I have spent a lot of time experiencing, thinking and reading about the challenges of modern parenting. It occurred to me that I’ve made a lot of assumptions that parenting is a totally different experience to what it used to be. I thought I’d test out that assumption. The best way to do that was to talk to grandparents about their parenting experiences sharing what’s different, what’s the same and what pearls of wisdom they have for the likes of me!

The first conversation was with Trish, mum of six and grandmother to 21! I thought she’d know a thing or two about this topic and I wasn’t wrong. Here I share with you a few of the highlights from our conversation.


Trish, tell me what parenting was like for you

My children had lots of time at home in creative play. Where we lived they were free to visit the neighbours’ children and so they formed their own community. That community extended into Playcentre, kindy and school. Families were bigger back then and communities were closer, so older children were used to having babies around a lot of the time. That was my experience too, so when I became a mum I had already formed some ideas about parenting. 

When I became a mum I’d never lived with a baby before, so it was quite a shock to the system. I guess that wasn’t your experience.

No, I was twelve years older than my youngest sibling, so I already knew a lot about babies when I had my first child.

What was the community like for you?

Playcentre was a great place. I learnt a lot from being with parents from other backgrounds. The best parents were those who didn’t judge each other. Others like the Plunket nurse gave me reassurance and school teachers helped identify and resolve learning or behavioural challenges for my children. The community was really close too, much closer than it seems now. The mums saw each other most days.

How do you see parenting today?

Employment for mothers is a big change. I expect mums now feel more intellectually and emotionally fulfilled. I do worry that mums now have two full time jobs though, managing their careers as well as the home and it must be challenging to avoid driving yourselves into the ground. Also lots of dads are much more involved with their children from birth on. The cost of a university education is also a big change. When I went, it didn’t cost me anything, but now that’s a financial burden that young parents have to carry. A positive change is that it’s now unacceptable to smack your children. That’s a significant change in parenting today. 

What are your main reflections on parenting?

With so many children at home I didn’t have time to read, but I had a lot of time to think. As a church-goer I used to think a lot about how I could integrate my beliefs with what I was doing every day. I called it ‘clothesline theology’. I came to think of parenting as a spiritual practice. For me, the main purpose of life is learning how to love, both yourself and others. Children give you practice in every dimension of that. Parenting is more than a skill, it’s the most creative thing you can do. You’re crafting the next generation. I believe that children have to be discovered, rather than blank pages to write on. I think of it like gardening, but rather than learning how to do it from a book, you learn how to do it from the plants themselves, by learning about their nature. 

That’s a beautiful philosophy! How did you put that into practice?

I had my grotty days, like we all do, but it was important to me to give my children some core values. I focused on a few things like making sure my children knew the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’. This is such an important thing to understand, especially as we face the climate crisis today. Many people have never known the difference and so I’d like all generations to see that so we can meet the climate challenge more effectively. 

Do you have any other words of wisdom for today’s parents?

You can do all the right things and not be getting the right results. Conversely, if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. We parent as our parents did, until or unless we have reason to reflect. Do the best you can. That’s the main thing. ‘Good enough’ parenting works out well for most children!

The conversation with Trish was such a rich one, full of lightbulb moments. For me, the idea that parenting is a practice that we learn from each other as well as the nature of our children was a really powerful one. 

My Kids Village is a modern way for parents to find a community that supports them and their family. Check out local providers where you live at www.mykidsvillage.co.nz

Thank you Trish for sharing your wisdom, empathy and advice. We are all the better for it!