In our house we have three cellphones, two iPads, three laptops, and an Apple TV. My four-year-old daughter knows how to use them all. How did my daughter get to be a tech wiz before she was potty trained? And why does my parenting experience with her seem so different than it did with my first son?
Oh, right, there’s that decade between child one and child three and oh my, how things have changed. And not just because I was 29 when I had my first son and pushing 40 when I had my daughter. Life has really changed in the parenting world in these last 10 years, and the differences are palpable.
Of course the biggest difference is that my son was born in New York City, where we’d been living for the 10 years before his birth. Our life included the hustle and bustle of city life and pretty much all that came with it. I quit my job as a magazine writer so I could stay home with my son, and he quickly became the center of my world.
Ten years later, when I had my daughter, I also had a full-time job. We are in the Philadelphia area now and our family consists of two working parents, two cars, and a house with a mortgage.
Having a full-time job wasn’t the only difference in parenting a decade later. From pregnancy to preschool, here are some of the changes that have stood out to me the most.
Peanuts permitted When I was pregnant with my son, peanuts were strictly forbidden. Mothers were taught that eating peanuts while pregnant or nursing could result in a child with a deadly peanut allergy. I avoided peanuts like the plague. Ten years later, peanuts were permitted and even encouraged as a protein source. I took that to mean that I could indulge my peanut butter cookie cravings at will.
‘Old’ people should not have babies My pregnancy was treated like a dreadful disease. Beginning with meeting with a geneticist whose job it was to calculate the probability that I would give birth to a genetic mutation, the run-up to giving birth was filled with medical interventions and scary statistics.
Stroller overload When I had my son, I had two basic choices to make regarding strollers — massive multi-piece contraption for jaunts around the mall or a sleek, titanium coated umbrella stroller that could survive the urban landscape. Ten years later, choosing a stroller felt like shopping for a new car. The variety of models, features and prices was overwhelming. In the end, I picked the stroller that was on sale and fit in the trunk of my Toyota.
Techno tots My daughter is a techno whiz. She knows more about my cellphone than I do. The hazards of screen time on little minds are not new. I knew when I had my son that he shouldn’t be watching television for prolonged periods of time. I was so diligent about this, I often covered his head while nursing so he wouldn’t accidentally add to his dedicated TV time. Those 20 minutes when he was allowed to watch TV were solely dedicated to Baby Mozart. While I admit that being a busier mother these days has me relying on technology more than I did with my sons, it’s not possible that I would be able to keep her gadget free even if I didn’t have a full-time job. Electronics have become part of our life.
Gender politics When my son entered preschool, I barely blinked when Heather Has Two Mommies was the book of the week. But when my daughter recently told me that boys wear dresses, I instinctively corrected her, saying, “No, girls wear dresses.” But then I remembered the little boy in her class who did wear dresses on a pretty regular basis. And I realized I probably just made a major mistake. When I asked why she thought her classmate often wore dresses, she answered quite simply, “Because he likes to.” Looks like she has a lot to teach me.
At the end of the day, change is always intimidating but with a willingness to learn from our kids and a commitment to our own parenting ideals and values, we can all adapt to this ever-changing world our children are inheriting.
In the meantime, I will continue to enlist my daughter’s help in programing my phone and enhancing my wardrobe.