There is no one right way of parenting. Mothers especially come under the radar most times for doing too much or too little. For forgoing their careers entirely or for being too consumed by it to spend enough time with their children. For being engrossed by their children’s homework or allowing them to watch too much tv. The scrutiny is also exacerbated by living in the digital age – where Facebook and WhatsApp groups supposedly provide the ultimate diktat on how to be a good parent. The Triumphs And Trials Of Parenting In The Digital Age was a most powerful discussion on the subject with two powerful authors. 

At the Times Lit Fest session, Parenting In The Digital Age, authors Natasha Badhwar and Lalita Iyer spoke to Shaili Chopra, moderator and founder of SheThePeople about the triumphs, trials, and tribulations of being a parent in a world where the line between online and offline is increasingly drawing closer. 

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Badhwar, who recently wrote a book of Essays, My Daughters’ Mum, spoke about her personal initiation into the world of social media in a slow and cautious manner.

“Taking baby steps and building a support system in the online community definitely help me withstand the criticism that came my way.”

“From a very young age, I was very sensitive to judgment and it shaped my personality as an individual to a large extent. Which is why I first became a photographer and not a writer… even when I started my blog, it was anonymous at first, my Facebook list only had my friends and not family.

Taking baby steps and building a support system in the online community definitely help me withstand the criticism that came my way.” 

Iyer, a columnist and author of the memoir The Whole Shebang added that while in her childhood, her family didn’t have a television in their house till she was in Class 10, her 8-year-old son was born in a world where everyone is glued to the screen, including parents. She finds social media groups on parenting quite traumatic and neither does she want to be overtly in touch with her son’s academic and school life.

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“I trust my child because I can’t possibly monitor him all the time. And although technology can be quite consuming and seductive, I keep it simple and show him the positive aspects… like how it allows him to be in touch with his family across the country.” 

A mother of three young daughters, Badhwar understands how complicated it is to impose restrictions on her children when a lot of her own work involves being on the social media.

“As parents, we want to protect our children, but the amount of access they get to social media depends on their needs and environment.”

“There are no right or wrong boxes, they are changing and so is the world. As parents, we want to protect our children, but the amount of access they get to social media depends on their needs and environment. But we have to prepare them to step out into the same world that we inhabit.”

A woman who is a writer and mother automatically becomes a mommy blogger. And holding on to their acquired fears, mothers are sometimes each other’s worst critics. 

With an increasing amount of instances of violence against children coming to the fore, the panelists spoke about how parenting is getting more complicated. And the dumbing down of the discourse on social media doesn’t help either. Case in point – A woman who is a writer and mother automatically becomes a mommy blogger. And holding on to their acquired fears, mothers are sometimes each other’s worst critics. 

When the discussion opened to the audience, several young women pointed out how mothers are still expected to be more present as a parent, young girls still continue to be brought up with the mentality that they will eventually get married so they need to learn to adjust and compromise, a young mother recalled how her own family chastised her for using actual names of sex organs in front of her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. And of course, being a feminist mother comes with its own challenges because, in an attempt to raise them well, they are unwilling to spare their own sons of any scrutiny. 

Concluding in good humour, Badhwar said, “The great part about being in the digital age is that you don’t have to be stuck in your immediate environment if you don’t like it. Use your smartphone and bailout.”

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