The difference between parenting of YESTERDAY to TODAY

Can you imagine staying in a hospital for six days after a straightforward, routine birth? Six days to let your body recover, to find your feet with motherhood and to welcome lots of visitors without having to make them all cups of tea? That’s how it was when Sue White, now aged 61, had her children back in the 1970’s. It certainly wasn’t that way when her eldest daughter Cheryl White (39) had her children – in fact, Cheryl was packed off home less than 48 hours after having a Cesarean section.

And that’s not the only change that has taken place when it comes to parenting. Although only a generation apart, the two women say there’s a world of difference when it comes to raising children, across all aspects of parenting.

While Sue may have enjoyed six days in the hospital after giving birth, the relaxation time was short-lived and she was back to work just six weeks later. At that time her entitlement was 18 weeks in total, 12 before giving birth and six after. A mother of four, Sue was married at 19 and had her first baby at 21, which was pretty much the norm. Although she later divorced, both Sue and her husband worked full-time hours during opposite shifts, with no help from the welfare system or family.

Cheryl was already in her 30s when she gave birth to her two sons Daniel (8) and William (18 months) and although she has been with her partner for many years, she isn’t married and neither are any of her siblings –although all are in long-term relationships. Cheryl and her partner work full-time and had to pay for childcare, although Cheryl and Sue now run their own care company which has enabled Sue to work fewer days and to help out with her brood of seven – soon to be eight grandchildren. In fact, Sue joined her first playgroup at the age of 58 and was among several grandparents there with small children.

Sue said: “I very much notice the differences between parenting now and parenting back then. It was very hard when my children were small. As a care worker, I used to go out to work in the evenings and my husband worked days. I had to manage after my divorce. You couldn’t claim benefits if you didn’t work and we didn’t have childcare and after-school clubs to fall back on. I didn’t drive, we were very short of money and it was more of an existence.
“We went on holiday once a year to a caravan in Wales, if they were lucky, and on birthdays and Christmas, I would try my best to get them what they wanted. Now I don’t know what to buy my grandchildren because they have everything.”

Cheryl’s life as a parent is very different. Her children have the latest gadgets; Daniel has an iPad, although he’s not allowed a phone just yet, and the family usually holiday abroad twice a year. While Sue’s children played-out in the street with the neighbours from a young age, Cheryl doesn’t like Daniel to play outside for fear of cars and strangers.

When it comes to birthday parties, there’s no denying the huge and ever-growing pressure to hire the biggest hall and invite the most children. Daniel usually has a football party at a hired pitch with around 20 friends – a far cry from the jelly and ice-cream house parties with a few of the neighbourhood children that Cheryl had when she was a child.

And what about the controversial subject of discipline?

Sue said: “Talk about discipline, nowadays it seems people would rather abdicate responsibility for their children and let someone else deal with it. My children would have been terrified to come home in trouble with school, they would have got a good hiding. I think kids call all the shots now. We loved our children and we looked after them, but whatever Mum and Dad said went; I think it’s the other way ‘round now.”

Cheryl said: “If we were naughty when we were younger we got smacked, but you just don’t do that anymore – and that’s not necessarily because I think it’s wrong, but because as a society we are more worried about the consequences and I think that’s why there are so many children with a lack of respect. “Instead, we use the naughty step approach, or send Daniel to his bedroom and take his iPad away.“ Having been brought up a different way, Cheryl herself admits to pandering to her children in a way she wouldn’t have experienced as a child.

Take fussy eating for example. Cheryl said: “Daniel is so fussy about what he eats and we seem to just pander to their every need and sometimes I’m cooking three different meals. I don’t think it is to their benefit overall, but I want them to go to bed with full tummies.”

Sue, however, didn’t have the time or the money to cook different meals and the children would go hungry if they didn’t eat what was put in front of them. Interestingly, Cheryl is far from a fussy eater and in her own words, ‘will eat anything’.

So it seems a lot of changes have taken place in the approach to parenting between the two generations, and despite the hardship Sue faced as the mother of young children, she says she wouldn’t want to be a new parent in today’s society.

“I wouldn’t like to have young children in today’s competitive world,” Sue said. “I think their expectations are ridiculous. There’s too much pressure to keep up with the demands for iPad’s, the latest gadgets and certain clothes etc.”

And what about Cheryl? Would she like to swap?
“I wouldn’t want to have raised kids in my mother’s time,” Cheryl said. “They had no mobile phones, no internet – I don’t know how they managed! I can work from home, from my mobile or my laptop, it’s much more flexible now. Plus, there are many more opportunities for young people.”

Yet despite all these differences, when asked what their biggest parenting concern is/was, both women had the same answer – that their children grow up to be healthy and happy people.

So it seems that some things, at least, will NEVER CHANGE.

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