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Thursday 1 June 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# figuring it out
8 modern parenting worries my own mum never had to deal with
My parents didn’t care about superfoods or screen time, writes Chrissie Russell.

Raising a child to be a happy, healthy and morally sound individual is a challenge as old as time – but these days, it’s trickier than ever.

From social media to superfoods, Chrissie Russell takes a look at the uniquely modern challenges facing today’s parents.

There’s no asking your own parents for advice when it comes to these struggles…

1. Feeding kids a balanced (superfood-packed, plant-based…) diet
Dragon fruit! Chia seeds! Polenta! My toddler has already eaten many foods that I didn’t encounter until I hit my thirties, but I still stress out about the scope of his diet.

“I had a cheese sandwich for lunch every day for about seven years and never questioned it,” one mum I know wailed to me recently as she grimly chopped up mango at her toddler’s behest. It’s great we’re more knowledgeable about diet today, particularly given the childhood obesity epidemic, but there is a teensy bit of me that longs for the blissful ignorance of yore.

shutterstock_682455946 Shutterstock / hobitnjak Shutterstock / hobitnjak / hobitnjak

 2. Reading the words “new studies show…”
From suggestions that kids’ health may be damaged by time with their grandparents to tests showing rice cakes may contain arsenic, the never-ending list of studies into child wellness is largely information I could live without. And yes, those are both real pieces of research.

3. Gadget-related anxiety
My mother thought I’d lost my mind when I bought a €30 colour-changing egg-shaped room thermometer. Not in the mood for logic, I monitored and slavishly adhered to the egg’s colour coded commands, removing and adding blankets if the room’s climate changed by even a degree.

It’s madness, but the sheer abundance of parenting gadgets on sale these days means you end up constantly questioning your skills as a mum or dad.

jelleke-vanooteghem-386022 Unsplash Unsplash

4. Figuring out your ‘parenting style’
Back in the day, having a child made you a parent. Nothing more. Instead, today’s mums and dads are expected to know which particular brand of parenting they most strongly identify with. Are you free-range? Attachment? Gina Ford? Helicopter? Tiger? Lawnmower? An Outsourcer?

It’s become something that we’re expected to have a stance on, a bit like how everyone wants a ‘theme’ for their wedding.

5. Pinterest envy (and Instagram envy, and mommy-blogger envy…)
It’s never been so easy to compare yourself to other parents and find yourself woefully lacking. From photos of families in co-ordinated, eco-friendly clothing to hand carved shark watermelons there’s a whole portion of the internet that exists solely to make you feel guilty that your own kid is wearing chocolate-smeared joggers and eating fish fingers.


6. The constant screen time battle
“Screen time represents a constant battle with your own conscience,” says Francesca Hornak, author of Worry With Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama. “So effective and yet you’re constantly told how terrible it is.”

The technology traumas will only get worse as they get older, sadly. When do they get their own mobile? How much freedom online? How to deal with predators and online bullying? AND WHAT ABOUT SEXTING? It’s all too much.

7. Making sure your child’s life is ‘enriched’
Parenting these days isn’t about entertaining your child, it’s about enriching and stimulating, starting with classical music played while they’re in the womb. All toys must encourage neurological development and hand-eye co-ordination.

Oh, and if you dare to indulge in the evils of screen time, for goodness’ sake make sure it’s educational. A rogue episode of Paw Patrol may be what stops your child from entering university. Allegedly.

The never-ending quest for enrichment is exhausting, especially when you find yourself at the museum encouraging a tot to learn about Viking feasts when all you both really want to do is feast on something chocolatey in the on-site café.

shutterstock_667404973 Shutterstock / Ditty_about_summer Shutterstock / Ditty_about_summer / Ditty_about_summer

8. Striking a work-life balance
I don’t remember there being as much debate around work/ life balance in years gone by. Things just existed as they were. “A big modern worry is about whether it’s quality or quantity that matters when it comes to childcare,” says Francesca.

Being present for your kids, avoiding your phone at home, switching off outside of office hours – and yet still needing to deliver when it comes to work? It’s a total minefield.

More: 29 questions about kids’ TV shows that only parents will understand

More: 10 devastatingly effective white lies I’ve used on my kids

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