Shaleen is a proud mom to Leo, a serious bookworm, a lover of iced coffee all-year-round and the dessert supplier anywhere she is invited. She blogs over at www.bagofflour.com and she’d love it if you stopped by!
At my sons first birthday party, I somewhat guiltily mentioned to one of our guests that I had opted not to make his cake myself. My grandpa overheard this and declared, “Your grandma made everything! And she raised five kids and worked on the farm. She did it all!”. His comment got me thinking. Every era has had its upsides and challenges with child rearing but there are some concepts from the “good old days” that I wish we could get back into.
There’s no doubt that the modern mom has access to every product and convenience imaginable for a baby and that these things truly make life easier. Many elderly women have marvelled at my jogging stroller, and my mom has gushed about the practicality of the sleep sack. My son’s car seat is like a seat in a space ship. It has temperature controlled fabric, dual cup holders and is rollover tested. You know what I rolled around in back in ‘87? A piece of hard plastic with a thin layer of vinyl covered foam, and that’s about all there was to choose from. The amount of time I spent reviewing every product I bought my son still makes my head hurt. SO MANY CHOICES nowadays and I do envy the ease of decision making back when it was just A or B.
Something that I think is relatively new and unwelcome while parenting is the public nature of raising a child today. What I mean by this is that people are very comfortable judging other parents, and being open in their criticisms today. People seemed to keep to themselves more even when we were kids. Nobody could comment on your Instagram photo if you carried your baby the wrong way or gave them the wrong kind of snack. We have to hear not only from older generations about the way they did things, but also complete strangers in public and on social media. It can be exhausting!
Also worth noting: we have way more information available to us, so in turn we have to be much more thoughtful in our decision making. So much more goes into parenting than just instinct these days. For example, my little boy was a tummy sleeper from birth but I made him sleep on his back for safety reasons, which he hated and in turn I hated because no one in our house slept. My mom, my mother in law, my grandpa, and even strangers all told me, “Just put him on his tummy already so you can get some sleep! All our babies did it and they turned out fine!” Instinct told me it would be fine, but SIDS stats were giving me a hard no and this is a constant tug of war for every decision I make as a mom. My instincts vs. all of the other noise. My grandma would have done what she felt was right, because she didn’t have to consult with google first.
Then there is the elusive “village” we’ve started discussing lately. The lack of support from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers. My grandma could have borrowed a cup of flour from her neighbour anytime, but I don’t even know my neighbours names! Society has gotten increasingly more separated but I do feel that motherhood would be easier with more women to share the joys and struggles with. I am missing a village for sure, and I didn’t even realize it until recently.
And what about entertainment for the kids? My grandma was busy! She cooked and cleaned and baked and took food to the field and gardened and tended to the needs of five children. You know what she wasn’t doing? Making them look at flash cards when they were six months old or handing them an iPad to play with when she was busy. There is such pressure now for us to entertain our children constantly and to never let them feel bored, even though we also know this can help encourage creativity and imaginative play. I can’t explain why, but I feel the need to always be “on” for my son. In my grandma’s day, she entertained her children and grandchildren by having us complete the daily duties with her. We learned to collect eggs from chickens, tend to the garden and bake bread. She also prioritized quiet time each day for her to take a break and for us to play on our own and use our imaginations. I cherish those memories and remember so much of what I learned from her. Why don’t I value having my son watch me wash dishes or make supper? Those are practical skills he will certainly use in the future and soon enough I can find ways for him to pitch in to make it a learning experience we can bond over.
I’d really love to get back to a more organic pace of life with my son and not worry so much about if he is enjoying every second of every day. What he will remember are the memories we make and also if I seemed present, too. I’ve been trying to be mindful of my energy and to adjust the pace of our days depending on what we need instead of the go, go, go. I can’t help the time in which I’m raising my son, but I can take inspiration from simpler times to make our journey more enjoyable right now.