Compared to the rapid changes in technology, which one might suppose would contribute to evolving parenting styles, motherhood hasn’t changed much during the last century. New inventions such as disposable diapers and processed baby food designed for convenience have been incorporated into daily life. However, child care theories have been slow to incorporate important technological changes such as the way we travel. One hundred years ago, without the benefit of cars, planes and high speed trains, travel was relatively inaccessible to most mothers.
Many mothers now have home entertainment systems, digital TV, micro ovens, and washing machines. Some of the results of evolving parenting styles are that many mothers now never leave home without sophisticated communication systems like navigation systems , mobile phones or portable PC’s. However, traveling alone with babies remains difficult in spite of hi-tech gadgets, strollers and car seats. As any mother can attest, even a simple trip to the grocery store can become a major nightmare of logistics.
Evolving parenting styles
Despite technological advances and slowly evolving parenting styles that accommodate them, modern women are often as confined in their homes with their young children as the servants, wet nurses or nannies of the last century were. However, unlike the majority of women in the past, today’s mothers often have college degrees, have traveled in many countries, and most of them have worked and enjoyed some degree of financial liberty. In a very real sense, it is more frustrating to be confined now then it was fifty or one hundred years ago.
The more the child and mother are cut off from the outside world, meaning not only the economical world but also the world of people, countries, information, knowledge, culture and entertainment, the more estranged from it they become. The most tragic result of this estrangement caused by isolation is that the limitless potential of our infants and children is not being fully developed and utilized for the betterment of humanity as a whole. It also transforms motherhood into a social pathology rather than a joyful natural state.
Theories on child care have not progressed much in terms of allocating fathers equal responsibility for successful attachment bonding as well as continuing contributions to social growth and development. Even the language reflects the fact that the majority of child-rearing responsibilities are still assigned to mothers. Terms like “soccer mom” exist, while there is no “soccer dad” linguistic counterpart. Happily, the term “stay-at-home dad” is gaining social acceptance as unemployment rates continue to skyrocket.
Parenting, however, continues to be viewed primarily through the lens of society’s definition of motherhood rather than the slowly emerging newer definition of fatherhood. Fathers are capable of revolutionizing child-rearing by providing them the access to the outside world that women too often don’t have while staying at home to care for them. With more involvement by fathers, children could benefit from the daily interaction with the world outside without having to forfeit any parental time, protection, warmth and care.
Our adult world has gotten smaller in terms of distances, languages, information and knowledge. Men becoming more involved in the child-rearing process would serve to increase children’s sense of security. It would also multiply the dimensions from which they are able to view life as well as increasing the development of the skills necessary to navigate those dimensions. Evolving parenting styles must include exploration of the many facets of society that cannot be learned about at home.
Greater mobility for parents means a greater number of potentially beneficial learning experiences for the entire family. To accommodate evolving parenting styles with the goal of decreasing the social isolation of parents, museums, libraries, swimming pools, and even vacation destinations have changed during the last ten years. More places once reserved for adults are being advertised as “family friendly”.
One of the major contributing factors to evolving parenting styles is the global evolution of kinship. According to anthropologists, the fast-growing inclusion of all global societies into a single capitalist economic system may result in the biological family no longer forming the basis for society.
Already, we are seeing not just evolving parenting styles, but an evolving definition of what constitutes a “family”. While the definition of “fatherhood” is expanding to include many of the parental instincts and responsibilities once believed that only women were capable of, the definition of “family” is also expanding. One day, we may all be pleasantly surprised to find that find that it has expanded to include the whole village.