From sewing their children’s clothes to monitoring their social media accounts, the role of mothers has changed dramatically over the past few decades.
But the core of the job has stayed the same: Love your children, hug them lots, and try to instill morals and values to help guide them through this perilous, rapidly advancing world, said central Alberta mom Betty Fraser.
The 79-year-old grandmother and great-grandmother believes today’s mothers have it much harder than when she raised her children in the 1960s and ’70s.
Children are growing up too fast, with too much media exposure, and a “huge lack of people to look up to.”
With all the fallen politicians and convicted celebrities, Fraser wonders who are the Roy Rogers of this century?
“I don’t think today’s kids have that sense of safety,” she believes, so parents have to try harder to reassure them — often without the supports of previous generations.
“People used to look out for each other more,” said Fraser. She remembers allowing her then 10-year-old daughter to be out alone, riding her horse all day without worrying about her safety.
Whether true or not, the world seemed a less dangerous place back then, requiring less parental hovering to help children navigate it, she added.
At the same time, Fraser wonders whether today’s helicopter parents are hindering kids from developing confidence in their own strengths and abilities?
Phyllis Munson, 89, who raised three daughters, feels parenting used to be easier because children “didn’t have so many choices.” There weren’t Xbox addictions, cellphones, the internet. While she was growing up there weren’t even TVs.
She and Fraser now worry about all the “visual violence” kids are being exposed to through electronic games. Munson is heartened her grandchildren have gone back to playing board games with their own kids to develop a better sense of connection and rapport.
When her own children were teenagers, she said they didn’t have the same multitude of career choices — or fears about being replaced by workplace technology.
Munson, who was among the rare moms who worked outside the home while her kids were young, said she didn’t even think about the possibility of them getting hooked on drugs.
But being a mother was never easy.
Shirley Korpany, 81, recalls sewing clothing for herself and her children when money was tight on the farm. And everything was cooked from scratch out of necessity.
She recalled being down to her last five cents once, and decided not to make a long-distance phone call so she could instead buy yeast to make bread for supper.
Her kids had far fewer toys than young people today. But Korpany recalled her eight children got a lot of play value out of one Flintstones building set.
The resident of Timberstone Mews bribed her offspring to help out with chores by giving them a few cents allowance a week. When times were better on the farm, she enrolled her kids in figure skating, dance, scouts and hockey.
Most of today’s parents also allow their children stretch their talents through participation in sport and activities — even though their busy schedules can be draining.
Red Deer mother-of-three Monique LaGrange drove to Calgary for her 10-year-old daughter’s gymnastics competition on Friday. She also takes Danika to violin lessons, while her sons Brausen, 7, and Marek, 10, are enrolled in drumming.
LaGrange, who runs her own floral business, sometimes finds the time spent in transit a bit much. “It’s like, how can you juggle three kids when they need to be at different places at different times?”
But she hopes her children realize “that I’m there for them,” and that, aside from the driving, she is interested in spending time to get to know them.
“It’s a different world out there,” admitted LaGrange, who raised her kids without a lot of grandparent support because of age and distance factors.
Last fall, she started a local mothers’ meet-up group because motherhood can be isolating, and she thought it would help other moms to be able to share their concerns with women who have gone through the same experiences.
One of LaGrange’s sons recently walked into the middle of a bullying situation and didn’t know if he made the right decision in bringing a teacher into it. She affirmed this was a good call.
“There are a lot of stresses that also creep into kids’ lives way too early … and some you can’t hide your kids from.” But LaGrange tries to use these as teaching moments.
“You’ve got to take it one day at a time — even one hour at a time,” said LaGrange, who believes that leaning on a supportive friend, who shares her values, can really help when various problems arise.
And the challenges with kids change at every age level.
Ashley Nicklom is a mother of two pre-schoolers, who runs a day home for seven children. She’s already seeing peer pressure — with other kids trying to get her children to watch things on YouTube that she doesn’t feel they are ready for.
“There’s a huge amount of worry about the future … but I try to have confidence and lead by example. I know I’m not perfect, but that’s OK…
Nicklom admitted, “I’m so busy now, it’s hard to find a second to relax.” But she already feels these are the best years of her life.
“I feel like my life didn’t start until I had kids… They bring you so much joy and chaos and perspective — and wine nights!” she joked.