Hybrid parenting is a grass-roots movement aimed at consciously parenting children in a multicultural world. To understand why parenting in this way is critical to our children’s future it would be helpful to reflect back on the historical and socio-cultural context around what our vision of a “family” may have been in the past and what it is today, in contemporary times.
I grew up watching “Leave it to Beaver” an iconic show that was set in the 1950s. The family was the idealized symbol of a middle-class, American family during that particular time in our history: White, middle-class, nuclear, and traditional. June and Ward had a home in a suburban neighborhood with a white picket fence and two children. They had achieved the American dream. They raised children in traditional roles, with June at home, often doing housework in pearls and high heels, while Ward was off work but was always back in time for family dinners. Times have changed. Today, we have all types of families. We have single mothers by choice, single mothers by circumstance, homosexual parents, grandparents who parent, culturally-diverse parents, and dual-income parents, and the list goes on. As a result, families are adapting and roles and responsibilities are shifting.
In contemporary times, families are raising children in diverse and unique ways. Single parents are experience role strain as they juggle between their finances, household chores, and childcare responsibilities. Blended families experience confusion regarding their roles and gradually learn how to communicate expectations to one another. Homosexual parents have to decide who the primary caretaker should be and how they should negotiate traditional roles and responsibilities. Today, grandparents are more active and have a longer life expectancies. Many find themselves parenting or co-parenting their grandchildren and are learning new ways to discipline their grandchildren (using psychological vs. physical methods). We also have culturally-diverse parents who are figuring out how to raise their bicultural children. They are trying to raise them in ways that allow for them to preserve their cultural heritage while also embracing their “American” identity. Furthermore, fathers are more active now because of dual-income household. In dual-career families (vs. dual-earner families), both spouses typically have “careers” that require extensive education and experience. These careers often come at an expense to family life because they require long hours at work, commuting and traveling for extended periods of time. As a result, families may now be trying to have “family breakfast time” rather than “family dinner time.” Recent research also shows that family dinners may not be worth the stress and hassle that they cause on mothers.
As family structures and processes change, so do our mindsets. Today, society is moving towards greater acceptance of the diverse ways to be a “family.” I often start my lectures in my “Contemporary Parenting” course at San Jose State by reading Todd Parr’s The Family Book . My class then discuss the ways in which this book represents the families we see today, in contemporary times.
As this shift occurs towards contemporary parenting and shows like Modern Family becoming the vision of a family that our children grow up with, I believe that we are also moving towards a new way of parenting: an approach called hybrid parenting. Hybrid parenting is this idea that parents are aware of these differences in society: race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality and/or class. They are parenting in ways that allow for their children to learn more about people and the diversity that exists in our world today. With this, children will develop a true empathy for others. This idea of empathy is not just “perspective-taking” or understanding another person’s perspective but genuinely caring about their perspective. By consciously parenting our children in this way, children will seamlessly enter an increasingly globalized and diverse society by acknowledging multiple ways of living and being in the world.