We’ve reached the end of a decade. The end of an era! The past 10 years have been a whirlwind of exciting — and regrettable — trends, from “Instagram makeup” and unicorn everything to virtual fitness classes (hello, Peloton wife) and #selfcare. And like fashion, food, and beauty, parenting has undergone some serious transformations since 2010. Some of these trends, such as co-parenting and activism, are as worthy of praise as J.Lo resurfacing her beloved Versace dress from the 2000 Grammys. Others, like the battles with screen time and the never-ending online mom-shaming are more on par with Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress (read: We’re over it).
Ahead are some of the ways parenting has changed over the past decade, for better or for worse.
Parenting styles: choppers, snowplows, mowers, oh my!
Ah, the parenting “style.” It’s a topic as contested as “the dress, and as inescapable as the Kardashians. A few parenting styles dominated the past decade: the helicopter, the snowplow, and the lawnmower. And while these styles weren’t necessarily new, they certainly got a lot of buzz this decade.
We began with “helicopter parenting,” a trend in which parents “control and manage [their kids] to an extreme to ensure success,” licensed clinical social worker Lynn Zakeri tells SheKnows. Often, these parents are “driven by anxiety” and “project their own fear of failure on their kids,” she adds.
Helicopter parents are the commercial drones of parents. They’re always hovering and monitoring, and though they might catch a few pretty photos, they’re a nuisance at the beach. For a while, being branded as a “helicopter parent” seemed like the worst thing that could happen to someone; it was a scarlet letter that no amount of Tide Pods could scrub away. But how could you tell if you were one of these overly controlling parents? Well, in the early 2010s, you could take a quiz, of course!
It wasn’t long after the chopper parenting style lost its steam — erm, gas — that new, even more controversial methods came into the spotlight: snowplow and lawnmower. Like helicopter parents, snowplows and lawnmowers are overly involved in their children’s lives. But instead of just hovering, they block any obstacles in their kids’ paths — whether they’re dealing with bad grades, auditions, or job interviews — by directly interfering. Plowers and mowers might hassle a soccer coach to ensure their kids start in the next game or, in extreme cases, might plot an elaborate multi-million dollar college admissions scandal (looking at you, Aunt Becky).
While these styles are commonly frowned upon, it’s natural for parents to want to intervene, especially in today’s world, says Dr. Dana Dorfman, Ph.D., psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch. “Parents are anxious about the uncertainty of the future — economy, politics, environment, globalization, and technology,” she tells SheKnows. “They are trying to figure out ways to manage this worry and bypass the previous generation’s tendency toward ‘helicoptering.'”
Zakeri hopes that 2020 will bring a new style of parenting, which she coined as “the passenger,” to the forefront. Unlike mowers, choppers, and snowplows, passenger parents let their kids take the wheel while they sit next to them and provide guidance. The point, Zakeri says, is to allow kids to gain independence and confidence as they navigate the world. “I will foresee the obstacles, but [my son] will decide what to do about them,” she explains. “But when he makes a safety mistake, I am going to take over and be his parent.”
Co-parenting: Working together for the kids
One of the decade’s defining moments came from Gwyneth Paltrow, who announced she and ex-husband Chris Martin were “consciously uncoupling” after 11 years of marriage. Though the couple still formally divorced, consciously uncoupling meant that Paltrow and the Coldplay frontman would stay involved in each other’s lives and make an effort to reframe their family in a way that best supported their children. The GOOP founder got a lot of flack for the term, as she recently told Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast. Still, it started a meaningful conversation about co-parenting, in which two or more of the children’s guardians work together to raise their collective kids.
“Co-parenting” has become a bit of a buzzword these days, as more families are living outside of the nuclear mold; today, 32% of children live with an unmarried parent, according to the Pew Research Center. But despite the happy-go-lucky paparazzi images of celebs like Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, co-parenting isn’t always a walk in the park. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complete hell, either, thanks to co-parenting apps and tried-and-true hacks real parents swear by.
But co-parenting expands beyond parenting in two separate households. Coupled parents are also sharing more responsibilities than ever before as society continues to challenge outdated gender norms. “With gradually changing work arrangements and progress in gender neutrality, fathers continue to assume greater emotional involvement in their children’s lives,” Dorfman says, adding that parental leave laws are also making it easier for dads to get involved.
Parents are also making more of an effort to be present with their kids, Julie Morgenstern, time management expert and author of Time to Parent, tells SheKnows. “We entered the decade seeing a generation of parents who are spending more time with their children than any previous generation,” she says. “By way of reference, between 1965 and 2011, moms had almost tripled the number of quality hours they spend with their children from 7 to 20 hours per week, and fathers more than doubled their time spent on childcare from 2.5 to 7 hours a week.”
