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I am a Modern Parent and It’s Not Easy. Here’s Why

Being a Parent Work-life Integration

I am a Modern Parent and It’s Not Easy. Here’s Why

Modern Parent

Estimated read time : 7 minutes

Is being a modern parent really that draining, or am I just whining? I’ll admit it first – I’m exhausted all the time. I don’t remember the last time it was just my husband and me. I know that I’m not alone in feeling stretched thin, being conflicted about my decisions or in yearning for the golden balance. I also know that it’s not all my fault. 

Who is a Modern Parent?

How did my parents handle multiple kids and a joint family, all while the women worked as well? Was it because life was slower then, less complicated? Work hours were defined, and there weren’t a dizzying number of options for everything from schools to pop-its. 

The world today is different, so parenting has to be different, too. I’m also older, wealthier and (hopefully) wiser than my parents were. At least research shows that children of older parents do better overall. I may be financially more comfortable, but I tire faster than my parents did. When I was born they were ten years younger and healthier. I also forget things frequently, then battle with visions of being a half-senile senior just when my daughter touches adulthood.

Modern Parenting is a Skill

Is modern parenting the load that topples the family’s ship, or the one that sets it right? In my case it has been mostly the former, and a little bit of the latter. No amount of research during my pregnancy prepared me for what was to come after my daughter was born. I was not able to breastfeed. Thanks to pseudo-authoritative nurses at the hospital, an opinionated gynecologist, and a super mommy syndrome, I felt horrible every time I mixed a bottle of formula for my newborn. I resolved to:

  • Never compare my daughter to the other children in her class or insist that she complete her homework every day.
  • Not propagate meaningless consumerism by spending an i10’s worth of money on lavish birthday parties heaped with jugglers, cakes, gourmet food and return gifts.
  • Never spank, slap or beat her, no matter how mad she made me. 

Today, two of these are lies and only one is a truth. 

But I also developed patience, slowly and painfully. I learned to prioritize and to get an astonishing amount of work done in one hour. The innocent humor of a toddler learning to speak, and the whispered I-love-you before she fell asleep were the highlights of my day. It felt like my heart would jump out of my chest with joy when she first sang my favorite song along with me from her car seat as we crawled home through evening traffic. 

Parenting today demands so much more than making sure that my child is fed and clothed. It has been an endless stream of daily decisions from the time she was conceived. Simply staying afloat amidst this ocean of responsibility feels overwhelming because it’s not a matter of choice as much as it is about survival. 

Is Being a Modern Parent Harder in Nuclear Families?

1. The Indian Nuclear Family

Most of the time, when I am discussing how I manage baby care with my work and keep everything else going with another mother, the phrase ‘nuclear family’ pops up. I am lucky to have extended family nearby, to visit and lean on in times of need. But factually speaking, the traditional joint family system hasn’t existed in urban India for decades. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 1998, 59.3% of urban families were nuclear. The corresponding number as per the latest NFHS in 2022 is 61.3%. (A nuclear family is defined as an unmarried adult living alone, or a married person or couple and their unmarried children, if any.)

2. Urbanization and Technology

Since the early 90s, a number of other things have undergone dramatic change. More and more people have moved to live and work in our cities, creating a concentrated mass of humanity in less space.

What does this have to do with modern parenting? I am privileged enough to live in a spacious home and own private transport, but the city I live in is crowded and busy. Long commute times, pressure-ridden workplaces and jam packed schedules are now routine. 

Technology has been the next biggest enabler of growth, but it has also sped up the pace of my life, adding to the burden of rushing around doing so many things. Choice is great until the sheer variety of options creates paralysis. Decision fatigue, over-stimulation and emotional stress aren’t just buzzwords anymore. 

3. The Indian Woman

The final statistic I want to talk about relates to women. 

While numbers vary across urban and rural areas and across communities, women are marrying later, bearing less children, and working in larger numbers than before.

As per the first NFHS published in 1992, 95% of women in the age group 25-29 years were married. And, the fertility rate was 3.4 per woman. According to the latest survey, 80.7% of urban women between 25-29 years were married and the fertility rate has dipped to 2.0 per woman. This is below the replacement rate of 2.1 per woman.

In the labor market, Women’s participation is three times lower than men. However, in total numbers, there are far more working women today than in the early 90s. Women in India also spend four times the time men spend on daily household chores, much more than women in other developed and developing countries. 

So by ‘nuclear family’, we are primarily referring to the overworked Indian mother. This is definitely true in my case, because while my ambitions have grown in tune with opportunities, my household responsibilities and society’s expectations from me haven’t changed from what they were thirty years ago.

A Final Word

The world today has changed so much from that of my childhood. I grew up partly terrified and partly intrigued by my own father, but my child plays with her father as she would with her friends. My mother wasn’t comfortable with displays of affection, but I shower kisses and hugs on my daughter all the time.

I want to equip her with the skills to understand, adapt and thrive and do so in a place that will only continue to change in unexpected ways. I want to meet my own professional and personal ambitions, as well as keep the house and my marriage running, and not collapse under the weight of it all.

When my own goals – parenting, professional and personal – get too much for me, I tell myself what the Cinderella of 2015 tells the Prince when they meet for the first time. “Have courage and be kind.”

If you’re anything like me, be kind to yourself. Have courage that you’ll figure it out sooner or later. Till then, life’s the best that we are able to do.

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