There has been a subject large in my mind lately. A recent discussion over on Dutch and Wood’s site regarding classism had me thinking about it again, though the subject I’ve been thinking of takes a slightly different tack.
I’ve been thinking an awful lot about a current trend/attitude of parenting, sometimes called the “New Mommyism”. It’s an attitude where the mom or dad or parents put all or a lot of their energy into raising their child (which is OK) to the extent of becoming very competitive with other parents about who is doing more, whose child is more advanced, etc. (which is the part I don’t like). There also seems to be a lot of pressure to conform to this idea of parenting and a lot of rules (and controversies) over “the right things” to do as a parent (i.e. if you don’t breastfeed you must be a bad mom). (I have satirized a number of the attitudes I’ve encountered on previous posts.) The “right things” can run the gamut from breastfeeding and having a particular stroller to being in the “right” Mommy and Me group to having your child be in advanced education programs and extracurricular activities. And there is a ton of controversy and information overload about the “right things.” All in all, there is a certain amount of pressure to be “super-parents” (and sometimes also pressure on the children to be “super-kids”).
Now I don’t want to disparage anyone’s parenting beliefs or techniques. Everyone has their own approach and it’s their right to do so, and more importantly, every child is different and may need different parenting approaches. I don’t have an issue with general parenting techniques, I just have issues with those who take things to an extreme (in either direction) and those who are excessively competitive or aggressive about their parenting philosophies/activities.
Sometimes there just seems to be a lot of jockeying, bragging, and one-upmanship of “who’s the best parent now?”
My real question, and the one I’ve been thinking a lot about, is WHY is our generation into such extreme parenting? This seems to be a generally new approach to parenting; it certainly was not part (or not as large of a part) of my parents’ generation’s child-raising techniques. Is it simply another form of competitive classism here in the US? ( I have heard that this attitude is not predominant in other countries, but please correct me if I am wrong.) Is this extreme parenting just an off-shoot of an inherent competitiveness in our culture? A “keep up with the Joneses” taken to it’s logical conclusion? I know that the US culture can be pretty competitive in general; look at sports, jobs, who’s got the biggest SUV. (I just have a hard time understanding a lot of it because I am not a very competitive person.)
Or is there some reason that we, as a generation, feel like we need to compensate for something through parenting? It almost seems sometimes that “new mommyism” is peppered with guilt. But for what, I don’t know. Is it just that we, being in the digital era, have witnessed so many sensationalized video clips of irresponsible or uncaring parents that we are unconsciously counter-reacting by trying to be the best possible parents ever? Are we reacting to mistakes our parents’ generation may have made? Is the “super-parenting” a symptom of guilt, or does it create guilt by conjuring a vision of perfect parenting that we can never attain?
Please understand that these are only my musings in the hopes of opening a conversation. This is a huge issue and has many different sides. Of course many of us want to give our children the best of everything, the best and safest equipment, the best education, and the best potential for a successful and happy life. I personally made a choice to wait to have children until I felt I was in a financially secure position. I have nothing against spending time, money, or attentive focus on a child if that’s what the parents feel the child needs to be happy and successful. Parenthood every day is a learning experience and we are blessed to have children to love and nurture. (I also have nothing against general bragging about our kids, ‘cause that’s just fun and we’re parents and people should expect a little bragging.)
But sometimes I wonder, in the extreme cases where the act of parenting has turned into a form of competition with their neighbors, whose best interest is it in? And I wonder how we came to such an extreme position; what made us turn this direction?
If anyone has thoughts on the matter I would love to hear them. – the weirdgirl