Mrs. Cleaver vs. Helicopter Moms: 5 Ways Parenting Has Changed

Helicopter Parents: a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.

Sometimes it’s valuable to take a step back and look at how things were, and how far things have changed.  Perhaps nowhere else are the changes so striking as in the domain of parenting.

If you could imagine a “Pinterest mom” now put in the seventies, they literally would think she is insane.  And vice -versa – were Mrs. Cleaver from Leave It To Beaver, or Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch transported to today’s parenting landscape, they’d be derided as neglectful mothers.

To illustrate, let’s just look at five examples of 5 ways parenting has dramatically changed…

(1) School Lunches

NOW: Take a stroll through any school cafeteria now and you may surprised at the lunches these kids bring.  Pinterest moms adorn their kids’ lunches with heartwarming notes and fruits lined up into a rainbow.

THEN: Back in the day, you didn’t even have an ice pack to keep your bologna from going rancid.  You may have had a nifty lunch box, but the contents were pretty bare bones: PB&J and maybe an orange.

(2) Play Dates

NOW: What parent today isn’t familiar with “play dates” – pre-arranged, highly orchestrated opportunities for kids to “play”.  As a parent you damn well better have something structured and planned for them to do, such as Pinterest inspired arts and crafts projects.

THEN: Kids ran wild like Lord of the Flies.  Parents didn’t know where they were, and frankly didn’t care. As long as they were at the dinner table on time, it didn’t matter.

(3) Sports


NOW: Sports are highly organized.  And if any Soccer Mom or self-respecting dad is serious about their kids’ sports, they’ll get them in “travel ball”, where they’ll spend every weekend traveling, staying in hotel rooms, and spending their savings on their third grader’s athletic lifestyle.  But don’t worry – everyone, winners and losers, will get a trophy.

THEN: Sure, there was organized sports, but the parental obsession wasn’t quite as rabid.   Plus, there were lots of opportunity for “unorganized sports”; just a game of football or baseball in someone’s backyard or an empty lot.

(4) Homework

NOW: Parents today, if they’re not actually doing their kids’ work for them, they are at least monitoring it closely.  Now we have online grades, so parents can check every second the status of each and every assignment.

THEN: Mom didn’t know you had it, didn’t care you had it. Back then, parent’s saw your grades once a semester or quarter… or you forged your parents’ signature and they were none the wiser.

(5) Buying Stuff

NOW: Parents buy their kids toys and things year round; birthdays and Christmas are merely high points in the yearlong gift giving bonanza.  Imagine if today’s children could only get video games on those two precious days per year… there would be a youth riot.

THEN: We used to labor over each page of the Sears Christmas catalog kids section, drooling over what might wind up under the tree. This was basically the only time of year kids got big gifts (bigger than say a MAD magazine or Zagnut bar).  It sounds cliche to say kids got less back then – it’s such an obvious truth.  But we got less material items, and in their place we made do with playing together, imagination and getting into trouble.  I wouldn’t trade that for all the loot in the world.