I want to begin by confessing that I never really thought much about parenting before I became a parent, but I do know that parenting has changed in the last 50 years.
I wasn’t one of those women who dreamt of being a mother as soon as I hit puberty. I wasn’t one of those women who read every single parenting book on the shelf when I was pregnant – in fact I don’t think I read any parenting books at all. Some parents have a clear vision for the kind of parent that they are going to be. This most definitely was not me.
My dad recounts stories of hours spent sitting on the front gate of the terraced house watching the cars go by. He recalls his mother letting him go out of the house early in the morning to play football with friends in the street, returning only in the evening for dinner and to wash the dirt off his knees before he went to bed. He tells of their next door neighbour, Mrs Hutchins her name was, feeding him his tea when he got home from school before his mother got home from work. I feel a lot of affinity with my dad’s mother, my grandmother, because my grandmother was a single mother too.
When my dad was a child, the responsibility of a parent was to feed their child, to keep them safe from harm, to send them to school and well, that was probably about it. Not so today. Parenting has changed.
In 2018, parenting is not simply raising a child, parenting is about transforming a child, and there are all sorts of personnel required to achieve the transformational effect. There are an army of baby whisperers, sleep counsellors, breast-feeding consultants, professional potty trainers, behavioural guides, speech therapists and tutors.
These days parenting means playing Mozart CDs when you are pregnant, it means forgoing the epidural, it means breast-feeding your child until they are old enough and dextrous enough to unbutton your blouse. Parenting means taking your infant to ‘Bach to Baby’ (where my child just played cars on the floor the whole time), it means drama, and gymboree, and rhyme time and soft play. Parenting means children’s puppet theatre and home made fully organic meals (Cygnet, for the record, does not have these). Parenting means arranging school costumes and school fairs and raffles and hampers and elaborate presents for the teacher and homework for 3 year olds.
Parenting is serious, it is fierce, it is competitive, it is active, energetic and it is unrelenting. You can’t just spend time with your child, you can’t just chill out at home, your days together have to be activity filled and educational. Your child must always be stimulated and stretched. Your child can never be bored.
Are we making better adults? I am not sure. I am not convinced that our children are more rounded and better educated. I am not convinced that they are happier. I am not convinced that they are healthier.
Parenting has changed. Parenting in 2018 is not always fun, it fact as a parent I am often guilt ridden and failing, but at least I am not bored. With all of these mum and toddler activities on our agenda, we will never be bored.