In 2000, when Netmums was born, no one had made any friends on Facebook (born 2004) or had ever taken – let alone shared - a selfie.

Fast forward to today and the average UK adult checks their phone every 12 minutes. We spend the equivalent of a day a week online. It’s these tech changes that have revolutionised parenting.

Mums on maternity leave are no longer cast into the wilderness with no one but the kitchen table to talk to, but can chat, shop and troubleshoot round the clock. Grandparents can help with homework from the other side of the world, and the days of doing a supermarket shop in person with a toddler is, mercifully, a thing of the past. (Quite how any parent ever got beyond their child’s first birthday without the holy delivery trinity that is Amazon Prime, Deliveroo and Ocado, boggles the mind of most millennial parents).

And yet while us grown-ups are more connected than ever before, it seems all we want for our kids is for them to disconnect. Because it’s not just us living in a digital world; we’re raising digital natives, too. And what that means for them is still open to huge debate. How much screen time is too much? Can we send them to forest school but also raise the next Steve Jobs?

The revolution in tech, and the age of connectivity it’s ushered in, has also brought a way of us comparing ourselves with one another, and being exposed to new ideas, on the scale and at the speed never previously possible.

As a result, we find ourselves in a world where our ideals have overtaken our realities. Take the issue of gendered parenting roles: a new Netmums survey found 70 per cent of the mums and dads polled see ‘sharenting’ as their goal, with 40 per cent of dads declaring themselves equal parents.



Yet in the same survey, only 20 per cent of mums said they were in a relationship where parenting was shared equally. Something’s getting very lost in translation – a loss that’s leading to very real tensions: 60 per cent of the mums at a Netmums focus group in Aberystwyth this summer revealed they were on anti-anxiety medication, something they chalked up to being expected to shoulder the burden of work not just at work, but at home, too.

"The burnout is huge," explains a divorced mum of one in the group. "Because I know that that’s what happened in my previous relationship. Burnout happened in that I was juggling far too many things, and expectations for myself. The amount of women that are on tablets to cope with modern day living, which our mothers wouldn’t have been on … the majority of women I know are on anti-anxiety tablets."

Working part-time – the goal of so many flexible work campaigns – doesn’t seem to hold the answer either. Another mum in the Welsh group, married with three children, explained: "This part-time thing that we’ve created for ourselves is actually much harder, because you're trying to do full-time parenting and food, cleaning and cooking and everything. I actually find full-time much easier than part-time."

Others agreed: "I do a full-time job in part-time. In the lunchbreak all the men go off for an hour lunch to do sports or whatever and you're just doing your work because you work part time, and it’s just... pressure."

Work is a key aspect of family life that has revolutionised over the last two decades, with 74 per cent of mums now working - though not always through choice, but necessity: more than half of the past 20 years have been over-shadowed by austerity in the UK, with earnings failing to keep up with the cost of living. It takes two salaries to keep kids in bread and laptops these days. Indeed, 70 per cent of both the mums and dads we spoke to said the one thing they wish they had more of than anything else was time at home with their kids.

Comparing her situation to that of her parents when they were at her life stage, a mum in a Manchester focus group explained: "She wasn’t trying to do two million jobs at once because my dad earned enough money to be able to pay the mortgage, whereas the situation that we’re in at the moment is yes, my husband earns a good amount, but the mortgage is quite high in our house and so I need to earn money as well."

This is something that leads to complex feelings of guilt among the working mums. "It’s constant guilt, everything you do," explained another mum. "Like I'm guilty in work, ‘Oh god, I haven’t sent that email, I haven’t done that’. I forgot to put my daughter’s water bottle in her bag, you know. I'm not the one that picks her up from school every day. I pick her up one day a week. All the other mums are there. The one day that I go I am literally like the pariah in the corner. Quick, quick, let’s go. Because yes, I do know the other mums, but I'm not there every day chatting."

Digital Led Alarm Clock

What happens next as this clash of increased connectivity - and the ideals and aspirations it means we’re presented with on a minute-by-minute basis - and day-to-day life in a world that has yet to catch up with those ideals, is unclear. If the dawning realisation is that no one person can have it all, let’s hope the conclusion is that together, families can.

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