My siblings and I have great parents. Growing up, they loved us, provided for us, helped us out of jams when we needed it, and forced us to help ourselves when we needed that, too. A pretty bang-up job as far as I’m concerned. But by today's standards? They would be pariahs.
Previous generations turned to friends or doctors or even (gasp) their own mothers and fathers for parenting advice. Now, we have Pinterest parenting. An ever-present, ever-widening circle of “experts” to consult about every parenting move we make. The result? Guilt. And lots of it.
Here are five things today’s parents feel guilty about that the previous generation would have laughed off (on their way out the door as they left us home alone to fend for ourselves, of course).
And trans fats. And refined sugars. And chicken that didn’t grow up with the same freedom and luxuries as the neighborhood children. Our parents didn’t obsess over ingredients, and they did all their grocery shopping at a single store. We may not have had the best diet in the world, but at least we didn’t have to spend every Saturday afternoon trailing after them in the farmer’s market while they hunted down organic microgreens.
Both of my parents had highly demanding jobs with their own work to worry about. You know whose job it was to take care of my schoolwork? MINE. Sure, they drove me to the craft store to get styrofoam balls for my solar system diorama, but it was my responsibility to know I had homework, understand how to do it, get it done, and make sure it got to school the next day. And if it didn’t? I was the one who would have something to feel guilty about.
My mom made three lunches. Bologna and cheese on white bread. Ham and cheese on white bread. And something called chicken roll and cheese on white bread. That was it. Now, when I look online for "quick and easy" kids lunch ideas, I see that I'm supposed to julienne carrots, purée squash, whip up some quinoa meatballs and form it all into the shape of a kangaroo for my kiddo. Too bad I have a job and a husband and a Netflix subscription and a need to sleep at least six hours a night, so my poor kid gets some variation of turkey and cheese wrapped in a carb most days. But, I still feel plenty guilty about it (and shouldn’t).
My house had two screens: the downstairs television for the kids and the upstairs TV in my parents’ room. My parents didn’t give a crap how many hours we spent in front of those screens, as long we got out of the way quickly when my father felt like watching something other than cartoons or cheesy sitcoms. Funny thing is, without our parents policing us, we didn’t even want to watch TV all day since we were busy outside doing God knows what.
I said “God knows what” in that last blurb and I meant it, because our parents certainly didn’t know what we were up to every second of the day. Nor did they feel the pressure to fill all our waking moments with some form of educational enrichment or gender-neutral, age-appropriate, culturally sensitive play. I still remember how it felt to wake up that first morning of summer, knowing we had a long, glorious stretch of nothing-to-do days ahead of us. But we didn’t do nothing. We created our own agendas, packing them with bike rides and books and Marco Polo games and aimless, exhilarating walks around the neighborhood. Will my kids ever know this kind of freedom? Probably not, because I signed them up for summer camp back in February, which is when today’s parents start to panic about their summer plans.
Of course, who’s to say whether any generation of parents does things the right or wrong way? We do the best we can with the information at hand. But when it comes to raising my kids, some days I definitely wish I could have a little less information, a little more gluten.
Diane Levine is the Associate Creative Director of the award-winning branding and marketing agency Think Creative. She specializes in writing, branding, marketing and inspiring people to believe in their own awesomeness so they can find more joy at work and in life (she writes more on those topics on her personal blog, Operation Goosebumps). She is a mom of two, a wife of one, and a collector of many pairs of high heels.
© 2022 Fairygodboss