We’ve all met them – it’s impossible not to – those people who had things so much harder in their day. Paper round uphill both ways, had to earn money or they didn’t eat, bath was a bucket in the front room, left school at fourteen, none of your namby-pamby ‘qualifications’, went to the University of Life, worked at the coal face sixteen hours a day with hand tools they had to hold with their feet, in total darkness, without breathing apparatus, lose a finger you kept working till the end of your shift, got paid a pittance but never complained because men knew how to be men, dammit, didn’t do me any harm, and your generation doesn’t even know it’s born, bloody snowflakes, the lot of you.
That’s all fine – while I don’t believe that anybody’s life is free from suffering, I accept that we have labour-saving devices that past generations could only dream of. And nor is this a new thing – in Jaws, Quint moans that there are no ‘good’ men left under the age of sixty, and that movie came out in 1975. Every generation thinks the next has it easier than they did. It’s natural. I accept that.
What I cannot accept, and what I find frankly bizarre, is how many of these people seem to want everyone to suffer the same way they did and despise any progress that makes things easier for the future – particularly when it comes to parenting.
Parents have spaces for pushchairs on buses? Well why should they? We never had those. We had to wake up our children and hold them under one arm while we collapsed the buggy and put it on the front of the bus – and with an armful of shopping too. That was how we did it and we had to cope, so they should too.
Parent-child spaces? They’re not disabled, why should they get extra-wide spaces? Is it because they have such big cars and such big pushchairs and such big car seats to keep their precious little darlings safe? We never had that, we had to make do with little cars, not even seatbelts, and we didn’t get any special treatment. They chose to be parents, get used to the struggle. And why are they so close to the store? They should put them at the back of the car park so the obese little bastards get some exercise.
Mumsnet? What a ridiculous pile of self-indulgent tripe. We didn’t have anywhere to go to get advice about our ‘darling’ sons and daughters, we had to deal with things by ourselves, on our own, with no help or support from anyone. And that goes for parenting books too – we didn’t have complicated parenting theories and techniques, we just had to get on with it. So just get on with it.
Breastfeeding discreetly in a public place? We were never allowed to do that, we had to go somewhere in private, no, we wanted to do it in private because we had self-respect, not like these modern women who whip it out in front of anyone.
And don’t get me started on disposable nappies, or bottle sterilisers, or Perfect Prep machines – we had to wash our nappies, and this was back when washing was difficult, and we had to boil the bottles and teats in water on the stove, and this was when water took hours to boil, and we had to heat the formula while our baby screamed and screamed and screamed until we thought we’d all die.
So why, I have to ask, why, if you know how hard it is to be a parent, would you want to keep things that hard for all time to come? Why would you resent anything that makes our lives that little bit easier? And are you really saying that, if you’d had in your day the advantages that we have in ours, you wouldn’t have used them?
Having a hard life doesn’t buy you a badge of honour. Nor does it make you better than anyone else, somehow superior to today’s parents, somehow purer. Being a compassionate member of society means wanting other people to have things easier than you did, so they don’t suffer quite so much.
Unless you believe that life is meant to be hard, and parents are meant to suffer, in which case I don’t think we’ll be seeing eye to eye any time soon.