It’s 1960 and this is a typical day for the Jones family.
Dad wakes up first, turns on the heat and gets himself ready for the work day. Mom is up soon after and begins preparing breakfast for the family. One by one, the children wake up – all six of them. (2, 3, 5, 9, 11 and 12 in age!) The older three head out for school, a few blocks away. Dad and the 5 year old head out for a school drop off just across the street, and then Dad heads to work. Mom is at home with the two little ones.
Mom’s day is spent cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, maybe going out for a bit of grocery shopping. Of course she is also keeping an eye on the two little ones as they entertain themselves with some pots and pans. On nice days, the little ones are outside in a fenced off play area.
Everyone comes home for lunch – everyone. Then back to work and school. When the kids come home from school they make a snack and then choose how they want to spend the time until supper. They decide. Everyone eats supper together when Dad comes home at 5 o’clock. After dinner, homework is done, preparations for the next day occur, and everyone spends time doing what they want to until bed time. TV is a special treat on the weekends – there is only 2 channels and Sunday is when there is a good family program.
The children have freedom and the neighborhood is like an extended family, always keeping an eye out for the children. Relatives often are right around the corner. The rule mostly, is simply to stay out of trouble and be home for mealtime.
Special family time would include the whole family piling in the station wagon for a day at the seaside, or a walk through the woods. On very special occasions, mattresses would be thrown in the back of the wagon and they would all go to the drive-in theater, laden down with home made popcorn and treats.
Life seemed simpler. Parents’ biggest worry often centered around finances and raising good children.
Now look at a similar scene some 60 years later:
The alarm rings at 5:30. Mom opens her eyes to check the baby monitor. She leaves her sleeping partner and heads out for a run before the busy day begins. She listens to the latest podcast about marketing as she breaks out a sweat.
At 6:00 Dad’s alarm goes off and he starts the coffee maker before jumping in the shower. By the time he is dressed for work, the little one is just waking up and mom returns. While mom showers and gets ready for her day, Dad changes the little one and gets him ready for the day. Soon the three of them are sitting at the kitchen table having toast and fruit while checking their phones. The babysitter arrives promptly at 8 and Mom and Dad head out to their own cars and the day begins.
Mom has had a camera installed at home and every now and again she checks to see how her little one is doing at home. Her day job is exciting and very demanding and often requires her to take some work home at nights or on the weekends. She loves her job but sometimes feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of parenting and will spend as much time as she has looking for answers either from Dr. Google or the newest parenting books. She has arranged daily activities that the babysitter can take the little one to so she is stimulated and her environment is enriched.
Dad is an up and coming legal partner in the firm and is no stranger to 12 ~ 14 hour days. He takes responsibility for some of the child care on the weekends but tries to also get some work done simultaneously. There just are never enough hours in the day. Several times during the year the family takes exotic holidays, and try to make that quality family time.
Life has changed for parents & for children
In the past, we learned about parenting from our own parents and grandparents, and then from our adult siblings and friends who also were raising a family. Now we use the internet for guidance and choose from the zillion parenting books on the market to decide what path we will follow.
In the past, our world was very local, and everyone not only knew each other, they took care of each other. Now we are a very mobile, global community and often have more connection with the people we screen time with rather than the neighbor across the street.
In the past, our concerns were very centralized and we heard about news from the local tv channels or the newspaper and magazines. Now, with a single click we can watch about the devastating fires in another country, the refugees fighting for their lives, and every sad, frightening story of news anywhere in the world. Is it any wonder we are more fearful?
Although our world has expanded in so many ways, mostly intertwined with mobilization, the internet and social media, we seem to have become more isolated and disconnected. It feels sometimes like we are just a bit ungrounded, floundering around parenting. Like the pendulum has swing out full and we need a time to discover a place of balance.