How parenting has changed in the last 50 years

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.

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. 

What My Fridge Says
My Random Musings


  1. February 10, 2018 / 2:45 pm

    I definitely feel the pressure to be the perfect pinterest worthy mum, until I remember how fondly I remember my own childhood when we didn’t do half the thing we’re expected to do now! And I turned out ok….?! #thesatsesh

    • thesingleswan
      February 10, 2018 / 9:11 pm

      Hi Jen,

      I agree, it turned out okay didn’t it! I do wonder whether all of these activities are good. Pen x

  2. February 11, 2018 / 5:24 pm

    Yep I get thus and spot on. I used to get so obsessed with song so much that it made me I’ll. Often I tell my kid to go play, defiantly helped there independence X #thesatsesh

    • thesingleswan
      February 11, 2018 / 9:40 pm

      Thanks Pen x

      • February 18, 2018 / 3:32 pm

        This is one reason I like my kids growing up
        In Holland. It is not so competitive! The style of parenting is not so aggressive but more laid back. Great Post. Very well put observations. 🌟

        • thesingleswan
          February 19, 2018 / 9:48 pm

          THank you Catie. Pen x

  3. Hoon Teo
    February 11, 2018 / 5:26 pm

    Uhhh. I did absolutely none of those things when both mine were small. I wasn’t even aware that they existed. I feel tired just looking at them

    • thesingleswan
      February 11, 2018 / 9:40 pm

      Brilliant. Thanks Pen x

  4. February 12, 2018 / 9:46 am

    I have little interest in obsessing over any aspect of parenting and I’ve never understood the competitive aspect of it. I think our little girl is having a pretty great childhood! #FamilyFunLinky
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    • thesingleswan
      February 12, 2018 / 9:48 pm

      Good for you. Pen x

  5. February 12, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    I sometimes listen to friend’s outlining their children’s weekly after school schedules – Monday = Ballet; Tuesday = Guides plus extra tuition; Wednesday = music lessons; Thursday = netball plus more extra tuition; Friday = …. plus homework. They then comment their child is tired all the time but they don’t understand why …

    Sorry, I know this comment has committed the cardinal sin of judging another parent, but I think we’re all over-doing it a a bit. We don’t have fill every minute of their day!
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    • thesingleswan
      February 12, 2018 / 9:45 pm

      I am glad to hear you say that we are all over doing it a bit. A lot of the time Cygnet tells me that he doesn’t want to go out and that he just wants a rest day. I have to say that it is music to my ears and I get out the jigsaw puzzles. Pen x

  6. February 12, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    Oh I loved reading this! It’s so true! I’ve been making salt dough with mine this morning, playing in the snow and I’ve just sat down and started to feel guilty for having a break! Mum guilt is ridiculous as is our fear of them getting bored! #anythinggoes

    • thesingleswan
      February 12, 2018 / 9:43 pm

      OMG, you are amazing, I am not sure that I even know what salt dough is. I am not good on the whole baking angle of motherhood. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      February 12, 2018 / 9:42 pm

      Hi Tracy, You are right, we have turned it into more of a job. Pen x

  7. February 13, 2018 / 2:31 am

    I have a friend who has her kid in just about every sport the town offers. From Baseball, to Football, then Hockey in the Winter. The kid never gets time off between school and sports. He’s only 11 too. I think it’s excessive especially when he has expressed not enjoying hockey. He does love football though. I used to obsess over getting my youngest into a sport because of his hyper activity but while we tried them, he never quite took to them so I stopped and since then I’ve had a much happier kid. I no longer obsess over all the things my kids should be doing and I just let them have fun. They have enough pressure in school these days with all the testing our country is hell bent on putting them through (to test the teachers so they say). They’re home is their sanctuary and we find a great many things to do together and honestly as long as I know they will look back on their childhood with many happy memories, that’s what really matters. I’m all about the motto, They’re only children for a short time. I am taking advantage of enjoying them now before they get too big to need me. Having a teenager has opened my eyes to that reality already. I think as parents we do what we can for our kids and we do our very best. I agree with you though. Parenting has definitely changed a lot. #anythinggoes
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:29 pm

      Thanks Michelle. Yes, kids are under sooo much pressure these days . I am sure they would all benefit from a little boredom time, I am sure that we would all benefit too! Pen x

