When I set out to learn more about you – in particular, what your #1 biggest challenge as a mom is – I was expecting to hear a lot about milk supply, fussy babies, pumping issues, etc. I thought back to the days when my girls were infants and how my #1 biggest challenge changed by the week (sometimes by the day!) for the first 1-2 years of their lives. I wish I had a log of my Google search history from that time…oh what a story it would tell!
Parenting is challenging. Before having kids, we had these lives full of work, friends, hobbies, and ambitions, and then – as if we had all the free time in the world – we threw into the mix a child who needs raised and cared for and taught new things every second of every day. It’s like starting a home health care business in addition to everything else you’ve got going on in your life.
And then, there are a slew of more short-term, but pronounced, daily struggles – how to get them to sleep more, cry less, poop more often, roll over sooner, and so on. The list is seemingly endless.
I started thinking about my grandparents and great-grandparents and wondered if they felt the same way when they had young children. Did they get frustrated like I do? Lose their patience on a daily basis? Feel guilty about a million different things at the end of every day? I did some lightweight research on parenting trends over the last 100 years and found some nuggets that made me laugh and cringe:
Parenting advice over the years
– Breastfeeding mothers received the blame for having fussy babies with this stern warning in 1916: Don't breastfeed while you are angry, or else you'll have a colicky baby. No pressure.
– In the 1920s and 1930s, authoritarian parenting was the recommended approach to ensuring a peaceful life with well-behaved children. Brutal!
"Handle the baby as little as possible. Turn it occasionally from side to side, feed it, change it, keep it warm, and let it alone; crying is absolutely essential to the development of good strong lungs. A baby should cry vigorously several times each day." (Lena and William Sadler's The Mother and her Child)
“Never hug and kiss [children], never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning… Try it out. In a week’s time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kind. You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it.” (Watson, 1928, 81-82)
– The U.S. government in 1932 put out a pamphlet recommending that parents start potty training their babies immediately after birth. I bet that was fun!
– Experts from the late 1940s continued to advise that a "lusty cry" was great exercise for the baby’s lungs and to do nothing if your newborn was crying.
– Forget modern medicine…mothers who reported feeling sad after their babies were born were not instructed to see a doctor or psychiatrist, but to instead strip furniture, according to a 1958 issue of Mother & Baby.
– Well into the 1960s, experts were still telling parents not to hug or cuddle their babies. One pediatrician even warned that showing a baby love would make it grow up to be a socialist. Makes total sense… :/
After digging into this (awful) advice and putting myself in my grandparents’ shoes, I decided that yes, I’m sure they faced many of the same struggles that I face as a parent today – but there are also new challenges that are unique to today’s world. Parenting is different, the advice is different, and the world itself is different. For example, I listen to my grandparents’ stories about how their kids would leave the house on summer mornings and play outside with their friends all day, just to come home in time for dinner. That’s not a reality for most parents in today’s world, but it sure would make parenting easier. Keeping our kids safe is yet another challenge we face as modern-day moms...honestly, does the list of challenges ever end?
Which brings me to my survey results! It should be zooming its way through the internet to you now, or if you dismissed the pop-up out of habit (no judgment 😉), you can catch it via the below form. I can’t wait to hear what you think, if it resonates with you, and if you’re part of the 65% of moms who face the same challenge or if you fall into another camp.
Knowledge is power, and simply knowing you’re not alone and that other moms – both past and present – have faced similar challenges is comforting (or at least it is to me 😊). As for me, I’ll be lying awake at night wondering how I can help…even if it is in some small way.
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.