Born in 1988
Perspectives from a new generation of parents
Photo courtesy of Samantha Krafte
Samantha Krafte and her parents in 1988.
Thirty years ago, Carolina Parent was born. So were many of today’s parents. To reflect on how life has changed over the years — and the state of parenting today — we gathered insight from a few moms who also turned 30 this year (or will before the year ends). While some of the tools and tactics have changed over time, today’s parents want many of the same things their parents did: happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids who are ready to better their community and world.
Building on Tradition
Every generation is different, but the most persuasive examples of how to parent (or, sometimes, how not to) often come from one’s own parents and childhood experiences.
“My parents did a wonderful job of loving us and growing our confidence as individuals,” says Natalie Carmen, a North Carolina native who was born in Durham and currently lives in Raleigh with her husband, Andrew, and 2-year-old son, Daniel — and has another baby on the way. “We are still early in the active parenting stage as far as discipline, education, and creating rhythms and traditions.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF Morton Photography
Andrew, Natalie and Daniel Carmen enjoy a ride at Pullen Park.
Carmen and her husband are fans of transparent parenting. “We are committed to letting our children see us disagree, communicate openly, forgive and find resolution,” she says. “For us, the most important aspects of that process are demonstrating healthy communication and demonstrating the need to give and receive forgiveness. While it can be scary to expose our children to the parts of our personality that cause embarrassment, it is more important to us that we demonstrate humility and the characteristics that make us most human. We aim to build on the skill sets that our parents taught us, and we hope that our children, in turn, are able to build upon the skills we teach them.”
Samantha Krafte of Durham, mom to 20-month-old Max, places a strong emphasis on family, since it was instilled in her as a child.
“Growing up Italian-American meant everything centered around family,” she says. “We are lucky to be raising our son 20 minutes from my dad, my brother and my husband’s parents. We prioritize family visits on weekends and put our little family first, no matter what.”
Krafte’s father, Jack Marcheschi of Chapel Hill, now gets to witness his daughter and son-in-law’s family-centered parenting approach firsthand.
“Both parents put their son’s needs and welfare first, and are willing to sacrifice their own needs and pleasures for those of their child,” Marcheschi says. “They are remarkable about sharing care for the baby, and my son-in-law is a much more hands-on dad than I was, and I admire him for that. I always knew my daughter would be a great mom because of the type of person she is. My grandson is very lucky to have the two parents he has.”
Another way that parents today are building on their experiences is through family traditions.
“My parents excelled in building traditions around family time,” says Lauren Sweetman of Cary, mom to 2-year-old Jack. “We spent most of our holidays celebrating with my grandparents, and most Fridays we would do something fun as a family. I want my son to recognize the importance of family. I’m looking forward to building our own traditions as he gets older.”
“I feel like I parent really differently from my parents,” says Cheri Armour of Raleigh, mom to 2-year-old Liam. “I feel like I and a lot of parents don’t spank, which was perfectly acceptable when we were growing up. We care about added sugar, and we take what our kids may feel or have to say into account.”
Armour feels that, over time, her parents have softened their ways, thanks in part to seeing how she and her husband now raise their son. She has observed that as grandparents, her parents are much more relaxed toward their grandchild, instead of applying the stricter parenting style they used with her. Armour studied social work at North Carolina State University, which she says has influenced some aspects of her parenting style.
“I think there’s more of an understanding that when your 2-year-old is acting like a complete animal, that’s okay — their frontal lobe isn’t developed,” she says. “They’re making a lot of leaps, and they’re not just being malicious or manipulative. A lot of times, they’re going through something.”
Striving With Intention
Many of today’s moms and dads keep certain intentions in mind regarding how they parent. They strive to consider the big picture and long-term impact of how they’re raising their children. They might look to different resources — books, friends or parenting methods — to help shape their opinions and strategies. At the same time, they hope to offer grace, both to their kids and themselves, as they figure everything out.
“My style is I do what works. I know not every kid is going to be the same, so you have to meet your kids where they are,” Armour says. “I think I want my kids to remember that I really did the best I could, the best way I knew how. I hope they remember the reading, the dancing, the laughing, the jokes and the trips to Whole Foods to find dinner when I ruined a Crock-Pot creation.”
