(rare photo of me thanks to Kitty who borrowed the camera again)
Last week I dropped a very tiny pebble into a pool. And the ripples that it made seemed to join with the ripples from lots of other pebbles of varying sizes being lobbed in at about the same time which seem to have banded together to become a wave and before I knew it I was reading something that suggested the Mummy Wars had erupted over whether you should ‘keep it real’ on social media, apparently by snarking on your children, or tell great big fat lies and pretend that everything is always sweetness and light and that you’ve loved every millisecond of parenting. I never thought I was much one for Mummy Wars, and yet it seemed I’d charged straight into the middle of one without realising it. Apparently. For the record just about everyone who’s post I saw was advocating for a middle ground, the one in which we’ve loved our children for every millisecond in which we’ve been a parent, but not always loved everything that we’re called upon to do, but that isn’t very war like.
My general philosophy on parenting is that you do what works for you and for your specific child or children. I’ve definitely done a few things differently between my three and if circumstances and the personality differences of siblings call for a slightly different approach, then the needs of other people’s children in other people’s families are only going to be more disparate. So for the most part I can look at another family and simply think “you go you”, if that’s how you do it in your family then that’s great that it works for you.
But there is a line. I think I was pretty clear last week that I don’t think it’s a very brilliant idea to complain about your children, be rude about them, or use bad language to describe them on social media. Actually I don’t think it’s a very good idea to do it to their faces either but that’s another story. To read it makes me feel desperately sorry for both parent and children and I really really struggle to say “I’m glad it works for you” and not “please please stop, seriously have you thought this through!” Apparently that’s where my line is.
But it (clearly) isn’t universal. I think we could start with some common ground; for example, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks smacking their children is OK (bar some crazy fundamentalists in the USA who call themselves Christian but don’t exactly seem to channel a loving God), but what next. I am certain that if I looked hard enough I could find someone who is utterly convinced that I’m ruining my children and causing them all sorts of untold problems in later life because I feed on demand/wear my babies/don’t use any form of sleep training or crying it out/baby led wean/co-sleep with whoever won’t go to sleep without me/don’t force them to share – the list could go on and on.
So utterly convinced that she or he would feel they just couldn’t keep quiet and must tell me that if I don’t rigorously police the girls in sharing each toy for precisely 30 seconds at a time they will inevitably end up as juvenile delinquents, running away from home and voting Monster Raving Loony Party (NB to anyone not in the UK, yes that’s a genuine legitimate party, they got 3,898 votes last week). I’m exaggerating I know, but the point is the same, I feel in my heart of hearts that I am doing the right thing for my three individual children and for my family as a whole and there is very little that anyone could say to change my mind, I’d probably just think they were wrong and a bit nosy.
Which leaves us at a bit of an impasse doesn’t it.
If pleading with people to reconsider their position would only have them add ‘interfering’ to ‘twee’ and ‘Pollyanna’, there’s clearly no point in alienating people for the sake of it. Life isn’t like Malory Towers, where pointing out someone’s faults rather bluntly leads them to realise what an awful person they are just in time to score the winning goal at lacrosse or rescue Matron from the burning San. And with a small caveat in the manner of moonlit midnight feasts by the pool, it’s a jolly good thing too.
But at the same time wouldn’t total silence just condone conduct which I find seriously questionable?
I’m struggling with this one and I think it’s largely because there isn’t any one size fits all answer. But there are two things that I can do; the first is to have courage in my own convictions and the second is to do so with humility. It’s the difference between writing here in my little on line home why I think doing XYZ is a really bad idea, hoping that perhaps one day a cumulative ripple might hit home, and hunting down specific people to tell them how very wrongy wrong wrong they are.
It’s the former that I saw pop up across the blogging world last week and it’s lovely to think that one day, posts provoking a very valid debate about what it is appropriate to tell the internet’s long memory about our children won’t simply be dismissed as Mummy Wars.
So what do you think? Is there a point at which you can’t say “go you” anymore? And can we ever have a debate without it being Mummy Wars?