“Blame the parents” is a familiar response to the failings of the younger generation.

But, according to new research, even the parents of the parents are pointing the finger.

The wrath of grannies is being increasingly felt as they look on with a mixture of horror and incredulity as their own childen start to make a pig’s ear of parenting.

Today’s grandmothers in particular cannot believe their own children turn into over-ambitious, competitive parents with pampered, demanding offspring, according to Professor Rachel Thomson, co-director of The Making Of Modern Motherhood report.

Grannies believe the range of choices available to their daughters are not only turning mothering into a competition, but also undermine their daughters’ confidence in their ability to care for their children.

Rather than simply getting on with the job of being mothers, as they did, grannies don’t understand their daughters’ “…compulsion…to be constantly busy and sociable, taking their children to every class available, being up to date on endless independent research into everything from developmental goals to nutrition while also balancing work and family”.

The Mother’s Union maintains such concerns are simply a modern, middle-class trait and do not believe the research provides a realistic snapshot of parenting generally.

The research throws up some interesting points and messages.

But I keep coming back to the same question – aren’t today’s parents as much a product of their own upbringing and background as the modern trends and pressures they are apparently facing?

Another recent report suggested parents were looking to abdicate more of their responsibility.

As for the Mother’s Union assertion about the grannies’ concerns being typical middle-class traits, I’m still struggling with this whole class identity thing as it relates to modern society.

The only thing I am certain about is that the big losers are today’s younger generation and the blame can be shared around quite liberally.



13 responses »

  1. Ursula says:

    Oh Paul, big sigh. I’ll only latch on to a couple of your points otherwise my comment will turn out longer than your initial entry.

    In this age of self help books (soon there will be a title “How to breathe – in two simple steps”) many people allow others to instruct them how to do what should come natural; like little children they wait for an “authority” or an “expert” to take them by their big hands and walk them across the Zebra crossings of life. It’s a pet hate of mine.

    Competitive parents? Sure! It’s what happens when children become “accessories”, an extension of our own thwarted ambitions, rather than persons in their own right.

    Many of my contemporaries do not allow themselves to follow their own instincts as to parenting, or anything else for that matter. Nobody is perfect, but how difficult can it be to make your offspring’s childhood a happy one, set them up for life? So much angst … All you new parents out there: Remember what you liked and disliked about your own early years and ACT on it – and I guarantee you’ll be awarded an A* by your children (sixteen years on).

    As to constant supervision, carting them to every class under the sun (instead of just playing with them, talking to them, reading to them), giving the poor blighters not a five minute chance to be on their own, do their own thing, heaven forbid be utterly bored and invent their own games – it borders on criminal.

    By way of a mild example: I nearly came to blows with another mother last year when she said she would never allow her son to go to school on the train because “she couldn’t live with herself if anything happened to him”. How selfish is that (we are talking a 15 year old and a 10 minute ride on a train)? Since I am not English nobody expects me to bite my tongue: So I asked her how that poor sausage was expected to be able to stand on his own two feet and find his way around the world three years hence (her cut-off point). I didn’t get an answer.

    Letting your children be, not monitoring their every move, gently extending your apron strings and allowing them freedom should be every parent’s pride. I am the first to admit that I always breathe a quiet sigh of relief when my son walks back through the front door in one piece – but my motherly anxieties are my private affair and not something that should burden him, deprive him of what children need, what we all need: Freedom, and confidence in our ability to get to grips with the world..

    It’s odd, Paul. I just remembered the time my father gave me Orwell’s Big Brother to read. 2008 a little later than the 1984 predicted, but it sure has arrived.


  2. Paul Groves says:

    Thanks Ursula. I try hard not to fall into the trap of comparing now with my own childhood, but I am amazed at some of the things that are happening (or not happening). I’m also acutely aware that I’m not a parent, so I don’t necessarily understand the unique feelings and pressures that they have. But I’m still left with an over-riding feeling of “Eh? You what?” whenever I read such stories.

  3. Ursula says:

    Good for you, Paul. I think you’d make an excellent father. Though one word of warning: Once you take the plunge, true peace of mind will never be yours again. One of nature’s little tricks to ensure survival of the young.

    If and when the patter of little Paul’s/Pauline’s feet wakes you in the early hours of the morning, and you take either to tiny tots’ rugby training: Try not to shout at the fruit of your loins.

