Was it Really a Simpler Time?

Purposeful Parent Tip:  Enjoy the present moment. It may be simpler than you think!

“It was simpler back then.” I remember my parents saying this to me many times when they referred to their own childhoods. Despite living through the Great Depression and all of its hardships, somehow they viewed that time as simpler than their adult lives raising children. Were they right?

I look back on my own childhood and think similar thoughts. It was simple. I went to school, practiced piano, sang in the church choir, played with my friends, and watched a little TV (we only had maybe 10 channels, so when I say “little” I mean little!). Normal stuff right?

What’s the life of a child today? They go to school, likely participate in a sport or other activity, play with their friends, and watch A LOT of TV. Pretty similar, right? So why was it simpler when I was a child? My feeling is that it really wasn’t, it just seemed like it was because we are looking back with a selective memory.

I’m certain my mother did not feel it was simpler when she was raising six children nearly single-handedly as my father worked three jobs to support us. It was her job to cart everyone to activities, prepare meals, fix things, and make sure the house ran smoothly. I struggle doing this with two children – and she had six!

Speaking of simple – two of my favorite TV programs when I was growing up were “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie”. I would always say to my mom that I really thought I was born in the wrong time period. I would tell her that things seemed so simple, so straightforward back then. Everyone knew their role and accepted that it was an important part of family life.

Back then, women were responsible for raising the children, cooking the meals, tending to the house while the men worked, hunted, and took care of the land. Children helped with chores and were expected to go to school and do their homework so they’d have a better life.

No one complained about their job. They accepted it as being a vital part of their life. Quite frankly, it was critical for their very survival.  Without the man hunting for food, his family would starve. Without a mom caring for the children and home, the family unit
would crumble. While I suspect there were a few for whom this role was not all it was cracked up to be and they chose a different path, for the most part, it appears anyway, people were content.

Today it is more complicated. To live in America, it’s likely both parents work outside the home. Children are in daycare or afterschool programs from dawn ‘till dusk to accommodate the parent’s working schedule. Evenings and weekends are jammed with children’s activities, house projects, and other ‘catch-up’ tasks neglected due to a full schedule during the week.

Parents are exhausted. Children are stressed. Systems are broken. Government is corrupt. Schools are failing. Will our children look back on their childhoods and think it was a simpler time? I don’t know the answer. My sense is no – they will not. My sense is that because the economy is causing so many hardships on parents and children these days that it is forcing us all to cut back and simplify our lives as we all long for peace in our homes and in our hearts.

Are we finally realizing that the harried days of the past can be no more if we want to keep our sanity? I continually hear from friends and colleagues that they are trying to simplify their lives. They are accomplishing this by ridding themselves of years of clutter. Tag sales in my town abound. (I’ve had three of them myself!) Charity trucks can be seen all over the neighborhood picking up those unwanted and really never-needed items. Large houses are being exchanged for smaller ones or in some cases, a condo or apartment. Why? Simple. We have too much. And all that ‘stuff’ is causing our lives to be over-complicated and over-stressed.

Simplifying is always a good thing in my opinion. It forces you to focus on what’s really important. And in the end what is really important are those human connections we create and build upon. What’s really important is the love and attention we give to friends and family, not possessions.

Our legacies to our children must be built of more than memories of rushed days and stressful nights that flew by in a blur. Be present. Teach your children to live in this moment. Because truly, it’s all we really have.

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Jennifer Covello, Copyright 2011-2024