Welcome to the Era of Very Earnest Parenting
Who Cares About Being Cringe?
The effect of all this information is felt everywhere from drop-off to play dates, with millennials taking parenting seriously in a way that might elicit eye rolls from older generations. Bridget Shirvell, 37, of Mystic, Conn., was at a birthday party with her daughter when another child was having a meltdown about leaving. “The mom was trying to talk about the feelings, and one of the grandparents who was there was like, ‘How’s that gentle parenting thing going for you?’” she said. “He just wanted her to put the kid in the car and go. But I’m like, You just have to brush it off. We are in it for the long haul,” she said.
“We are in it for the relationship we are going to have with this child 20 years from now,” she added.
Newer parents have always been preoccupied with parenting, and often find themselves talking only about their children, especially to other parents. But for this generation, it can feel like studying for a Ph.D. at some imaginary parenting university, with an endless stream of homework and classes. “We are circling the same books, the same podcasts, the same Instagram people,” said Heidi Fichtner, 40, from Rochester, N.Y.
When parents make snarky remarks online these days, they do so in secret. Rather than posting in the comments, where they might face a wave of backlash, a small subset of people share their pettiest thoughts about other parents and parenting influencers in Reddit forums where they can remain anonymous. (“I understand if you don’t personally want to use timeouts but please stop acting like its ruining my kid because influencers told you so,” one user wrote.)
Joyce Szuflita, a 63-year-old school admissions consultant who has been helping New York parents for a decade and a half, said that in the past six years or so, her clients feel like they’re “floating out on an iceberg out to sea,” more anxious and unsure than previous generations of parents.
There’s a lot to be worried about — the climate crisis, debt, war, aging parents, a divided country, the effects of the pandemic. The same generation of people who watched the horrors of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado unfold live on TV, the victims roughly their age, are now forced to process school shootings on repeat while their children practice hiding under their desks. “There’s something to be said about this shift of raising these kids in a gentle way in this world,” Ms. Fichtner said, using an expletive.