Why Modern Parenting Feels So Hard
Parenting is no easy feat. If we didn't know how hard it was before we had kids, we likely heard it from our own parents. Past generations each had their own unique struggles to navigate. But that doesn’t mean millennial parents aren’t up against a whole new set of standards, dilemmas and challenges, too.
In fact, modern day parenting can feel immensely challenging for a variety of new-age reasons. From sometimes having too much knowledge, to too little savings, the struggles of modern parents are real. And so, it’s no surprise that we hear so much about how difficult parenting is.
The truth is that while modern conveniences make parenting easier in a whole host of ways, we’re also up against a lot of very real issues that affect the ways we live our lives and the ways in which we parent our children.
These are 12 reasons modern parenting feels so hard:
The Cost of Living Keeps Rising
From the cost of gas, to the price of owning a home, to college tuition rates, living expenses are going up and up. While your parents may have bought a three-bedroom house in a decent neighborhood in the early 1980's for $50k, depending on where you live, you could be looking at five times that amount when purchasing even a modest home that accommodates your family.
These days, everything costs more and while it’s true that wages have increased, as well, they haven’t increased at the same rate as living expenses. Life is simply more expensive these days. Therefore, a lot more people are struggling financially, especially those with families to feed, clothe and take care of.
The High Cost of Childcare
Likewise, finding affordable childcare is not a simple task. While once you could pay a babysitter a few dollars an hour, today's parents fork over practically their entire salary just to be able to get to work.
While more parents work outside the home, and the need for childcare is ever-present, affordable childcare is still hard to come by. More and more Americans claim it's causing financial strain, and with the average cost of childcare being close to $10k a year, why wouldn’t it?
The Concept of 'Doing It All'
We hear a lot about “doing it all,” aka, holding down a job and having kids and doing both brilliantly and without error.
But the fact is, women in particular still do most of the childcare and home maintenance even though they work outside the home at higher rates than ever.
While it’s empowering to hear that, yes, we can do it all if we want to, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes, it feels downright impossible to keep all our ducks in a row.
Social Media and the Pressure to Be Perfect
It’s practically in our generation’s DNA to post, critique and compare. We look at the carefully filtered lives of others through the lens of social media, and we can’t help but feel the pressure to be perfect parents.
We see others beautiful, smiling families and we imagine that perhaps we are doing something wrong if our reality feels different. We think, perhaps they don’t share in our day-to-day struggles. Of course, the truth is we all have parenting, marriage and life struggles that we don’t (typically) share with a wide audience.
But it can be challenging not to compare ourselves to others’ picture-perfect lives, and studies have shown that it’s not exactly good for our mental health to do so on such a constant basis.
School Is Demanding (on Parents!)
Another common parental complaint we often hear is about the frequency of school functions that take time, energy and organization. While once, you could get away with a monthly PTA meeting, these days it seems like just about every week there’s another school obligation to attend or prepare for.
Likewise, the amount of homework and other school projects that parents need to support have increased. It’s not that we don’t want to be involved parents. It’s that so many constant commitments can be overwhelming, especially for working parents or parents who are home with other children to take care of at home.
Like, do we really need to send snacks for a new party every week? Celebrate a host of made-up holidays like “best friends day” and “100 days of school day”? How many concerts, meetings and bake sales can there be? While we think our stress level will go down once we send our kids off to school, the truth is, keeping up with the intensity of the modern schooling commitments can be a whole new kind of stress, and parents are generally over it.
We Feel Judged About Our Choices
From breastfeeding to bottle feeding, co-sleeping to crib sleeping, parents these days often complain of feeling more judged and ridiculed about their choices than ever.
With the invention of social media, in some ways, we’re more privy to the ways in which other people parent their children. We know about what goes on and the choices others make. Often, this leads to parents feeling more judged and shamed because of those choices.
We also have more knowledge about parenting techniques than ever before, also due to the internet-age. With that, everyone tends to feel like an expert, which only leads to more judging and more feelings of being judged.
You Can’t Leave Your Kids Unattended
While letting your kids hang out in the backyard, run down to the park or to the neighbor’s house used to be considered normal parenting, now we call giving children just about any amount of freedom “free-range parenting.”
We have to have a special name for it now because, while some parents still allow their children these freedoms, it’s few and far between. Most people keep their children closer to home out of fear of the unknown. But there are also more challenges in trying to give kids simple freedoms.
Some parents have been arrested for letting their children play at a nearby park unattended or even out in their front yard. Generally, these days, people keep their children closer to home, more scheduled and give them freedom at older ages than before.
We Can’t Get a Break From the News
While living in the age of information has its benefits, it also has a downside. It’s good to be informed, yes, but often parents today feel they are constantly inundated with a flood of frightening information.
Every horrific accident or event involving a child is splashed across our news-feeds with such consistency that we can’t miss a single traumatic event. It makes being a parent today an even more anxious venture because we can’t get away from all the scary stuff, even if we rationalize that those incidents are rare.
Still, there are plenty of real fears to cope with, too, like school shootings, that modern parents now have to grapple with. And let’s face it — being a parent is already pretty frightening to begin with.
We Lack a Village
While parents today are more connected online, we are also largely more isolated. Most of us don’t have large networks of other parents to rely on unless we work very hard to create them.
But because we don’t live communally, as people once did, and more parents spend their days working outside of the home, time for real human connection becomes ever more challenging.
Stay-at-home parents feel particularly lonely because time to connect with other parents (or people in general, even in a work setting) is slim. If we want a village these days, mostly, we have to work incredibly hard to build one and keep it up and running. But it doesn’t present itself the moment we have a baby, which can lead to modern parents feeling largely alone during the most challenging parts of raising children.
Grandparents Are Working Later in Life
Likewise, many modern parents don’t have grandparents to rely on for babysitting anymore.
Though life expectancy has increased, due to rising living costs, people work longer to ensure they have money for retirement.
Relying on grandparents for babysitting happens, but oftentimes it happens when grandparents are extremely enthused or willing to juggle their jobs and caregiving at the same time. But the fact is, many baby boomers can’t afford to retire, so they can’t help out with their grandchildren, even if they want to.
We’re the Most Stressed Society Ever
According to the American Psychological Association, millennials are the most stressed out generation ever.
People have more mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, which affect parents at disproportionately high rates, though women reportedly suffer at higher rates than men.
Even worse, all that stress negatively affects our health with issues like high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity or drug/alcohol abuse as a means of coping.
We Never Unplug From Work
Modern times have made it easy to check our email from anywhere. We can talk, text and type a report while we’re tossing chicken nuggets at the kids and mopping the floor. In fact, it’s too easy to stay connected at all times.
We might be the ultimate multi-taskers. But never unplugging has a downside. It means we’re never fully present. We have trouble putting work away and focusing on our lives at home. And it can make us feel torn, at all times.
We struggle to find a home-work balance and we wonder if balance really exists at all. For modern parents, it sure seems hard to come by.