While most parents are more involved with household chores and parenting, women are still more likely to do the brunt of the work, according to a 2017 study published in Sex Roles.
Technology: The good, the bad & the downright stressful
Technological advancements over the past decade have been a blessing and a curse. There’s plenty of parenting information and advice online, both in articles and in virtual support groups, Dorfman says. Though it’s great to have easy access to expert tips and a community of other parents who “get it,” the sheer abundance of information and opinions can be completely overwhelming.
Similarly, parents have more access to their children than ever before. “With the ubiquity of technological devices, parents and children have consistent access and capacity to maintain communication,” Dorfman says. Additionally, parents can track their kids through their phones, watches, and other devices (though the practice is controversial). While tracking kids could keep them safe in some instances, Dorfman says that such “ongoing access influences the nature of emotional separation and individuation” for both parents and their kids.
While we can choose whether we check in on our kids’ whereabouts, avoiding screens and technology altogether is much more difficult. The average household has about seven screens, including tablets, laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, e-readers, TVs, and video game consoles, according to a survey conducted by ReportLinker. These devices are getting a lot of use too. Common Sense Media reports that kids spend approximately 45 hours a week on their devices every single week, leaving some to wonder if we’re raising a generation of phone-addicted youth. All of that screen time can have a lasting detrimental impact on kids’ cognitive development, as well as increase their risk of anxiety and depression.
Parents aren’t immune, either, says Zakeri. Social media platforms have created more opportunities for people to compare themselves to others, both people we know directly and people we don’t. More than ever, we’re connected to celebrities and influencers — and, yes, even kidfluencers — who depict a seemingly idyllic lifestyle that we may crave. So much access to the periphery of other people’s lives — because that’s what it is; no matter how much over-sharing someone does, you’re never seeing the full picture — can sometimes open the door for mom-shaming, another downfall of modern-day tech.
And then there’s the targeted marketing. Parents today see a barrage of ads pushing “this coach, this test prep, this team, this dance company,” Zakeri says. With so much pressure, how can anyone feel good about themselves? Zakeri adds that to save your sanity and create a healthier home environment, parents should identify what’s “good enough for [your] family.”
Mental health: A focus on wellness
We may be more connected to our devices than ever, but more parents are starting to realize the value of unplugging, says Dorfman. “With increasing awareness about the importance and benefits of mindfulness, many parents are making a more concerted effort to ‘be present’ with their children,” she says. “They are trying to put phones away, avoid multitasking, express gratitude, encourage family time and slow down.”
Unplugging is only one piece of the mindfulness puzzle. There’s been a push for people to focus more on their mental well-being and to seek out additional resources, such as talk therapy, support groups, or mental health apps, especially as people are becoming more stressed out over current events. Maternal mental health has also become a serious talking point for medical professionals. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen are also using their platforms to remind followers that, above all else, their mental health should come first.
Conversations around mental health are becoming more common amongst kids too. Gen Z, in particular, is more willing to ask for help. Unfortunately, they’re also at a higher risk for anxiety and depression, largely due to increased pressure in academics and on social media.
The world isn’t getting any less stressful, so let’s hope we continue to emphasize mental health and wellness in 2020 and over the next decade.
Gun safety & violence: The new American way
The gun violence epidemic plagues modern-day society. In 2019, there were more mass shootings than there were days of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. These shootings took place in shopping centers, places of worship, restaurants, bars, and schools. But gun violence isn’t a new phenomenon; 1.2 million Americans were shot over the past decade in thousands of gun-related incidents, reports the Giffords Law Center.
These acts of violence, both intentional and accidental, aren’t limited to public spaces, though. Dr. Nancy Sherman says she started worrying about whether her son’s friends had guns in their houses. “I trusted my son; however, I made sure that, especially for sleepovers, the other family did not have guns in the home,” Sherman, who is a professor at Bradley University’s Online Masters of Counseling Program, tells SheKnows. “My house was always available for the boys to stay over where I knew they would be safe and carefully but unobtrusively monitored.”
Kids and parents are taking action against gun violence in other ways too. Groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Gen Z-created March for Our Lives are mobilizing people to lobby their representatives, their school boards, and their community businesses to implement stricter gun policies and change the culture of violence.
We’ve accomplished a lot in 10 years. So, here’s to a brighter 2020 filled with mindfulness and kindness — and sensible gun legislation.