After reading the editorial letter in the February issue of Today’s Parents Magazine, and a great article following it, I got thinking about other sources of our collective anxieties as parents, then the onces stated by Sasha Emmons. The article was describing our generation as anxious, over involved parents, who are constantly comparing their children and competing between each other. And the outcome of our collective overprotective and over-controlling behaviour, is (as stated by Canadian psychologists) a growing number of anxieties and narcism in young people. And the question was, are we the worst generation of parents ever?
And it got me wondering. Are we really? Why do we compare ourselves, doubt and constantly look for an advice? When did parenting become a noun?
Us, parents in the digital era, we do constantly compare ourselves, feeling that we’re never doing god enough. And yet, as a group, we are believed to be raising entitled kids, little centres of the world. And even If we are doing a great job, we constantly doubt in our competences and choices.
I think it’s because of the never-ending stream of new information. In the past, our grandmothers could only compare themselves with a couple of their friends and family members. And since people used to live in more culturally unified groups and less multicultural environments, the parenting styles within a group where more similar.
Same with food. When my Polish grandmother was deciding what to make for dinner, she had much less choise: it was Polish food, or Polish food. And she could only use seasonal ingredients. While me, I have the choise of Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Vegetarian, Paleo, GMO Free.. So many choices, it’s easy to get lost and discouraged only by thinking about dinner!
And as humans, we evolved to compare and to make decisions based on what others around us are doing. We are a species of imitators. Imitation used to benefit us, as a group, as it helped spread new ideas and advance our culture. And if you’re a parent of a young child, then you know that kids imitate other kids and us adults all the time! But there used to be so much less choices around and therefore so much less anxiety!
So I think that yes, we do compare ourselves more, and with much more choise and possibilities offered to us, we are often lost and anxious. We see so many ways to parent, that we doubt and double-guess ourselves.
But I don’t think that we’re the worst parents ever. We don’t sell our kids to work as parents did in middle ages, and we don’t encourage our barely-hitting-puberty daughters to get married (now that’s being the worst parent ever!). We don’t neglect our kids feelings like our grandparents generation did, and we don’t smoke in their faces like our parents did.Are we the perfect parents? No. And kids don't need parents to be perfect either. Click To Tweet
Do we over-question ourselves? Yes. Do we constantly look for validation of our actions? Perhaps. Are we the perfect parents? No. And kids don’t need parents to be perfect either. They need good-enough parents. Good enough parenting means responding to most of our children needs. Not all of them.
And so I think that in the end, with our collective effort to raise happy, good and sensitive people, we might be actually doing a pretty good job!
If you’d like to learn more about the connection between too much choice and anxiety , see the paradox of choice Ted talk by a psychologist Barry Schwartz.