• Niamh O'Reilly

Back To The Future of Parenting...



Yes that’s me (I reckon I’m 3?) asleep in a restaurant on holiday with my family, with a bottle of red wine on the table, my mum smiling at me as she smokes a cigi and an orange drink probably packed with E numbers sits in my bottle. They weren’t worried about my bedtime or how me falling asleep on the table in the restaurant would impact how I slept later that night.


It’s a brilliant picture and a complete love letter to how fucking awesome the 80s truly were.


Of course, if you shared a picture like this today you can be goddamn sure the PC police, keyboard warriors and every Karen in the country would be coming after you with virtual pitchforks and flaming torches, calling you a terrible parent, etc.


But my parents were not terrible parents. Far from it. In fact, they were very much 'in on the joke' when it came to this picture. I mean it looks as though I've passed out from chugging a bottle of wine.


They were (and still are) THE BEST parents. Period. No question or contest. But if you judge them by today’s impossible standards then they seem laissez fair in the extreme… let’s just say orange was not the only drink outside of milk that found its way into my bottle. Yes I had Coke in there as a toddler and my parents were none the wiser that this would actually be BAD for my teeth… so bad my front two teeth had to be taken out early after a fall (and presumably all the coke didn't help things!)


The simple truth is that they parented in this magical era called the 80s, when the hair was big, VHS was king, the movies were awesome, findus crispy pancakes were considered haute cuisine and attitudes in parenthood (and life) were much more relaxed.


For a start there was no social media to worry about. Parents didn’t feel as though they were under immense constant pressure to be perfect or were exposed to the false narrative of the perfect mother or father, 24/7. They weren’t constantly comparing themselves to the endless parade of perfection on Instagram or getting jumped on by angry faceless 'Karen’s' in a mum’s forum for daring to ask if it was okay to give their toddler nuggets for dinner once and a while.


It feels as though kids had more freedom or at least there was less fear around kids going off to play. None of us had mobiles, we just turned up at the time and place we were supposed to and it just sort of worked out. We didn’t really have video games outside of pong, we got mucky, dirty and had never heard of things like hand sanitiser!


We were less scheduled. Myself and Lisa Nolan were talking about this on our Insta live the other day, how often at the weekend, you’d get yourself up, make cereal watch cartoons on the couch, while your patents slept till 10! That would now be a foreign concept in our house.


Today we feel as though we’ve got to constantly amuse and schedule our kids with activities and elaborate sensory or messy play and a stream of perfectly organised playdates. Kids now rarely are allowed to get bored or amuse themselves for five minutes.


New parents are bombarded with information and told about the importance of naps, routines, bedtimes and have a constant battle over screens. We’re forever being told to stop giving our kids sweets and chocolates and judged over the food choices we make for them if it doesn’t include kale or quinoa.


It often just feels like too much; for the kids and for us and passive smoking and giving me coke in my bottle aside, I truly think we could learn a lot from the parenting in the 80s. And in many ways it was better, freer and made for more relaxed kids and parents.


When I shared this image on my Instagram page, the response was very much the same as my own. Namely fond nostalgia for the 80s and 90s and a recognition that while they may not have gotten everything right, they did a pretty good job with us lot.


There was of course one of two 'Karen's' who just went to prove my point, that today's parenting world is a minefield of harsh, rash judgement.


Are you a child of the 80s/90s? What do you think of todays parenting style Vs back then?

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