I am not the parent I want to be, if I was we wouldn’t have all slept-in and I wouldn’t have been running so late to work that I managed to catch this thought-provoking interview on the radio. The interview was with Carl Honore, the author of Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood From Hyper-Parenting, a book about hyper-parenting. If you don’t have time to listen to the interview, here are the main points which caught me but the interview definitely fleshes them out a little more.
- The slow movement (you know, slow food and such) is now extending into slow parenting.
- The seduction of hyper-parenting.
- The sense that only an alpha child can survive (and achieve) now is driving a mania in parenting and hot-housing.
- Competition between parents and the difficulty of rebelling against hyper-parenting.
- What was your best memory from childhood? Previous generations usually chose a memory of being outside, and playing alone, or with other children, but without parental involvement. Will our children have many of these kinds of experiences to look back on?
- The impact of irrational fears on parenting – and yet childhood has never been safer.
- The problem with ‘stranger danger’ awareness – has it undermined our sense of community, and robbed children of the opportunity to learn ‘urban living strategies’ (ie. how to identify and manage risk).
- Hyper-parenting is universal across the Western world – globalised anxiety.
- There is also a growing desire across the Western world to re-think the micro-management of children.
- The author does not believe there has ever been a golden age of childhood, and (thank fuck) is not overly nostalgic about the past.
- He acknowledges some improvements in current parenting – eg. fathers are more involved, and technology has some benefits (as well as disadvantages).
Slow parenting appeals to me but I am so far from achieving it. I’m aware that I parent a little intensively (and in relation to that ‘stranger danger’ stuff referred to in the interview, I really struggle with anxiety about that). I’m a natural researcher, if in doubt I research, and I had a lot of doubts as a new mother so I researched a lot. Consequently I’m a sitting duck for the hyper-parenting propaganda. My partner leans more towards Gever Tulley’s ‘tinkering’ approach to child-rearing (ie. 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do), which I absolutely adore but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me. Then again my partner is the kind of guy who forgets to turn the stove off so you know I might be a cooler parent if I wasn’t having to worry about stuff like that.
Strange how the whole Western world is hyper-parenting and yet we still don’t know shit about babies, even after having them. There is an interesting discussion over here that I meant to link to a while ago (like when it was actually current).
[Tigtog who wrote that post has a very good theory about what is behind our apparent ignorance of babies. I read a deeply compelling book in my first year of motherhood which led me to form the opinion that in modern times we’ve never really had a great understanding of babies. The book is Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love (see my review here).]
One thing I find interesting about both the interview with Honore and Tigtog’s discussion of parenting ignorance is realising how much I parent in the here and now. I have very little concept of how different parenting might have been 10 or 20 or 50 years ago. Not parenting in the sense of practical application, like I know they didn’t have the Internet back then (how did they survive?) but in the emotional sense – the goals of parenthood, the aspirations of parents. I have been slow to catch on to how many of my goals and aspirations and approaches as a mother are shaped by culture, by where I live and the time in which I live. I haven’t yet read Honore’s Under Pressure so I don’t know the way out of this hyper-parenting trap but I’m seriously intrigued. And I am particularly hopeful because he doesn’t seem to be advocating for those ‘simple living’ approaches which are prone to just as much Über-Momming as hyper-parenting.
P.S. Of course this discussion is very relevant to the recent discussion on the Slacker Mum movement, which I totally should have referenced here already. Instead I’m doing it now.