22 Parents Revealed The Biggest Differences Between Their Childhoods And Their Kids' Lives, And 99% Of These Are Heartbreaking

It's no secret that a parent's childhood experience is starkly different from their child's modern life for many reasons, including child-rearing decisions, technology, societal pressures, etc.

A woman with short hair embraces a young boy wearing a striped shirt

So, we recently asked parents in the BuzzFeed Community to share the biggest differences between their upbringing and their kids' modern lives. Here are their eye-opening responses:

1."My parents raised me in a heavily Christian religious home. As a little girl, there were a lot of expectations on me around 'purity' that really played with my head as I grew up. It ended up dramatically affecting my self-worth when I didn't keep up with the unrealistic expectations. Now, I won't let my daughter anywhere near that particular religion. Or any organized religion, for that matter."


2."I'll never be able to relate to my kids. By the time I was their age, I had dealt with my parents' divorce due to domestic violence, moved about a half dozen times, and went to eight different schools before high school."

"My husband and I have been married for 17 years, and our kids were born and raised in the same home, town, and school system. My husband had a similar upbringing to mine, and we always promised each other that we would break the cycle. And we did."


3."The biggest difference has to do with technology. When I was growing up, we had to call people on our landline phones and make plans for when and where to meet. There was no texting, and we had to take a lot of faith. I don't know how my mom was able to relax when I was out, never knowing where I was and if I was okay. I have peace of mind that my kids can text me."


4."When I was a kid, we could go to the park and school without being afraid of being attacked by other kids."

A young girl laughing and joyfully swinging on a playground swing, holding a balloon. Trees and park benches can be seen in the background

5."My daughter is about to be 1, and the craziest thing is how much she's allowed to eat. I specifically remember babies, even in the 2000s, weren't allowed anywhere near peanut butter, eggs, fish, and sometimes dairy, and my mom can recite the old rules she had to follow with us: Introduce single foods separately as a puree, veggies first, and wait three days before introducing something new."

"When she was babysitting, she asked me if my daughter could have strawberries, and I was like, of course she can! Nowadays, it's so much more relaxed and fun (as long as your child does not have allergies). My girl has tried all sorts of food, and really, the only big no-no is no honey and no choking hazards. My husband and I can also say baby food has gotten a million times yummier. They don't know how lucky they have it!"


6."Access to jobs. When I was growing up, you could just walk in and ask for an application or even talk to a manager. Today, it’s much harder for anyone to get a job. The process is online and has lots of hoops to jump through."

"Having a bachelor’s degree used to be a guarantee of a good life; now, it’s the bare minimum for most entry-level jobs, but those jobs do not pay well enough to merit asking for those qualifications. No wonder kids today are making fools of themselves on YouTube or TikTok for money; it seems to be that the only way to be able to afford homes."


7."Sports are so competitive at an early age now. It's not just for fun or team building. You have to be above average by 7 years old, which means we parents have to pay for private lessons year-round for a single-season sport."

"You have to buy the best equipment, pay the best private coaches, pay to play in the league, and hope your kid is decent enough not to sit through a two-hour game watching your child ride the pine. And to make the school team, you need to make youth travel before you're even in middle school. It's expensive, stressful, and ultimately, it comes down to politics."


8."Food security. My son will never have to worry about when his next meal will be or if he'll get to eat again soon. He'll never open the kitchen cabinets to find nothing but seasonings and condiments. He'll never open the fridge to find it completely empty. My life goal was to break the cycle of poverty and give him a better life. I get emotional thinking about the life I'm protecting him from."


9."How I talk about my body. My mom was obsessed with weight, losing weight, and size for everyone in our family, including herself. She meant well, and I think it equated to health in her mind, but it left lasting scars on how I view myself and my weight. I can be very insecure about my body and the space I take up. I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I have been conscious her whole life about how I speak about myself and how I speak to her."

"Healthy food and exercise aren't about losing weight but about keeping our bodies and minds healthy and strong. Clothing sizes aren't good or bad; they're just numbers that help us find things that will fit our bodies. The world will try to make her feel self-conscious and ashamed of her body; she doesn't need to start hearing it at home, no matter how well-intentioned."


10."Privacy. We had privacy when I was growing up. If you did something bad or embarrassing, it eventually died. There was no record (unless it involved the police). Eventually, nobody knew, and you could exhale, grateful that thing was behind you. Bullying, when it existed, was local. There was a downside, of course, which was abuse stayed hidden, too, but overall, privacy is better than social media/publicity. Living life in public, when strangers can weigh in and be cruel, is exhausting, demoralizing, hurtful, and sometimes deadly."


11."I remember watching TV as a kid, and I'd flip through the seven channels we had (didn't have cable), and when I didn't find anything, I'd shut it off and go outside. Today, my kids start on one streaming service, and if they don't find anything, they just move to the next platform until they find whatever they like. Not finding anything to watch is a foreign concept to them, and going outside seems like a death sentence, despite my one-hour limit of screen time per day."