  8. February 13, 2018 / 6:09 pm

    I was thinking about this last weekend. My six year old was outside playing for hours with nobody watching her but the dog and an occasional glance out the window by me. It felt like I was doing something wrong and I hoped nobody found out. I think the judgement of others is something that has probably always been there, but not so vocal as it is now. people were jerks in whispered voices behind closed doors, not on the internet #anythinggoes
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:28 pm

      Interesting! I guess we do judge each other. It’s sad. I bet your six year old had a wonderful day. Pen x

      • February 23, 2018 / 5:33 pm

        she did. Maybe the problem isn’t even so much that others are judging us, but that we put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parent. Thats been on my mind a bit lately also. Anyway, great post Pen. Here from #KCACOLS this time
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        • thesingleswan
          February 26, 2018 / 9:02 pm

          I absolutely agree that we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents. Pen x

  9. February 13, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    #thesatsesh oh no, there is something i suck at… expectations – I’m not very good at meeting them, i either excel or dive bomb…so now I’m my thirties i don’t bother. I think not giving a shit about what others are doing truly helps to keep parenting simple and way more enjoyable. If I’m happy and little dude is smiling / breathing we are winning
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:27 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  10. February 14, 2018 / 12:17 am

    We just had (almost) 2 glorious months of school holidays from early December until just two weeks ago when they went back to school. WE went camping for one week, we got up early to watch the sunrise and then watched it set, we walked, we explored rock pools, we played games as a family. Other than that the kids had some days at a friends pool, we had some friends have sleepovers and stay up late watching movies. Most days they just amused themselves, the played game together, played with their pets, my ten year old spends hrs outside talking to herself. They never said I’m bored. Yet most of their friends had nearly everyday with a planned activity. I think mine have always had time to free play so they do it with ease. It is too easy to set up every day with a schedule, and to feel like a crap parent if we don’t. They are busy enough during the school year, they each have 2 activities, eldest is art and Taekwondo, middle is dancing and art, youngest is basketball and taekwondo. Believe me that is enough running around! Great post! So happy you could link up with #mg
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:27 pm

      Thank you Mac, Your school holidays sound heavenly. I am tempted to come and join you. Pen x

  11. February 14, 2018 / 1:21 pm

    I’ve started to wonder whether I should be laying on back to back activities for my children. Then someone at toddler group said that’s what nursery is for. #thesatsesh
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:25 pm

      haha, yes you are right. Pen x

  12. February 14, 2018 / 4:55 pm

    Love this post Pen – especially the wry ending! You have hit the nail on the head about the pressures we put on ourselves as parents in 2018 – it can be competitive and fierce if we are not careful. We are not doing ourselves or our kids any favours if we buy into this – especially the boredom thing. They need to be bored at times to be able to develop creativity and to ‘be’ with themselves – I do worry about this issue particularly. #thesatsesh xx
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:23 pm

      Hi Hayley,

      I worry about the absence of time to be bored too. Boredom is great for creativity. I also worry that we are putting too much pressure on our kids when what they really need is to explore at their own pace. Pen x

  13. February 14, 2018 / 8:25 pm

    I think there’s too many expectations on parents these days…I definitely do not fit the mould of a parent in 2018….it would be lovely to have a balance between then (when your dad was a boy) and now x

    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:22 pm

      Thanks Andie, Pen x

  14. February 15, 2018 / 8:33 am

    I think you’re right. It certainly seems to have changed and I think it is in part because the world we live in has changed. I do find this new strain of parenting hard though, hard to keep up with and I feel a lot of pressure from it. Perhaps I might not have 40 years ago! Thanks for joining us at #familyfun
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    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2018 / 11:21 pm

      Yes, I think parenting 40 years ago would have suited me better. We are clearly of an older generation. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      February 19, 2018 / 9:57 pm

      Thanks Nige. Pen x

  15. February 18, 2018 / 3:27 pm

    I think a lot of my parenting techniques are what my parents did NOT do with me — learning what not to do is important for our kinder too! I remember biking from sun up til sundown and waiting to hear my dad whistle to come home for dinner. No cell phones, no tracking. Blind trust. It was freeing and my friends and I had a blast. Thank you for a great read, Pen. #mg xo
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    • thesingleswan
      February 19, 2018 / 9:52 pm

