Saturday, February 24, 2007

Subculture

Today I was reading Ask Moxie. I know, I don't have kids, but I find the current parent subculture fascinating. Did our parents worry about which stroller to buy? Were mothers consumed with guilt and feelings of inadequacy if they weren't able to breastfeed? Did strangers comment on one's parenting? The village may raise the child but I think the villagers have gotten a lot nosier and opinionated of late. It seems to me you need a thick skin to be a parent these days.

My own mother took a lot of flak for a choice she made. When my older sister was about 2 my parents sent her to live with our grandmother in Yugoslavia for 2 years. During those 2 years my mother got her PhD in linguistics from Columbia. She did what she thought was best though it was very hard for her. She knew that if she tried to divide her time between her child and her work both would suffer. I don't think my sister was at all the worse for this. My grandparents loved having her and she may have been a bit spoiled. She did not want for love, affection, or good care. It was an extreme choice that many among my mother's friends and family didn't understand. But I'm pretty sure perfect strangers would not have said anything. Nor would they have commented on the brand of stroller or the choice of food or clothing.

In many ways we have made progress. Children have better protection from abuse and we have greater access to information. On the other hand it seems we have become much more judgemental and ready to interfere. Parenting has always been a heroic endeavor and it has become even more complex. Every choice is scrutinized and occasionally published across the web. The local PTA has 50 committees and your child's friend may be on several medications. Not only are parents running to keep up with the Joneses but the kids are too.

Of course all of this only applies to the middle class. The poor have more important things to worry about, like where the next meal is coming from, and the wealthy have people to take care of these little worries.

3 comments:

Kicking N. Screaming said...

My children are still very young, so some of the greatest annoyances haven't touched my life yet. Did you read Freakonomics? He talks about obsessive parenting. Those are the people that fret about which stroller to buy. I suspect that if those people did not have children, they would find something else to obsess about just as much.

karen said...

Chris and I are not obsessive parents. We've met with shock from Other People when they've learned about some of our horrifying parenting techniques, starting with the person who nearly called CPS upon learning that we were not on a strict, timed feeding schedule with the baby. We didn't have an alarm set to remind us to feed the baby every two hours exactly! How would we know it was time to feed him? How would he survive?!? Um, lady? The baby will let me know when he's hungry and, if he happens to be sleeping deeply enough not to notice the uncomfortable empty tummy feeling, my boobs will clue me in. The horror continues from there and, well, you've met our kids...

We're trying to teach our kids how to make good choices. We hope they will develop self and social responsibility based on our nudging and the examples we give them through our family (poor kids) and friends (...ditto, you know A&H!). I think attempting to do much more than this would be asking for fights and failure.

You may send my "Worst Mother of the Year" award any time.

Delphi said...

@Lisa: I think you're right, people will always find something to obsess about and compete over.
@Karen: I'd take you for a mom any day.
But times have changed. My aunt had her first kid in 1954. If she just needed one or two things from the store she would park him in his carriage at the front of the store. He stayed there, with the other babies and then she'd pick him up on the way out. Can you imagine?