I’ve almost given up reading the newspapers these days. There’s just too much happening there that frightens the parent in me. I have been feeling completely overwhelmed.
When I look at my children, I feel a strong urge to protect them no matter what. To wrap them in my arms, so they feel secure.
It’s not that the world has suddenly become a more dangerous place to live in. Danger has always lurked around the corner. Parents have always warned their children not to talk to strangers.
But the definitions of stranger and danger were more clearly demarcated back when I was a kid. That apart, there are other problems. When we were kids, parents and kids alike weren’t running faster just to stay in the same place.
Today the challenges that confront us as parents are manifold. Stress, greater demands on our time, resulting from greater economic pressure, and fewer support systems have begun to tell on us. The strain is showing.
Of course, in the interests of fairness, I must admit that we have far more resources to help with parenting challenges today than our parents had. There are childcare books, magazines and websites, including Parentous.com, written by informed amateurs and professionals alike. Compare this with the lack of correct information and the over-enthusiasm of friends and family that our parents had to contend with as they struggled to listen to their own parenting instincts. Today we have more knowledge on our side, besides more support when it comes to our children’s needs, no matter what those needs may be.
The fact that there is less pressure on women to be perfect housewives is leaving us more freedom to achieve our own goals and dreams and grow as individuals. The learning and experience can only help us to become better mothers.
The fact that we are delaying marriage and parenthood is enabling us to bring in some more wisdom and maturity to our parenting struggles. Thanks to this maturity, we are able to establish a more equitable relationship with our children, one in which we can be parents, establishing rules and providing security, while being friends, enabling a higher degree of honesty and communication between us. Whether we’re up for the challenge or not, at least our children know that they can come to us for answers, even when the questions are tricky or uncomfortable.
Technology too has helped make our task easier. Today we have cell phones to help us keep in touch with our children when they are away. A delayed class, a cancelled train, they’ve lost the power to terrorize parents. I can still remember the stress my mother used to undergo if we were even five minutes later than the time we were supposed to be home. And that in a far safer age! And of course, if there was an emergency, she would be even more stressed out.
But on the flip side, we’ve lost far more than we’ve gained. Back then, we used to spend whole evenings playing with our friends. Raucous playtimes they used to be. At any given moment, our parents weren’t aware where we were. We may have been at one friend’s house watching TV, or at another friend’s playing carom or in the open ground outside playing outdoor games. Wherever we were, we were safe. The community was an extension of the family, and under its benign gaze, we thrived.
School itself was a safe zone. We studied the stuff in the syllabus, and competed with our classmates in a variety of areas. But we were not subject to the intense pressure that kids these days undergo.
Today we have doubts about our kids’ safety and security. Whether they are at home with a maid, or at school, or at a friend’s house, we can’t help feeling nagged by worry. When they are online, we have a new spectre to worry about. Cybercrime is real and dangerous, and we hope our children will be safe from its clutches.
Back in the day, my parents knew all my close friends, the ones I hung out with. They knew them all by Face and had their names, phone numbers, and addresses in their Book. When the time comes, I shudder to think of the “Friend” request I will have to send out to La Niña and El Niño, and of the other/alter life that kids assume online.
Television brings so much of sexuality and violence into the drawing-room long before children are capable of processing it sensibly. Thankfully, La Niña and El Niño barely watch any TV, except for Go, Diego, Go and Dora The Explorer whose content I heartily approve of.
Then again, most families back in my childhood were single-income families. The very word ‘disposable’ income had not yet come into vogue and parents were forced to make a rupee stretch as thin as possible in order to meet the family’s needs. Today double-income families have become the norm, and family times, once the highpoint of the dinner table, have become scarce. Children’s daily routines comprise so many activities today that they hardly have the time to be themselves and enjoy their childhoods blissfully.
When you think of it, the goals of parenting remain the same, even as the challenges and the contexts differ from one generation to another. As mothers and fathers, we have the responsibility of looking after our kids and raising them well, looking after their needs and wants, equipping them to be confident and secure, teaching them the difference between right and wrong and encouraging them to choose the right option every time, even when the choice is difficult. Even as we do so, we struggle against circumstances, the tedious business of earning a living, and the challenges that life and society throw at us.
I grew up in a very secure and loving family atmosphere. My parents, despite having very little, raised us well, giving us the comfort of knowing we were loved and the courage to go out and chase our dreams.
Looked at from my standpoint as a child, my parents were all-knowing. I knew I could rely upon them through any difficulty and my trust remains staunch to this day.
I hope the Husband and I can do the same for our children, so that at some long-distant point in the future, they will look back on us and see that despite the challenges we faced, we did our best. And that whatever we did, we did out of love.
Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar loves being mamma to 4-year-old La Niña and 18-month-old El Niño. A working mother, she enjoys writing short stories and poems and looks forward to being published someday. She blogs at http://cynthology.blogspot.in and tweets @Cynth_Rodrigues.