Was Raising a Family Really Easier 50 Years Ago?
If you’re a parent of a baby or toddler, you know life is incredibly busy. First you have the diaper changing, picking up of toys, cleaning, well checks, and everything else baby-related. Then you mix in work duties, errands, meetings, and appointments – it’s enough to run you into the ground.
I often hear seniors remark how today’s new parents have it much easier with all the fancy baby gadgets, digital conveniences, and online services.
But I’ll contend that parents of yesteryear had it better off. Back then it was a simpler time with a quieter pace. You can have my social media network – which has become its own burden – and I’ll take the nostalgia of days gone by. Here’s why.
You had fewer places to be – There weren’t as many social groups, sports leagues, parent-run school groups, and multiple public events that fought for your time every free minute you had. Sure, the technology of today has been a time-saver, but what have we done with that extra time? Crammed in more commitments to doing anything and everything. All of that focus we put on time management means we get more efficient – but we do more things that keep us busier.
Stores weren’t open 24/7, nor on Sunday – What’s the downside to having stores open 24/7/365? Stores are open 24/7/365. We can get anything on demand, and our lives are accustomed to doing just that. We don’t make a weekly shopping trip like parents used to do; today we go multiple times a week to the store, sometimes for just one item. And Sundays, nor holidays, were never an option in the past – those stores were closed then, period. Just look at Black Friday sales, which have begun to take over Thanksgiving. That’s too much shopping accessibility for me, and that’s nothing to say of online shopping.
Sunday was family day – Remember when families used Sundays to drop in and visit relatives unannounced? Families could do that because they knew relatives would be sitting around on a lazy Sunday, just reading the newspaper and generally doing nothing. Today you’ll find families catching up on shopping, running to soccer games, or attending some nonsense meeting that starts too late and runs too long while everyone plays on their phones during it. We all yearn for a day off from the hamster wheel, but we never really get it.
Jobs didn’t demand as much – When parents took families on vacations in the past, there was no way to be in contact with the boss. They actually vacated, hence the name. Today we vacate physically, but never really vacate mentally because we’re always on call or connected. That means we have more employees dedicated to their work nowadays, but at what price? If employees can’t truly disconnect from their work entirely, they never get to recharge their batteries and give families their full selves.
Youth sports wasn’t a part-time job – I love sports more than anyone, but do we really need tournaments for 8-year olds to be held on Mother’s Day in another state? Somewhere along the line – probably while we dreamt of kids getting athletic scholarships and playing in the NBA – we jumped off the rails. Youth sports is the new Keeping Up with the Joneses as parents glorify their martyrdom with Facebook posts about how they spent the entire weekend running to athletic events. Yesterday’s parent didn’t have all that, but their kids still had fun. That is what sports are about, aren’t they?
We valued human relationship more – Remember hanging out with your cousins in another room while your parents played card with friends? Today’s equivalent of that is far different, where only one parent meets another at a park for a play date. They only hang for 20 minutes on the playground, because they have to get to another appointment, and the reason they meet at the park in the first place is so they have an “out.” Today’s parents don’t know how to play cards because we’re too busy to play cards.
Families spent time together – Remember the last time your family sat down and ate together with no obligations, meetings, appointments, or places to be? Me neither. Just as wise married couples seek opportunities to reconnect with each other (i.e., date nights), families desperately need time to be in their own homes and in the presence of each other – just to slow down, reconnect, and bond.
Somewhere along the line, busyness became a badge of honor. I’d rather be a parent with honor and live a little more like past generations.