure I can be bothered, and hubs hates anything poo related so I am not sure he would be up for it either, but there is some temptation. Because they don’t look like anywhere ear the rigmarole they used to be! Good old technology :).
It’s not just in practical areas that things have come such a long way either. Think of entertainment. Think of a world with no cbeebies, no child friendly apps on our phones. No in car DVD players or tablets to keep them occupied. No Postman Pat or Peppa Pig or (insert favourite character here ;)). Yikes. I started out thinking I would limit the amount of TV our little Monkey watched (that’s a story for another post) but who was I kidding, it can be a god-send! I am sure there are many people who would say that this is detrimental to our children but for all the mums I know, thank you technology for helping me cope and cook the dinner without a child throwing a tantrum at my feet (at least not every day anyway ;)).
Onto slightly more serious subjects, the advance of medicine and medical research has also changed the way we parent. There are of course the major changes. The vaccinations that prevent our children succumbing to horrible diseases. The research into SIDS and the back to back campaign which helps us keep our babies safe while they sleep.
But there are also hundreds of other smaller developments that make a difference to the lives of us parents. I’ve blogged about the problems we have had with Little Miss’s reflux over the past few months and how a combination of infant Gaviscon and Lactose free formula have helped us to help her. She is no longer screaming in agony multiple times a day meaning we are less traumatised and exhausted and we are all much happier. Even in our parents day I am sure there was no such thing as infant Gaviscon or lactose free formula. Our parents probably wouldn’t even have considered a baby had reflux, many things would have been classed as Colic and you would have just got on with it. My brother in law was apparently a terrible sleeper and Hub’s parents spent night after night sat with him asleep on them upright as that was the only way they could get him to sleep. It could have been reflux but who would know? Now we do know about these things and can help our little ones through it.
This leads me on to the internet. Which is definitely a mixture of good and bad! In our parents day there was no internet. There was not this amazing amount of information at our fingertips. No Google available to check every tiny detail and see if it is normal. For our parents it was just about talking to family, friends and neighbours, seeing if they had experienced the same. But actually, it was just about getting on with it! What choice did you have? You just survived and got through it.
Is this wealth of information always a good thing? Well I am not sure because there is also so much contradictory information available which leads to a lot of people feeling like they are experts when really there is no way of validating the information you are reading online. It can of course be hugely helpful, to share experiences and find the possible causes of your child’s distress…. but it can also make us worry more, or convince ourselves that our child has the symptoms of something awful, when actually they just have a cold or something. Difficult that one.
The online community can be hugely beneficial though and I have found that no much more so than in the blogging community, reading each other’s experiences, sharing stories and supporting each other, a HUGE example of technology benefitting our parenting!! This past week has been a fantastic example of that as I have been trying to get some advice on teething remedies and had a lot of wonderful advice from brands, bloggers and other mummies on twitter. Through all of this advice I have been able to make some great and informed choices and benefit from the experience of others.
But again, the flip side of this is the pressure we sometimes feel from these online communities. The pressure we feel from others but also the pressure we put on ourselves by reading things that make us question our parenting instincts or techniques. The pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect parents. Maybe there has always been this much pressure, but I have a feeling it is intensified now. There is a lot that you see online where photos are perfectly staged and everyone is perfectly happy and while it is lovely to see and there is nothing wrong it, it can be misleading. I think most of understand that nobody has perfection in every moment of their life and that everyone has bad days, but when you are having a low day seeing these images can make you feel as if you are the only one struggling or the only one who isn’t perfect. And this can either make you try harder (not necessarily a bad thing unless you push yourself too far) or it can make you feel like you aren’t good enough, which is totally untrue and not helpful to anyone.
I think the internet and TV and the proliferation of news affects our parenting too. We now hear about awful things happening to children across the country or in different parts of the world that probably have always happened, but we didn’t hear about before. Now with 24 hour News channels and constantly updated news websites there are stories about everything, making us more aware of child safety. This is a good thing but it also makes us worry and this affects how we raise our children. We don’t let them play outside alone as much as we did as kids. Is the world actually more dangerous now or are we just more aware of the dangers than our parents were? Though of course there is the much darker side of the internet which gives nasty people access to our children through online communities, and I don’t even like to think about that yet!
Then of course technological advances pander to our fears. We buy baby monitors that have temperature sensors, motion sensors and video cameras so we can monitor everything our baby is doing. I read a story today about micro-chipping children (either in their clothes or under their skin) so that parents can find them at all times. On one hand this feels crazy, but on the other it feels genius as we all fear for our children’s safety and what better way to know that they are safe than to know where they are at all times?
I just find it all really interesting I guess, parenting changes along with technology and I know our parent’s generations don’t understand many of the accepted parenting techniques we use today. I wonder how much technology, and parenting will change by the time our children are parents. And how will we feel about it? Will these be “the good old days” to us?
What do you think?