The Generational Shift in Parenting
Parents today have to view the world differently than the generation of parents before them. In the largest sense, we still care about the health and wellness of our children, of course, but we fundamentally differ on the short, middle, and long-term concerns for their upbringing.
If you ask my father, raising kids was just something everyone was doing in his day. He and my mom had three because, well, they did. There wasn’t any significant financial calculus that went into it. They just had kids to make a family and live a good life. He had a pension and a good wage and didn’t concern himself too much with what future those kids would inherit. He believed in the government and systems and had no question that those safety nets would be there for his kids in the same way they were there for him.
We’re different. We think about the future quite a bit. Maybe it’s the visibility and availability of content on the status of the globe and the economy, or maybe it’s the 24-hour news cycle showing crime and despair because media outlets need to fill airtime. Regardless of why, we’re thinking about the future.
We think about the economy. We see platforms and machines solving more of the problems humans used to solve, and markets flooded with graduates without job prospects. We think about the continued commoditization of skills and experiences that might make us obsolete. We think about how all of this will impact our kids.
We think about the education system. We ask ourselves whether we’ll say to our kids “Be whatever you want,” like our parents did, or whether we will channel them into career paths statistically more likely to produce a paycheck. We think about whether the education system will still be there with the costs rising as they are. And we wonder: If it’s not, then what?
We think about retirement. Not in the romantic sense. We think about how much will be enough to live for the rest of our lives. We think about how long we might be around given the projections of longer life spans. In a world without pensions, we think about when to contribute to 401ks and how much to gamble in the markets to make more later at the expense of now.
With all of this, we think about how we grew up. We think about the experiences we had when we were young. For the most part, we were in a trusting world oriented around families and neighborhoods. We left our doors unlocked without fear. We rode bikes miles from home without parental supervision, the only rule being to return by sundown. So much has changed since then.
Even with all the pressures of this modern world to face, we want our kids to have that same, carefree experience we had growing up. But, to achieve that lifestyle, we need to fundamentally shift the way we currently function: We need to reactivate traditional neighborhoods. We need to get to know more of our neighbors and grow trust within our numbered city blocks and our spidering suburbs. Building strong relationships within our communities is key to rekindling that environment we had as kids.
With that trust and those relationships, kids will be able to return to the streets to play, to venture beyond their backyards, and to experience a more carefree world — all because we’ll all know that one or our essential relationships is watching out for them, even if we’re not.
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Although we are in a digital age, we still need the trusted support of real people to have a happy life. For families — often with two working parents who are out in the workforce, both working hard to generate money for the great unknowns that our families all face — we need to think at a level deeper than simply the physical “neighborhood.” Technology allows us to dig in and truly understand the hyper-local, close-in networks that were there to make us into the people we are — the family, friends, parents of friends, and other trusted individuals that were — and always have been — there to support us. We need to use the affordances of modern technology to help facilitate the growth and identity of these micro-communities.
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Little Helper was a startup in Pittsburgh, PA that was singularly focused on giving Mom her time back by creating business-grade resource management tools for the household. By streamlining process and providing the right tools, we aimed to help her to regain a little bit of time to spend on herself — however she saw fit. This article was written as part of our work.