‘Generation Anxious’: Why parents today have a harder time managing stress, according to a pediatrician

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Dr. Mona Amin is an In The Know parenting contributor. Follow her on Instagram for more.

Hey, parents of young kids!

Do you think our parents had it easier when it comes to parenting? Do you sometimes feel that it’s harder to be a parent now than it was 30 years ago?

If you said yes, you’re not alone.

Before I became a mother, I noticed overtired and worried parents coming to my office in droves. I started to wonder why we as parents in this generation seem more worried and stressed in these roles than our parents before us.

And then I became a mom and started posting content on social media. That’s when it became clear to me why we’re more stressed, tired and overwhelmed as parents today.

Social media

Social media is a double-edged sword. There’s a sense of community and a wealth of inspiration and education that exists, but it can also leave you feeling as if you’re not doing enough or don’t have enough. Thirty years ago, our parents parented the child that was in front of them — without checking their smartphones first.

There weren’t accounts on social media telling them they were doing it wrong. There weren’t nicely curated feeds of well-behaved children in matching outfits to compare theirs to. They parented and worked out issues with the child in front of them with arguably fewer comparisons.

Sure, there were friends down the street or relatives, but everyone’s lives weren’t in their faces 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This constant exposure to perfectly curated lives on your feed can make you feel as if you’re inadequate and that you’re not doing enough. Even though you are, it can make you feel stressed and unhappy, wondering what else you need to do or buy to keep up with others.

It’s the ultimate comparison game. And if we get lost in our phones and what everybody else is doing, we lose sight of the child who is growing and thriving in front of us.

Information overload

You want to know something about parenting? There is no one superior method. It really is about finding the method that works for you — but most importantly, the one that works for the nature of your child.

Social media, friends or family members might tell you what to do with your child, and this barrage of information can overwhelm us as new parents. Parenting is — in my opinion — a role filled with intuition. If you truly blocked out all the noise, turned off all distractions and focused on the child in front of you, you would raise an amazing kid.

I think it’s so important to be educated about parenting and child health and wellness, but I hope you receive that information in a nonjudgmental way, complete with a variety of options. The goal is for this information to give you mental peace — not take away from it. So, if you find that you’re in information overload, take a break from these sources that may be triggering feelings of inadequacy and stress.

The rising cost of child care

Compared to our parents’ generation, the cost of raising a child has skyrocketed, even accounting for inflation. Many dual-income households often have to decide if they should send their child to child care, hire a nanny, or if it makes financial sense for one parent to quit. This doesn’t even account for single parents who also have to work and think of ways to provide child care for their children. The cost of child care is rising, and work-life balance seems harder to obtain.

In the pandemic, many parents (especially mothers) chose to leave the workforce, which is a prime example of how modern parenting doesn’t always support mothers. Parents (especially women) have had to make tough choices, sometimes putting their careers on hold in order to provide child care because of cost. This adds to stress, which can make parenting less enjoyable.

Our desire for perfection

Our generation has also become accustomed to instant gratification. You want food delivered in less than 20 minutes? Order it on your phone. You want a new item delivered the same day? Just check the box. Your child has an issue? Fix it immediately. But that’s not how children work.

In our parents’ generation, they often gave things time. There wasn’t this obsession of needing to “fix” our kids. This is largely true with development. Balancing watchful waiting with immediate intervention is important, but immediate intervention has become more of the norm. Although this can provide some benefit, it can also make us worried that we’re not doing enough or our kids are not “perfect” enough — when maybe, just maybe, they need some time.

My goal for parents in the modern age is to balance the information and education we have now with the flexibility that our parents had when they were raising us. I think this would be the perfect blend to bring more peace into parenting.

If you enjoyed this story, check out how some millennial parents are feeling ‘milestone anxiety’!

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