Personal Health

Our Overzealous Protective Society Makes It Really Hard to Be a Parent These Days

In defense of conscious, modern parenting.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Parents today can be some of the most annoying people on Planet Earth. They brag incessantly about their kid’s first crap in the potty on Facebook, they’re overly protective to the point of making their children wear life jackets in the bath, and they incessantly praise the brilliance of their precious little bundles of joy as if they are the next Gandhi or Einstein. Basically, they act like they’re the first people to ever have children with their sanctimonious and overly precious methodologies, making sure everyone who sits on the bench gets a trophy for participation. But you guys…it is not our fault!

Being a parent in today’s social climate is drastically different than any generation before, and not solely because we are a bunch of self-righteous, arrogant tools. We are reacting to an ethos created by contemporary American culture. The pressure is extreme because there are too many outlets to compare ourselves to other parents. If my Pinterest Elmo cookies make Elmo look like a 60-year-old hooker, does that mean my kid will turn out to be a stripper in Tampa? According to my online mom group, if I don’t engage my 2-week-old baby enough she will probably never get into college.   

The past is often glorified as the days when everyone was sooooo much more relaxed, but even if I wanted to parent like my parents, someone would likely call child protective services, and I would be arrested.

When I was a kid, the standards of safety were nothing like today. My mom would breastfeed me while sitting in the front seat of the car, and then toss me in the back to roll around like a swaddled sausage when my dad made a wide turn. We didn’t wear seat belts, and my mom would let us ride in the back of the pickup truck to feel the wind in our hair. It was the '80s, and I’m sure my mom was like, “Reagan is president, let’s do cocaine and bet on the stock market!” My friend’s dad used to pick him up from school with a beer in a “koozie” resting on the front dash so his drink would stay cold for the drive home. Now, that is actually a sad story about a boy who grew up with an alcoholic dad, but the point is, the law won’t even allow for this kind of behavior anymore.

I don’t put my kid in a carseat because I’m neurotic; I do it because I have to! Look what happened to Britney Spears, who let her young son sit on her lap while driving down the 101. She was practically crucified! It is not like every modern parent is obsessed with safety to the point of pathology. We actually don’t have much of a choice. I once let my kid ride her bike without a helmet. I walked slowly next to her as she made sense of how the pedals worked, and three different people stopped to tell me how she could get a head injury if she fell. She was two feet off the ground, going maybe 1 mph, and her Barbie bike had training wheels. But you bet your sweet ass I got her a helmet anyway. 

People love to talk about how back when they were kids they ran around their neighborhoods until it got dark out. Do you know how much I would love to throw my kid out of the house to entertain herself while I do important things like eat my weight in frosting? I can’t do that because no one lets their kids play alone any more. She would be the only one, and subsequently prime picking for child molesters and kidnappers because they have no other kids to grab! Plus, if I let my daughter play unsupervised in a public area, like say a park for children, I would get sent to jail like countless other moms.

Modern parents are often ridiculed for all the parenting "styles" we adhere to. Personally, I practice non-attached attachment parenting because I believe in Buddhist principles. Yet we live in a global community, inundating us with endless information about how the rest of humanity does everything. The media preys on our insecurities, insisting there is always a better way. The 4.6 million “mommy bloggers” on the Internet blog away, and there are over 70,000 books on parenting. It’s hard not to wonder if you’re making the right choices when you read how some children in Mongolia never get sick or cry because they are breastfed until the age of 16.

I admit my insistence that my kid only eats organic, gluten-free cookies can be annoying, but processed food is poison (even if I did manage to grow up on it). I can’t help that I know just how detrimental hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are to the body. I can’t feign ignorance like my mom when she says, “We didn’t know you couldn’t smoke while pregnant.” I don’t fault my mom for not going to the library to educate herself on the effects of carcinogens (the Dewey Decimal system is confusing as hell). But it took me less than five minutes to learn every toxic chemical my baby might accidently lick during her first six months on the planet.

Historically, parents just parent whatever way they were raised. The mentality of “if it was good enough for me to get hit with a belt, it’s good enough for you” prevailed. But you know what? Today’s adults actually aren’t necessarily the greatest people in the world, so maybe going back to the parental drawing board isn’t such a bad idea. If parents in the past had invested a little more thought into their childrearing, maybe the world wouldn’t be the violent trashcan it is today.

Modern parents may be overthinking everything, but we do share an intention to consciously examine our approach. The future might be run by a bunch of crybabies who are overly sensitive when they don’t get praised enough, but I’m pretty sure this will be way better than dealing with the greedy aggressive tyrannical adults who have been running the world thus far.

At least I hope so. 

Toni Nagy writes for Huffington Post, Salon, Thought Catalog, Hairpin, Do You Yoga, and Elephant Journal. She has her own blog, and is the host of a podcast.