12."The way we're disciplined. My husband and I got spanks, slaps, and hits. Knowing how messed up that was, we decided our children would only get talked to so we could explain what needed to stop and how to stop it with no mindless and reasonless pain."


13."I would be thrilled and preoccupied for the day (or more) if I got a new pack of pens or markers. You couldn't get me away from it. Now, kids just 'color' on iPads."

Three children are lying on a bed, sharing and focusing on a tablet screen together


Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty Images

14."I grew up in a time when 'free-range' parenting was the rule rather than the exception. As long as my parents knew basically where I was and who I was with, they didn't worry. We roamed around the neighborhood and made our own fun. When the streetlights came on, we came home. Trite but true."

"My son grew up in the '90s when parents were terrified of 'stranger danger' and felt they needed to structure their kids' time. Kids were not allowed to just stop by and see if their friends could come out to play as we did. You had to make a supervised play date."


15."My parents were selfish, narcissistic, homophobic, racist a-holes. HUGE house, Jaguars/Mercedes, NHL season tickets, their own vacations, etc. But never money for us, no family vacations, etc. They made me start paying for all clothes, school supplies, and everything else at age 12, so I've been working a job nonstop since then. While I was still in high school, they said they were tired of having kids and kicked me out. That first year, I was destitute and even went a full week without eating."

"They refused to contribute money for college, and I had to work full-time to pay for school, so it took two extra years to graduate. Dad died, discovered they were bankrupt, and their net worth was virtually zero. It was all a show to impress others. Mom is now living in a dumpy apartment. My sister and I have lived below our means as adults, saved money, slowly built wealth, supported our kids, and raised them to love others. Even though we never discussed it, we each set out to raise our kids the opposite way from our parents."


16."How very much engaged we need to be. I love being involved in my teens’ lives, but by comparison, my parents were far in the background when I was their age. Since there were no phones back then, checking in wasn’t a thing; your parents had to trust that you were making good decisions."

"Now, we can hover over our kids via an app and track their movements. It seems quite a foreign concept, even now. I'm hoping today's kids can attain personal growth and independence, things they'll need to become successful adults."


17."The instant gratification of technology. If you need to find out something about Ben Franklin and where he lived, just look it up online. Instead, for me, it would have been first looking at the encyclopedias we had, and if we didn't have that book yet, we'd take a trip to the library where, depending on age, my mom would drop me off or I'd wander the aisles alone looking for it."

A young boy in a plaid shirt and t-shirt typing on a laptop focused on the screen while sitting. Bookshelves are in the background

18."The differences are night and day! They have everything on demand. Whatever they want to watch, eat, or play with is readily available. My life revolves around them and their schedules. After school, weekends are filled with sports, activities, birthday parties, and play dates. But growing up, outside of school, my life was dictated by what my parents needed to do."

"I can recall going to maybe three or four birthday parties TOTAL; weekends are filled with family obligations, grocery shopping, and errands until I was old enough to stay home by myself."


19."My parents worked (and continue to work) incredibly hard to build a better life for our family. This meant long hours and many things missed. It also meant opportunities for us that they never had. Now, I am able to work part-time (my husband works full-time) and am able to be home with my son four out of seven days a week."

"Being able to be more present in my child's life is only a possibility because of the life they provided for me. When I was younger, I would be so angry that they weren't able to spend as much time with my siblings and me. Today, I am thankful for their sacrifice and feel incredibly blessed to be able to spend so much time with my child."


20."How unsupervised we were. I remember, as young as 5, being able to go out of the house to the playground up the street without so much as my brother, who was only two years older than me, to keep an eye on me. We had to come back when the streetlights were on and stay within a certain block radius. That was it. Other than that, my parents didn't know if I was at the playground, or my friend's house, or this other friend's house. Meanwhile, my son is currently 7, and I have trouble letting him play in the side yard if I am in the house."


21."The biggest one for me is that 'I love you' is said freely (those words were never uttered in my home as a child). However, I now realize that my parents SHOWED me love as they didn't know how to verbally express it."


And finally...

22."There's a LOT I could list, but the one thing I'll give for this is phones/cameras always being out and people ready to record or take a picture over any tiny thing. Some perv could be wearing techy glasses and recording my kids; we won't even know it. My toddler could have a random meltdown, and someone could whip their phone out and record it and blast it online for him or myself to be torn to shreds."

"Every time we're out of the home to do anything, I'm so nervous about someone recording something about my kids and it going viral. Or even worse, pervs getting their jellies off by looking at their picture that I didn't know they had. It's so nerve-racking."


Parents — what other ways are your kids' lives different than your childhood? Let us know in the comments below.

Responses have been edited for length/clarity