Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things I love about being an American parent. It's the land of the free, after all, and I am always grateful to know that I am able to raise my children here.
But that doesn't mean that American parenting, like any other kind of parenting, is perfect by any means. America still has a long way to go in learning how to best take care of the parents that make up our great country. We might stand to make a few improvements.
1. Changing up our maternity leave
Look, this really isn't a debatable issue anymore. Every single expert, from Harvard economists to medical doctors to psychologists, knows that some kind of paid parental leave is good for everyone.
Every single argument against paid maternity or parental leave just doesn't hold up anymore. We now know that paid leave actually helps the economy, not hurts it, by helping women return to the workforce, by lowering the cost of training new employees and turnover, and by keeping mothers, babies, and families healthier.
And paid parental leave is important because it can help any person who will ever be in a position that will require them to care for a loved one in a time of need. For example, not all people will become parents, but some people may need time off of work to care for a sick family member, an aging parent, or themselves. It's called life.
2. The constant guilt trip
This one is up for all of us to tackle, because there's no national policy or law that can necessarily change the way we think about parenting. But modern day parenting seems to be full of a whole heck of a lot of guilt.
While our parents may have never thought twice about kicking us outside for entire days at a time or serving us a varying assortment of chemical-laden food from cans, as parents today we have to worry about every second of every single day.
From how our kids sleep, to how fresh and nutritious and GMO-free their breakfast is, to how much we are working to how much screen time is detrimental, it seems like every step of parenting is wrought with peril.
Honestly, it's easy to feel guilty about well, everything. But who does that help, really? It's time to put an end to guilt-ridden parenting.
3. The focus on accomplishments
We Americans love to feel accomplished, whatever the heck that even means. We're driven by individualism and money and all the shiny stuff we can accumulate on our resumes.
But that doesn't necessarily translate into happiness. It's a tricky tightrope to navigate, but hopefully the new generation of parents can figure out how to balance motivation, success, and happiness for the simple things in life.
4. The lack of free time
This one goes both ways, both in giving kids more unstructured time and surprisingly enough, in having more kid-free adult time. Did you know that by comparison, today's full-time working parents, both moms and dads, spend more time with their kids than full-time stay-at-home moms did in the clichéd "Leave It to Beaver" era?
So no matter how much you think you are hurting your kids by not spending every second of every day with them, the truth is, you're doing better than you think. So take a date night, hide from your kids in the closet with a pint of ice cream, or banish them to the basement. You'll all be better off.
5. The idea that we need to do everything alone
I'm not sure if I will ever truly be able to get past this one, but it's probably the most challenging aspect of American parenting. Because it's so, so hard to feel like you "deserve" help as a parent.
It can feel like the world already sees children as a burden, so admitting you need help, whether that be in the form of someone to talk to about your feelings of postpartum depression or navigating potty training, it's hard not to feel like a failure.
But the truth is, parenting was never meant to be an isolated experience. When we can share our struggles, we all benefit.