Sorry… I’m a mum

A FUNNY thing happened on Facebook the other day… actually, probably hundreds of thousands of funny things happened on the site the other day, but this one involved my husband.

He’s been subjected to the ongoing tales of woe and misery from one person – a parent – who seems less than satisfied with their offspring. Now plenty of people make offhand remarks along the lines of “oh, you think they’re cute? Want to take one home with you?”, but my husband has never heard this person say one nice thing about their children. They also often leave their children in the care of others while they go out, work, visit foreign countries, et cetera, et cetera.

I draw no judgement on such child-minding practices save for extreme cases of abandonment (obviously). Really, it’s different strokes for different folks I say, but my husband has to wrap his head around this conundrum on most days. The conundrum being why they had kids in the first place. Finally, he put on his Facebook status about people fobbing off their children any chance they get and how they’re “raising a human being, not an inconvenience”.

Yes, I winced too.

Without the greater context of what he was saying, it did seem a tad “soap box” and judgemental, and it was no surprise the reaction that followed. But what I did consider was how many people felt the need to defend themselves or make it clear they weren’t part of that minority.

No doubt if he wasn’t my husband I too would have felt an overwhelming urge to respond in kind. People spoke up saying they needed “me time” to be effective parents and others saying fulltime care was necessary and parents shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it. There was some needless name-calling and the whole thing descended into a well-meaning but confusing argument (as do most Facebook conversations).

But I got to wondering why, when we see some vitriol about parenting, we automatically feel the need to defend our position. Not just on child-care, but on any number of parenting issues – breastfeeding, smacking, putting kids in bike trailers (which I do and watched my fingers itch over the keyboard when I read someone else criticise the practice… though I try and keep out of traffic – see? I had to justify my actions).

We have the unfortunate privilege of being a generation of “educated parents”. On almost all fronts there are studies to show how to do any number of things related to raising our children. The problem with all this education is that if we’re not doing what the experts say, then we feel we are “bad parents”.

So often parents will have disclaimers such as “I know they say this is bad, but I…*insert menial task that will probably never bear any consequence on child’s welfare like not putting Savlon on a gravel-rash.”

For example, I must pin my child down to change their nappy. I don’t like doing it, I like even less that I know I’m wearing my “you’re really p**ing me off right now” face when I do it, but that’s the only way I get the job done. I’m pretty sure that someone, somewhere will consider this a form of abuse and that I ought to encourage dialogue or provide some form of horizontal entertainment for the duration of the nappy change, and the fact that I tried such endeavours only leads them to the idealistic conclusion that I “must never give up”.

In the face of all this well-meaning research, most parents now feel obliged to legitimise their methods and worse still, we have begun second-guessing our natural maternal/paternal instincts. The parenting discourse has become filled with excuses and apologies and the flow-on effect is that we become increasingly defensive at the slightest of perceived criticisms.

Founder of Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy (better known for letting her son ride the New York subway home alone) was in Australia recently discussing the all-encompassing fear we’ve convinced ourselves of – of the multiple horrors that can befall children if we don’t use anti-bacterial wipes at every given opportunity or if we don’t cover their knees with foam while they learn to crawl. All brought about by a litigious society, sensationalised media and … experts!

For the record (and for the sake of my husband), we are not anti-childminding. We just like to see parents applaud their privileged position as parents – not bemoan it 100 per cent of the time.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nannymcp22
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 10:28:06

    im a childminder/nanny and have been for the past 17 years. i like to think that i am a good nanny / child minder coz i put 100% effort into my job and loved all the children i looked after like they are mine. all the families i have worked for have been good parents –except one family–and although they work hard and leave the kids to me all the time they try and make up for it when they are finished. one couple though sad to say–dont have the same attitude. they are not even interested to know what kind of day their children have or if i say something about a particular child that needed discipline, they look at me as if to say ‘we are tired and why are you telling us that its your job’. its very sad. during that time i was with that family even if it is breaking my heart i just kept reminding myself ‘its just a job’.

    Reply

  2. ....the little thread of thoughts
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 19:16:03

    Most of the time, upbringing of the child reflects the parents’ childhood. The very same parents who hated their childhood, would ensure that their children wouldn’t have a similar one.

    Reply

  3. Kat Richter
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 01:29:36

    I don’t have kids but I teach creative movement at a private pre-school and I must say, some of the so-called parenting I observe on the bus to and from work makes me cringe. Good for your husband!

    Reply

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