A well-respected mother of 4 grown children said to me last week: “I would not want to raise children in today’s world!”
Let’s be real, no parent has ever had it easy.
But, her comment points to an inescapable reality that every parent will eventually face: Our culture’s fascination with social media & technology.
There are also certain social pressures that can make things more complex on the home front…
More pressure on both parents to work.
More pressure on children to achieve.
Less focus on community, and more pressure on individuals to power through things on their own (read: more isolation).
The last one weighs heavy on my heart. Mostly because I struggled with it in my first few years of motherhood.
I didn’t allow myself to receive the kind of support that I wanted or needed because I was too worried about burdening people with my woes, and too afraid to let people know that I didn’t have it all figured out.
Thankfully, I’m in a different place today!
I truly believe that the only way we can skillfully manage the complexities and demands of modern parenthood is to have more EMOTIONAL support.
On any given day, a parent can feel: lousy about something she said; irritated beyond measure at the lack of rule following; guilty about spending too much time at work; overwhelmed by noise and chaos; heartbroken about a sick or injured child; or, afraid about a child not fitting in.
Jon Kabat-Zinn calls this the “Full Catastrophe” of parenting.
The problem is not that we experience these things, the problem is that we often feel like we’re the only one with “crazy” kids – and chaotic households.
Living in a fast-paced, competitive society doesn’t help. Most of us are adept at being self-reliant and self-effacing. We turn to Google, or, in rare cases, a book, to find answers, and then go back to doing what we were doing, seemingly unphased and on-track.
In some cases, ignorance is bliss, but I think family matters deserve more honesty and caring attention.
Not to mention, avoiding problems doesn’t make them go away! Instead, they fester in weird ways and continue to weigh on our hearts and spirits.
A New Paradigm
I believe that we’re in need of a new paradigm that gives parents opportunities to be heard, understood, and loved amidst the “full catastrophe.” Places where parents can safely let their guards down to tell – and hear – about real struggles – not the prettied up version we read on social media.
I believe this may be the single most important way to counteract the stress of parenting in the information age. It helps transcend the culturally engrained narrative of “me, my, and I” that perpetuates parents’ fear and stress, and awakens a truer, more reassuring story: WE are in this together, sharing in similar struggles, and doing our own imperfect version of best, to raise happy, healthy, competent adults.