Stranger Things has inspired a lot of 80s-themed thoughts to rattle around my brain lately. I’ve posted recently about the crippling nature of nostalgia, which the show feeds into (and this explains why it’s such a sensation, I think — we always want to get back what is gone, what we can never have again, and this show makes it possible to hide your phone in a drawer, turn off the lights, and literally pretend it’s the 80s again) and how people online defend 70s and 80s parenting (letting your kids come home when the streetlights come on, etc).
With this in mind, I decided to ask my mom, Jan, about parenting in the 80s when I was a kid (I was born in ’83 and my brother in ’88). I was curious how much has really changed, because the perception is that child-rearing has gone through a serious, fundamental shift. Indeed, looking back at the 80s with shows like Stranger Things feels like being transported into another world entirely, one without the internet, ISIS, and the Kardashians.
My mother’s comments to my various questions about parenting in the 80s and being a working mom back then are below:
I don’t think there is a big difference in raising a toddler between now and 30 years ago. Some of the gadgets are different and the car seats are more sophisticated. I guess we were more concerned about killing germs then, introduction of solids foods was more scripted then as well. We didn’t have smart phones or the Internet of course but we tried to restrict screen time then too (TV).
I relied very much on the regular appointments with [Amelia’s pediatrician] Dr Anderson for parenting advice. He would warn me of the safety and health issues associated with [Amelia’s] age at the time of the appointment. As [my granddaughter] Alyssa gets older, the differences in parenting of then and now might be greater, for instance, when to give her a phone, how to monitor Internet use and social media safety.
Another difference is the more frequent testing at school, safety concerns about letting kids play outside and walk places alone. It seems like there was pressure TO helicopter and provide lots of extracurricular activities back then and now people are seeing the advantage of independent play and self direction of kids.
[Some of the best advice I’ve received about parenting is] the importance of working on your marriage, spending time with your spouse… Also, that you are the parent to your child, not their friend or partner. And, the importance of family meals and time together every day.
Moms should know that they may not always be appreciated for their efforts. Women are basically expected to be superheroes. Working moms are usually working with other moms and should respect and admire the effort of their coworkers. Most of you have put a full day of work in before setting foot in work. I was lucky to work in education where parenting is valued. One really tough thing that got better was initially when I had to miss work to care for a sick kid, I had to lie and say I was sick. Later it was changed to family illness days which were so valuable to me.
Thanks very much to my mom for her insightful comments! I would also like to wish her and my dad a very happy 40th anniversary!!!