      Your childhood sounds awesome Lisa. I can only imagine the freedom of being able to cycle round on my bike from sun up to sun down. Pen x

  16. February 18, 2018 / 4:29 pm

    There is no perfect one size fits all. You are the momma and you will decide what is best! Somedays I am on point and cooking organic…other days it is rock music and Doritos! #kcacols
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    • thesingleswan
      February 19, 2018 / 9:46 pm

      Haha, I neither cook organic, nor do I do rock music and doritos. You child gets variety – that’s great. Pen x

  17. February 18, 2018 / 8:51 pm

    There is a massive pressure now to be dashing from one activity to the next and if your days aren’t filled with activities then you’re not doing right by your child. Both my children went to a couple of things as a baby but not much and even now, there’s swimming lessons but again thats it. We play at home and then sometimes I take a step back. I enjoy watching as my 4 year creates and plays with his knights, as my 18month old pushes her pram around. And then I feel guilty that I haven’t taken then here or there.
    Then I read an article on how we are not doing any favours by not letting our children be bored. By not letting them use their imagination and I guess that is the difference from then and now….. #ThatFridayLinky

    • thesingleswan
      February 19, 2018 / 9:43 pm

      Thanks Jo. Sometimes it takes a while for Cygnet to get into the swing of just playing on his own. I think he is very used to being entertained and for an adult to arrange activities for him. I am probably not doing him any favours. Pen x

  18. February 19, 2018 / 8:09 pm

    I’ve actually had to encourage my husband to stay home today because he thinks its a wasted day if we don’t go out and do something. Actually my son has created an empire out of Duplo and my daughter, who is 8.5wo and full of cold, has been kept warm, cosy and rested. The perfect parent is a myth but there are so many people who think they are or articles/businesses selling things that supposedly make you a bette parent. What happened to the most important thing being love? Free play and imagination. If I could change one thing about parenting in 2018, I would take away social media. As much as I use it, I’m dreading my kids growing up in its world. #KCACOLS
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    • thesingleswan
      February 19, 2018 / 9:35 pm

      Hi Becky,

      I agree with you. You are right, I am really fearful of social media for our kids. I don’t know how I will have a conversation about it. I don’t want to confiscate or forbid social media, but I do want Cygnet to be resilient enough to cope with whatever social media throws at him. Pen x

  19. February 22, 2018 / 7:47 am

    I think the rise in ‘experts’ has made parents doubt themselves and be too worried about getting things right. I remember waiting outside for my dad to come home from work and playing in the street but I would never let my children do it due to traffic! #thatfridaylinky
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    • thesingleswan
      February 26, 2018 / 9:04 pm

      Yes you’re right. The rise of experts has made things really difficult. It is really difficult just to trust your own judgement. Pen x

  20. February 24, 2018 / 9:53 am

    Parenting has changed over the years but then so has everything else, we live in a different world. It’s always hard to get the balance right and we always seem to be too hard on ourselves and feel guilty about some aspect of what we’re doing as Mothers. I think we need to be kinder to ourselves, most of us to a pretty good job of parenting and it doesn’t stop when they grow up it’s just different. ☺️ #KCACOLS

    • thesingleswan
      February 26, 2018 / 9:00 pm

      Thank you for your comment, and you’re absolutely right about parenting not stopping when kids grow up. I feel that my parents are doing just as much parenting of me, my sister and brother now as they did when we were young. It is just different. Pen x

  21. February 26, 2018 / 11:04 am

    It’s so easy to feel bogged down with trying to get things ‘right’ with parenting. We just have to remember that we know what we’re doing and sometimes less is more! 🙂
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    • thesingleswan
      February 26, 2018 / 8:56 pm

      Absolutely right Laura. Pen x

  22. March 2, 2018 / 11:55 am

    Another interesting read, and very true. Everything seems a competition these days and I hate it!
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    • thesingleswan
      March 3, 2018 / 10:42 pm

      Thanks Beth. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      March 3, 2018 / 10:42 pm

      Thanks Ben x

    • thesingleswan
      March 13, 2018 / 10:08 pm

      Thank you

    • thesingleswan
      April 5, 2018 / 8:35 pm

      Indeed, so many new decisions. Pen x

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