Being a parent in a world governed by social media can be both exciting & stressful. While sharing information is easier than ever before, it is not always simple to filter the amount of information we are flooded with. How did the generation before us manage without being connected all the time?
My generation is unique, probably the last of our kind. Saddled by memories of community living & joint families, we now grapple with a nuclear urban existence. Albeit successful in breaking conventional parenting norms, we are shrouded in self-doubt about the effects of our parenting choices.
As a child I grew up on ample doses of family. There were no theories about good or bad parenting. Parenting was guided by the belief that children deserved love, freedom (with a certain well-established degree of limitations) and a community to raise them. Family was not bound to parents; there were aunts, grandmothers, neighbours who nurtured, loved and reprimanded like there was no tomorrow.
When I look back now I wonder if this generation identified children as universal beings shared by the world at large. Perhaps it was also the absence of judgment that arose from countless choices that made parenting a natural necessity driven experience. Things have changed considerably since urban and nuclear living set in. Boundaries are fervently defined these days.
We start thinking about ‘the kind of child we want to raise.’ I read a post on a social media site saying, ‘I am raising a reader’. My parents encouraged me to read, but without shouting themselves hoarse about it. They read me stories, bought me books, and encouraged me to lend books as a way of inculcating the reading habit. There was no proclaiming. There was no seeking acceptance.
As I see it now; there was a certain amount of confidence in one’s ability to parent. There was no striving for perfection as we see today. Affection came without demands. Mistakes were forgiven and forgotten faster. While it seems like this style of parenting is turning archaic, it might be interesting to analyze why the changes have been so drastic. Could it be that urban living, global exposure and the electronic invasion have made parents aware of the countless choices available to them?
Today we seek to define ourselves as parents with the choices we make for our child – Montessori Vs. Play School, Dairy products Vs. No Dairy diets, Crafting Vs. Television, Co-sleeping Vs. Children’s room. Our actions and choices as parents today are directed by our need to be categorised into parents with a certain world view.
To this effect we read and share countless reports on parenting sites that justify our decisions. I don’t remember my growing years being immaculately planned by my parents. Reading, outdoor play, hobbies, friendship and community interactions were all considered natural part of growing up. There was no pressure on either side to prove ability, acumen or alignment to a certain category of parents.
I wonder how my mother managed without social networks, chat groups, and mobile phones to deal with her bad-mothering day, horrible-husband day, or unannounced-maid-off day, without ranting about it. How did she live in her individual world and have the confidence to believe that she was doing the right thing? Why did she never find the need to get the world to echo her feelings?
I for one cannot imagine a world like that. I would collapse if not for my Whatsapp support systems or Facebook updates. But of late, I realise how carefully social media needs to be handled. The immense power it has to make one feel unworthy and unsure can be devastating.
When I put up crafting projects with my daughter on my Facebook page, I have so many mothers loving our work. There are also mothers telling me that they have no creative ability at all. I find that hard to believe. Mothers are artists by necessity; our sensitivities and expressions are only heightened after childbirth. It might not be something tangible as a craft, but there is definitely something creative lurking there!
At times I have wondered about the increase in expectations from parents since the advent of social media. I remember this one time when I felt that I was letting my family down by not baking cakes and pies for them. So many mothers and friends I knew were baking for their children. I for one have never enjoyed baking, and live in fear that the oven will kill me. But I took up the challenge. All along I believed I was giving my child a beautiful learning experience. This feeling lasted till the cake came out of the oven. An unappetizing and miserable cake stared at us. I gave up that minute. No more baking for me. The least I can do is get my family to eat cake that tastes like cake! And I swore never ever to do anything I didn’t enjoy, just to feel like super mom!
I chose to be a stay-at-home mother when my daughter was born. We were left to entertain each other and grow in each other’s company. Together we visited new passions and developed new hobbies. I embarked on a crafting journey which eventually resulted in a crafting company.
My daughter, this feisty, spirited little creature taught me 3 valuable lessons (which I continue to grapple with) that no parenting site ever taught me:
RULE 1 – There are no absolutes in parenting or life in general.
RULE 2 – Love everything with complete honesty.
RULE 3 – Destroy all plans.
In many ways her wisdom is beyond mine. She is tolerant of a non-sharing child. She does not lose affection for me even on my ‘yelling mother‘ days. She parents my partner and me when we behave like errant children with each other. Whatever my parenting ‘choices’ might be, they are reflected in some percentage of her spirit and her interactions with the world.
I realise that I do not need to look beyond my child to regain belief in myself. And as I write this, I realise this wisdom is my mother’s strength. This is the belief that enables her to go on without expecting ‘likes’ or accolades from the world!