12/15/2014 08:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Because I Saw the Difference


I raised an only child twice and saw the differences in parenting styles because my children are 23 years apart. Living through the differences from one generation of parenting to another isn't always easy. But I write about it because almost every day I'm confronted with yet another situation where I learn a new way of doing things that works and I am open to new ways to ease the strain and pressure of raising children.

When I raised my first child, I was a very young widow experiencing single parenting for several years before remarrying. I was responsible for providing clothes, food, shelter, health care, education, and for taking my daughter to all the after-school activities she enjoyed. Most important, she needed my presence in her life and suffered in my absence. I was aware of the same demands that most parents face raising children, single or married. Single parenthood for whatever the reason is very tough because we're doing it all alone, compared to families with two parents who work together to raise the child. Shared responsibility means there is less demand on either parent, which provides balance to the family and the best chance of raising happy, healthy, secure children.

When I raised my second child over 20 years later, I was not a single parent. I was also around a lot of young mothers who were half my age. I saw things very differently from the first time and realized I needed to keep our son's best interests as my primary concern. While the younger parents had their children involved in every sport, team, and after-school activity almost every day, and at first, I tried to keep up with them. I thought it was my age that made it such a strain to do so, but then I noticed how hard all this was on the children, trying to keep up with their parent's expectations! And because I saw the stress on their little faces, I decided that just one or two after-school activities a week would be enough for my son. He enjoyed one karate class a week and had a CCD class, or else a Boy Scout meeting and a CCD class. Having these limits on outside commitments for my son allowed our family to enjoy eating dinner together, doing homework, and relaxing as a family. Keeping things simple allowed us to enjoy a calm and happy family life without the stress of chasing from one activity to another, day after day.

Another example of how important it is to spend time with children, especially very young ones, comes from what I witnessed when I was asked to pick up a child from a prominent day-care center because the parent was delayed. When I arrived, I walked into a large room filled from one end to the other with sleeping bags with children ages 2 to 4 tossing around in them. Others wandered around looking dazed, some carrying blankets or sucking their thumbs. It looked more like an orphanage than a day-care center. When I asked one of the two young women working there about the little boy I was asked to pick up, I was brought to a bathroom where he and other toddlers were struggling to pull up their pants after using the bathroom. While I understood that supervision was limited because of the large number of children, I didn't see anyone helping these toddlers. From that day on, I was even more firmly convinced that parents need to spend time with their very young children before sending them out into the world.

If I hadn't become a mother for the second time 23 years later, I would have never known how things had changed or witnessed the stress on children in this over-programmed world, let alone the pressures of being an over-programmed mother! To this day, when my son is at home from college, I continue to recognize my responsibility as a mother. I hope my words of compassion for children and their parents will reach those who need to consider a simpler way of living and parenting. What a difference this can make for today's families and children.

About Catherine Nagle: Catherine grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old school Italian parents. Catherine's artist father's
works graced locations from churches to public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures and inspirational books, including A Course in Miracles and the works of Marianne Williamson among many others. The mother of two children and a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She is the Author of Imprinted Wisdom.