I am a huge fan of pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp‘s books, The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. They contain excellent parenting advice based on common sense and human biology. And legions of parents can attest: Dr. Karp’s methods and techniques really work!
Today, I wanted to share an excerpt (below) from The Happiest Toddler on the Block. This excerpt reminds us that the conditions under which modern parents raise children are strikingly different from the conditions under which our ancestors raised children, particularly with regard to the amount of help modern parents receive.
The message of the passage is clear: modern moms and dads are doing more work with less assistance than ever before in human history — and they deserve some help!
For Williamsburg-area parents, online resources like the “Childcare” and “Hire A Student” sections of WilliamsburgFamilies.com or on Craigslist can help you find help for hire. And if the help you need most is of the moral support variety, join one of our great local mother’s groups, such as Colonial Moms Playgroup of Williamsburg, Williamsburg Moms, or Peninsula Mommies. You don’t have to go it alone!
And now, without further ado, Dr. Karp (boldface mine):
Man, it’s hard spending a whole day entertaining a young child. How did our grandparents do it? The truth is … they didn’t!
The whole idea of the nuclear family (a household of just parents and kids) is a recent invention. In fact, it’s one of the biggest experiments in human history. Our ancestors always lived in extended families (near grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc.).
For thousands of years, parents had the village to help them. In fact, when people from more traditional cultures hear about our spread-out families, they’re usually stunned. You can’t be serious!” they say. ”How can you raise a baby without your sisters, mother, aunts, and friends?”
More and more, we leave our hometowns, have fewer older children to help out, don’t know the neighbors, and live in single-parent families or families where both parents work full-time jobs.
Sure, we have lots of modern conveniences (like cars and washing machines), but they can never make up for the loss of family, neighbors, and community. No wonder parents feel overwhelmed. We are! And when you add to that some other modern trends like drive-through restaurants, online shopping, e-mail, and telecommuting, it’s plain to see that we live in little worlds that are increasingly isolated from one another.
What is the result of these changes? Amazingly, today’s parents often work longer hours than most parents in past generations. That’s because they either have to supervise their kids 24/7 without help or spend all day at work and then come home to a house full of undone chores.
The challenge of parenting is especially great today because, unlike parents in earlier generations who often cared for younger siblings or babysat the neighbor’s children, most of us have little to no experience raising kids. We get training for our jobs, and we take driver’s ed, but when it comes to parenthood, we’re supposed to just figure it out on our own.
So, please, give yourself a round of applause. You’re not a wimp if you use a babysitter or a housecleaner. You’re not selfish if you get away for lunch with a friend or take an exercise class. Too many parents undermine themselves with guilt. Give yourself credit for all the good work you’re doing…and get yourself some help.
- Dr. Harvey Karp, The Happiest Toddler on the Block (2008, revised edition, p. 24)