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Lately, my Facebook feed has been clogged with articles
about how overwhelmed parents are today. These essays have many of us nodding
our heads in agreement, while also wondering how our lives got so hectic, and
whether we can learn from earlier generations who lived less frenzied lives.
I took an unbiased investigative look back at my own 1980s childhood
to get some answers. Here are six things our parents did differently than most
Despite the fact that I grew up in a rainforest,
approximately 87 percent of my childhood memories occurred outside. See you at dinner time, bitches, my mom
surely said as she pushed us out the door. We scooted off, helmetless and sunscreen-free,
on our Schwinns.
We scooted off, helmetless and sunscreen-free, on our Schwinns.
2. We waited
in the car
Today, we might be arrested for leaving our kids in the car alone
while we sprint into Whole Foods to splurge on organic quinoa. But leaving kids
in the car was standard practice when I was growing up. Unrestrained by the
pesky carseats of modern times, my brother and I were free to roam about the
car while our mom enjoyed a luxurious traipse through the grocery store alone.
If my brother and I got bored, no problem—we'd just make pretty circles on the
upholstery with the cigarette lighter or roll down the windows and talk to
According to the US Census, in 1980, the average size of a
new home was a pinch above 1,500 square feet. Today, the average size has
swelled to over 2,600 square feet. That's an average of 1,000 more square feet to
keep clean—or in my case, feel guilty about not cleaning.
Birthday parties in the '70s and '80s were generally modest
affairs instead of destination events. While today many families host expensive birthday celebrations at children's museums and indoor trampoline parks, most
parties of my youth were kept simple and held in our (tiny) homes. A few times,
a friend hosted a fancy birthday bash at the local roller skating rink, and
we'd glide around to the husky, soulful sounds of "Betty Davis Eyes," but that
was the exception rather than the rule.
5. Babysitters were cheaper
I was babysitting my brother, starting when I was about 10.
Growing up, we had a string of charmingly irresponsible babysitters watching us
so our parents could get a break. If I wasn't being babysat, I was babysitting
my brother, starting when I was about 10. Today, many families I know rarely, if
ever, employ babysitters to get a break. We can't afford them, given our big
ol' mortgages and fancy birthday party habits. So despite the fact that more
women work outside of the home today than in the '80s, we also spend more hours
per week hanging out with our children, according to the Journal of Marriage
6. No Internet
While parents in the '80s had two or three parenting books to reference, we now
have access to infinite amounts of ever-changing advice online. Maya Angelou
once said, "Now that I know better, I do better." With the bevy of information available
today, it feels like we're trying to do everything
better, and it's overwhelming and exhausting. I love that we're concerned about
our kids' self-esteems, nurturing their talents and making sure they're kind,
mindful people, but sometimes it feels like in the crusade to raise
well-rounded children, we're apt to lose our own balance.