    Oh the joys of freezing my buttocks off early Saturday mornings watching my son in football training (he only did it to please both his father and grandfather; though he drew a line at their interest in rugby). His team manager used to get at him standing around the field with his hands in his pockets, waiting for the ball to come his way: It made me smile. What didn’t make me smile were other kids’ fathers, fully grown men, egging their 6 year old sons on, foulmouthing, as if the future of the planet depended on their kids’ every move.

    Standing on the sidelines then, and thinking about your entry today, I can’t help wonder how much team spirit and how much ego there is at work – in truth – in so called “team” sports. You are better qualified to comment on this particular theme. Maybe a subject you”d like to contemplate in one of your future blog entries?


  4. Paul Groves says:

    Hhhhmmm – I’m struggling to be a responsible, caring, patient cat owner at the moment even though most people (particularly women) think he’s the most adorable thing on four legs – check out my wife’s blog for images, if you’re interested. The pitter-patter of a tiny Grover might have to wait. We both like the idea, but for various reasons it isn’t realistic at the moment.

    I’m a big fan of team sports, both as a watcher and a believer that they can help teach children some valuable lessons. But, having said that, a close friend was very good at a number of sports (football in particular) and by his own admission is one of the most arrogant people alive. I might take you up on your suggestion about team sports – I’m sure my friend would genuinely love the unflattering illustrations about him that I include 😉

  5. Ursula says:

    Cat, is it? I don’t want to ring your and/or your wife’s alam bells but it’s a warning sign. I don’t know how old you are but, judging by your photo, no need to rush.

    As to your friend, I have a thing about arrogant men though they need to be held at arm’s length at all times.

    Where can I find your wife’s blog?

    Which reminds me: I have had the most miserable time the last 24 hours trying to start my own (yes, on wordpress). Bring on a cold compress to wipe my furrowed brow.


  6. Paul Groves says:

    The cat (Flyman) is my wife’s. I’ve always been a dog man and had a deep mistrust of cats ever since I was clawed by my grandmother’s moggy as a youngster. But for the love of a good woman – and the fact that Flyman tends to be very chilled out most of the time – I’ve been won over (most of the time).

    As for age – stay reading this week, I’ll be posting something regarding that very subject.

    My wife’s blog is at http://rachelcreative.wordpress.com.

    Please let me know once you go live with your own blog. I’ll be interested to read more of your thoughts.

  7. Why is it you always say he’s MY cat when he’s being annoying or naughty? Check with the vet – he is a registered member of the Groves family now. Ha!

    You’ll miss him when he’s gone – you know you will.

    You’ll always be sleeping in late and … oh … yer … I see what you mean.

  8. Ursula says:

    Rachel, useless attempts at disowning those dear to us, in times of strife, appear to be a law of nature. An offspring suddenly becomes “YOUR daughter” or “YOUR son”. Not to mention the old fashioned backlash and threat of: “Wait till your father comes home”. The latter particularly ineffective when talking to a cat whose paternal parentage is usually beyond identification.

    When my son woke me calmly last night (ca 0130 hrs BST) to inform me that one of HIS cats had peed on a pair of MY much loved trousers which, admittedly, I had left in careless abandon on the bathroom floor, we had a mild argument. Mild – because I was half asleep; argument – because cleaning your teeth is no excuse to not go downstairs and open the gates to the great outdoors’ loo of all feline creatures (one’s garden).

    I am hoping to find a photo of Flyman on your blog site. When looking earlier I got rather side tracked by some great shots of yours. Speak to you on rachelcreative.


  9. Crimson Wife says:

    Does anyone know where I can find a link to Dr. Thomson’s actual study? All I can find are news articles about it, and I’m always a bit skeptical of the “spin” journalists give research findings.

    I’m a Gen X mom (or as you Brits would say, “mum”) and there’s definitely a generation gap between my own mother and myself when it comes to parenting. She was a lot more laissez-faire . But everyone was, so she didn’t have to worry about some busybody neighbor reporting her to the child welfare authorities if she allowed me to ride on my brother’s handlebars with neither of us wearing a helmet, etc.

  10. Paul Groves says:

    Ursula – yeah, whatever 😉

  11. Paul Groves says:

    Crimson Wife: I’ve been searching in vain too. The best I’ve been able to come up with so far is a link to the research team she is a member of at London South Bank University.


    I hope this helps.

    There’s no doubt that society generally is more uptight and more inclined to express an opinion – whether it is asked for or not – than before. The maddening thing is that they’ll shout loud about some of the trivialities of life and then happily ignore some of the serious issues we’re facing by claiming it isn’t their responsibility.

    Good luck with your searching.

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