It is a sweeping statement to end all sweeping statements. One that, in the 500+ days that I have been a parent, I have come across more often than any other.
I have seen it typed in Facebook groups, I’ve received it as texts over Whatsapp and have even discussed it verbally with many mothers currently parenting children between the ages of 0 and 18:
‘Parenting is much harder than it used to be’.
It’s never posed as a question. And it just sits there…seemingly shunning decades of parenting (and parents) before it. Shining a bright spotlight on the already shiny, Modern Parents it defends. We’ll call these, the MPs.
If this sentiment is shared with the wrong people (for example, an MP’s own parents) it could wreak havoc. But, amongst the group for which it stands, it is a beacon of encouragement. Emphatically telling them not to worry…that they’re meant to be finding it harder…because it is.
As an MP myself, I often find myself romanticising my parents’ experience of raising my sisters and I. In the first few months of having Kate, I would ask my mum to tell me what she used to do, often ending conversations with a sweeping, ‘Hmm, but I guess it was easier back then.’ I wouldn’t even debate it. My brain gave me enough reasons to believe that it actually was an easier time. That the struggles I was facing as a parent were characteristic of the present.
However, whenever I have come face to face with this sweeping statement (again, in Facebook groups, over Whatsapp texts, in conversation etc.), I struggle to confidently affirm or deny it. I sit on the proverbial fence, often asking: how could anyone really know the answer to this?
Well, after this same sweeping statement popped up yet again in conversation, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do what any other self-respecting MP would do.
I Googled it.
And lo and behold, according to a number of research studies…parenting is actually harder than it used to be.
OK. If you’re a parent but you are not an MP you might be rolling your eyes right now. If you ARE an MP, please refrain from whoop-whooping for the time being.
It may come as no surprise but there is ONE main factor responsible for all of this, and that’s…
In a nutshell: Technology is low-key ruining our lives and making everything harder.
Just kidding. Well, kind of. Without going in to too much detail, here are three examples of how technology has made parenting more complicated:
1. We are no longer blissfully unaware.
Information is everywhere. And it is often conflicting. The thousands of curveballs your child will throw at you during their first year can no longer be chalked up to teething pain. There are multiple explanations for everything, numerous suggestions to help with any challenge. There’s “expert advice” from “experts” you don’t know and will never meet. Not to mention, everyone has an opinion that they WILL give you, regardless of whether you want it or not. Parents often don’t even know where to begin. There isn’t the single way of doing things anymore. There are the right ways, the wrong ways and the grey ways (MPs who choose the latter are those that awkwardly toe the line between what they think they should be doing and trying to replicate what their own parents did…think: Gripe Water fixes colic & dressing your kid warmer stops hiccups. #handmethatblanket). Parenting is a confusing world that gets even more confusing 10,000 Google searches later.
2. Making life easier has made it more stressful.
By attempting to make life easier, technology has made it more stressful. We live in an age where work comes home with us and multiple chores can be done at once. In a short span of time I could organise and do a load of laundry, prepare dinner in the slow cooker, unpack and sort my grocery delivery, send a few emails and order baby’s winter clothes in the next size up. Whereas each one of these things used to take up a chunk of time (if not a whole afternoon) to complete, it is now possible to do all these things within an hour…which is why we do it. And it’s also why we cram 5000 other things into our day, leaving us all the more exhausted and reducing the time we get to ‘just be’ with our family.
3. A virtual village just isn’t the same.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Whilst people nowadays are more ‘virtually connected’ than they ever were, we are also WAY more isolated. In the past it was not uncommon for extended family members to all play some sort of role in the upbringing of a child, taking care of mummy and baby alike. Well, times have surely changed and nowadays it’s often up to the parents to build their village from scratch…and it’s usually a virtual one.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gadgets and the World Wide Web as much as the next Millenial and there are a myriad of things that exist in the parenting world today that I am hella thankful for. But when I find myself regulating the temperature in my daughter’s room to match the tog mark of her sleeping bag, in an attempt to keep her thermostat glowing in the yellow ‘safe zone’…I can see how it’s gotten a little bit more complicated than it needs to be.
That being said, whether you’re an MP or an OG, pat yourself on the back, because I’m pretty sure that in any decade, century or millennium…parenting is no easy feat.