Photo courtesy of Jen Hershberger
Jen Hersherger and her dad in Greensboro
Jen Hershberger, who was born in Greensboro and now lives in Wake Forest, feels her Southern upbringing shaped her in many ways. She hopes to pass along everything from manners and hospitality to an appreciation for nature to her 14-month-old son, Nolan. She isn’t just thinking about how she parents now, but also about who her son will grow up to be.
“I hope to give my tiny human all the love, freedom, safety and security he needs to be a great adult who contributes positively to his community,” Hershberger says. “I want my son to value kindness and compassion for others. I want him to be able to succeed on his own for himself, and not just to please others. I want him to learn how to keep himself motivated and inspire others around him.”
Tapping Into Technology
A major presence in modern parenting that wasn’t around 30 years ago is the internet. Whether today’s parents use it to research a topic or set up playdates via social media, the wide variety of digital resources available can prove beneficial and overwhelming.
“My parents relied on the wisdom of past generations, their pediatrician and those around them,” says Lily*, a mom in Clayton. “In the internet age we have ‘Dr. Google’ and the experiences of parents all over the world to compare our parenting choices to. It’s a blessing and a curse to have so much information at our fingertips.”
But with that additional information also comes extra support. “I have found wonderful communities on Facebook and Instagram of like-minded parents,” Lily* adds.
Jenna Barnett, who started the “Millennial Mom” blog at millienialmom.tv when her daughter was born, aims to bring a voice to millennial parents’ needs. “Millennial parents seem to really love Facebook mom groups, and we use them as a resource for product and service recommendations, and parenting advice and techniques from fellow moms. It’s pretty amazing that at any time I can just go on Facebook and access a group of almost 40,000 fellow moms and ask questions like, ‘What potty training techniques worked for you?’ ‘Does anyone have tips for weaning my baby off the bottle?’ ‘What’s everyone’s favorite sippy cup that doesn’t leak?’”
Whether established online or through various activities, today’s parents value community. When families are spread out across the country — or even across town — the “village” it takes to raise a child may look different than a tight-knit neighborhood of friends and family, but it’s still there.
“I wholeheartedly believe that your village can make or break your parenting experience. We were built for community, and we need to have that network of people to help support us,” says Chelsea Hartweg of Raleigh, mom to 2-year-old Ellie. “Parenthood is beautiful, but it’s also the hardest thing many people will ever have to do, and I can’t imagine going through it without the wonderful people in my life.”
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Hartweg
Chelsea Hartweg, her husband, Dana, and daughter, Ellie.
For example, Hartweg hired a doula for childbirth and later helped establish a co-op playschool for young children. She also finds child care support through both her mother and mother-in-law, and is active in several local and online mom groups.
“The amazing people I’ve met from some of those groups have become really close friends of mine — a few of which I really consider co-parents to our family,” Hartweg says. “Having someone you can call when you’re losing it, and then go to their messy house unshowered and just sit together, can be just what you need for those late afternoons when the kids are starting to lose it.”
Being able to turn to a community of parents who may be going through the same experiences works in a therapeutic way for many of today’s moms.
“I know the concept of ‘a tribe’ may sound cliche, but having a circle of other new-ish mothers has been pretty pivotal,” says Lauren Freudenberger of Louisburg, mom to 10-month-old Myles. “I haven’t been in this game long, but so far, one of my biggest efforts has been to curb my anxieties. I remember feeling the stress my parents were under when I was a kid, and I seem to have carried that with me into adulthood. I don’t want that for Myles.”
Freudenberger is not alone in feeling the impact from her support network and community. Carmen knows she can always lean on loved ones when parenting takes its toll on her.
“My best support is from friends and family,” she says. “Like so many seasons of life, it is a great encouragement to know that we are not alone and have many other souls in the cycle of trying, seeing failure and adapting.”
Samantha Gratton is a freelance writer living in Raleigh. She loves hearing and sharing life stories, traveling on a budget, rock climbing with her husband and doting on her little one.
•This name was changed at the parent’s request.