Pressures of Modern Parenting and What To Do About It
By Jessica Miro, LMFT
Today’s parents are faced with a myriad of challenges that are new to the millennial generation: with most households comprised of two working parents, and the internet filled with best practices for raising successful intelligent children it’s no wonder most parents find themselves overwhelmed and burnt out.
The following pressures are just a few of those that the modern parent faces:
Parents are more involved: In the New York Times article, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting”, the author mentions that while “mothers are more likely to juggle jobs outside of the home, they also spend just as much time tending their children as stay at home mothers did in the 1970s.”
Social media pressures: As is common with social media, parents are more apt to showcase their child’s angelic moments, or milestones that develop early on their feeds. This creates a negative comparison effect that spills into feelings of inadequacy for the modern parent. It is rare to see the parent posting a chaotic home, or a toddler temper tantrum, when in reality those moments are more common than the smiling baby on an exotic vacation.
Knowledge about childhood development has changed: Twenty years ago, parents’ knowledge around developmental milestones and best parenting practices either came from their child’s pediatrician, or from a small selection of books that were recognized as standard. Today’s parent has these resources, but with that also comes mobile apps to compare how your child fares compared to others, newsletters about how to get your child to improve behaviors, and countless articles in the media about how to influence our child’s brain development. This leaves modern parents overwhelmed, and preoccupied with making sure their child is developing adequately.
Parental and marital identities are more fused: As people are waiting later in life to get married, newly married couples launch into trying to conceive quickly after marriage. This is also paired with the fact that more couples are needing fertility interventions to get pregnant, which puts more pressure on the dedication to being “the best parent” once the child arrives. This causes couples to focus solely on their roles as parents, and ignore the needs of their roles as spouse, which can cause further strain in the marital dyad.
With all of these pressures, the question becomes, what can we do about it? How can the modern parent combat social pressure and still feel confident in the way they’re raising their child? The following tools can release some of these pressures:
Let Children Get Bored Again: In a recent article in the New York Times, the author reminds us that while we overschedule kids in hopes they are learning the most to prepare them for the world, many times it is with boredom that children learn to develop their imaginations. The author also discusses how boredom is correlated with the ability to focus and self-regulate, which are skills crucial for children to learn as they develop into adults.
Make time for self-care: Just as parents are prioritizing their kids’ happiness and their parental relationships above their marriage, it is far too common for parents to put their own needs at the bottom of the list. This creates physical manifestations of stress (poor diet, sleep, chronic pain) and takes an emotional toll on one’s confidence and happiness. While it can feel selfish to the modern parent to take time for themselves over an activity with their child, not only does it allow for that parent to regain some emotional and physical energy that can later get devoted to the child, but it also is a good model for kids to see that Mom and Dad take care of themselves. This teaches children that when they become adults, they need to communicate when they’ve reached their limits.
Recognize the best thing to do as a parent is to love your child: With all of society’s pressures around the best “technique” and “tool” to raise an emotionally healthy and stable adult, all research unequivocally points to the largest predictor in healthy adult relationships is a stable, secure attachment to one’s caregiver. If a child can grow up with the confidence their parent unconditionally loves them, and observes that parent making time for themselves, their partner, and embracing the failures that will come along the way as part of the journey, that child will grow up happy and healthy, regardless of when they hit milestones or how many afterschool activities they participated in.
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