I am a child of the 80s, yes, ‘Millennials’ as they like to call us.
Millennials were born in a world with no Facebook. When my mum took me home and found that I would cry for 23 hours of the day, she couldn’t go on Facebook to ask random strangers what was wrong with me.
How did she cope?
Well, you see, at that time people would rely heavily on family members or people in their community to provide them with information and advice on how to raise kids. That’s not how we do things today. When was the last time you picked up the phone to ask your mum or dad about a particular issue you were having with your kids? I can tell you for a fact that I have never done that.
Even my sister, who has successfully brought two children into this world, has never found herself on the receiving end of a frantic phone call when my son had the chickenpox and his feet went purple and I literally thought he was going to die. I did, however, look for the answers in what we call “parenting forums” on Baby Center.
My mum has long passed away, but I believe she would be horrified at me for relying on anyone but a paediatrician for advice on my child’s health. Not only that, but that we parade our lives on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat (I’m kidding, Snapchat is for people much younger than me) and that we document every moment of our kid’s lives;
“Here’s little Johnny having his first poop”
“Yesterday Meghan ate a coin! Here’s her ER doctor”
Trips to the ER and first poops, were not considered photo-worthy moments back in the 80s, I barely had a picture of my first day of school.
So, what does this all mean? Does it mean our children will be narcissistic psychopaths? Does it mean we are scarring them for life by sharing their intimate moments with the rest of the world? Unlikely.
What I think it means though, is that us – the millennial parents who grew up in a fairly protected society – are the ones most affected by all this. We feel the pressure. The pressure from constantly comparing ourselves to other parents who do more with their children than we do, parents who provide more for theirs kids, parents who go on holidays three times a year.
There’s that mum who works and I don’t, that other one who gets to be at home with their kids while I spend my life away from mine, working. We feel the pressure of that dad that attends every school play, and that other one who finds time to run every morning, and what about that guy from the office who sends his kids to private school, should I be doing the same?
We feel an immense amount of pressure.
And that pressure comes from the fact that we now have insider knowledge into 90% of our friend’s lives as well as the lives of total strangers. We know more about what our neighbour ate for breakfast this week than we do about our kid’s whole year at school.
Does that affect the way we parent? Sure it does! We feel more guilt than ever, guilt about things we were never meant to feel guilty about, because we shouldn’t know they existed. When we act out of guilt, or pressure, we don’t act out of instinct, which is what parenting has been about since the beginning of times.
The Silver Lining
Is it all bad, though? So, our parents had the gift of ignorance. Their knowledge of people’s lives only went as far as what Auntie Susie would gossip about during Sunday lunch. That blissful ignorance allowed them to go about their lives not having to take into consideration what toys North West got for Christmas this year, or the fact that there are kids called North, and that sure takes away the pressure.
But surely there’s loneliness in not knowing that other parents go through the same things as us. How would you feel if you thought your daughter was the only one who throws herself on the floor at Tesco when you don’t buy chocolate. Perhaps if you thought you were the only dad in the world who suffers from PPD, or if you didn’t even know that was a thing, you might have felt worse, and struggled to find help. Maybe if you didn’t join that Facebook group, you would have made no new friends to go with your brand new life as a parent, and that would really suck.
This is the world we live in. Modern times are here to stay, there’s no going back now. But, if you did pick up the phone to talk to your mum about the sharing , the excess of information and all the other struggles of being a parent in this day and age, she would probably offer you some good old-fashioned advice, as Barbara Bretto once did in her book, A Soft Place to Fall:
“Moderation, honey, in all things but love and chocolate”
Evelynne Gomes-Greenberg is a mum to a three year old boy named Nathan. She loves writing and taking pictures of their adventures. She thinks pancakes are not bad either. You can find their adventures on Instagram