26 May 2017

Your Opinion on THAT article: In and out of style

I thought long and hard before writing this. I've been wanting to write it for a while actually, ever since my Facebook feed has become over populated with articles written by various people on the way to bring up children. I don't know how the articles have found me to be honest, but found me they have and having read a few of them I find myself here, wishing to throw my opinion in (for what it’s worth). I almost didn't write what I've been musing over and then that Daily Fail article hit the internet highways, and suddenly it seems like now is the time.

If you haven't read that article you haven't really missed anything. Other than what I would say is perhaps an archaic and outdated vision of what mothers should be, and represent. Perhaps it's a generation thing? Perhaps the particular journalist doesn't understand or appreciate the tongue-in-cheek approach to raising children that the women she named and shamed take? Perhaps she genuinely believes that being “a pushy parent” is the best approach? Actually, I don't really care. What I do care about though is when it suddenly became the norm to pigeon hole mums (and dads for that matter) into being certain “types” of parents adopting certain “styles” of parenting and then pitching us against each other in a scene reminiscent of Fight Club. Style, I thought was reserved for the fashion world? And we all know how fast that can change. Is that really what parenting had become now? Something that changes with the seasons? Like moving from your winter wool to your summer cape we discard our season cast offs when they don't please  us enough anymore? Come on people, we all know better than that!

The article I read that triggered this chain of thoughts was propagating the “gentle style” of parenting. Before anyone gets all woop-ass on me I’m using inverted commas to demonstrate my point, not to be derogatory to anyone who may be an advocate of these “styles”.  I don't want a #hashtag uprising against me, I’m not in the business to offend. 

The article talked about breast feeding a child until they chose to stop, it discussed co-sleeping and attachment. It implied that if you didn't do some of these things you were following a “style” of parenting that benefited you as the mother as opposed to meeting the needs of your baby. It talked about Gina Ford (who I hand-on-my-heart, honestly thought was a fitness guru until the Gods of Wikipedia told me otherwise) and routines from birth being the definition of evil, and public figures such as Super Nanny Jo Frost achieving what they have because of this need for parent satisfaction above their little ones. It said that parents who didn't cuddle their children to sleep, who ‘sleep trained’ or employed ‘controlled crying’ were playing to their own greater sense of self. And by the end I kind of felt pretty shit about myself to be honest. 

Some of the things that the writer had spoken about I have done in my nine (almost ten) months since becoming a mum, and some I definitely haven't. But what really made me wound up was that it implied that if you did any of those things then you were a certain “style” of mum. And I just don't get this obsession with putting mums into boxes and saying you parent like this, so therefore you are that. And it is wrong to do it like that. Or right if you believe in these techniques and practice them in every part of your child rearing.

When I had my twins the best advice we were given as new parents was from another twin dad who told us to throw the rule book out of the window and do what worked for us. Which is exactly what we've been doing ever since the girls arrived to be frank. Here we are, almost ten months down the line and I don’t think we've done too bad a job so far. 

We always knew that the first year would be like survival of the fittest, so look at us, surviving (just about at times) and happy. Why is it though that I was told to make up my own rules and yet parents who have one child (be that their first, second or ninth) are told to do things in a certain way to ensure a certain outcome. Get your child into a routine straight away, wean them earlier, wean them at six months, don't let them sleep in your room at all, make sure they sleep in your room until they can take you for a drink in the local. Honestly the list is endless, and when you choose to do one thing you suddenly become a “gentle” parent, or an “attachment” supporter. Or you're heartless. Or selfish. Or slummy. Or a child hater (my particular favourite I’ve seen so far). 

I swear if I said to a vulnerable group of new mums that to get your baby to sleep you should beat yourself with a sage brush whilst chanting Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and rubbing your baby's stomach with barrier cream someone would try it, and if I started promoting it as a style of parenting then someone, somewhere would become an expert on it and start telling everyone it was the ‘only way’ to raise children. And yes, some parents might buy into that.

Because we are all vulnerable at some points in this journey called parenthood. We all choose to do what we think is best, and that best is for us as mums and for our babies and/or children. What mums don't need is beating over the head when they choose to do something like sleep train, or breastfeed their child for longer than is considered “appropriate”. Who decides what is appropriate anyway? The Daily Mail? Instagram? Facebook? Actually we decide as individual parents surely? 

I chose to sleep train my twins and yes, I felt like shit at the time but did I leave them to scream for hours until they passed out? No, because if I want to pick them up and give them a bloody cuddle I will. I use spoon feeding and baby led weaning but do my twin girls have a terrible appetite and picky attitude to food? Not if my shopping bills are anything to go by lately. Why the need to constantly berate each other as mums when we see someone doing something we wouldn't do for our children? Just say it's not for you and move on. If you saw a child being picked on for not doing something that everyone else was, I guarantee you would stick up for the child. Why are individuals so quick to criticise other mums for not doing stuff in a certain manner? Why are some women so determined to pit us against each other when we don't agree, or when they don’t agree with us?

I'm just a mum. I don't have a style of parenting, I’m not a fashion label. I don't have a method like a GCSE Chemistry experiment where I write down exactly what I’m going to do word for word. I do it in the best way I can and sometimes I make it to the end of the day thinking  yep, today I nailed it. Maybe I should write to the Palace and ask for a medal? Maybe I won't need to write because they'll have already heard of me and how great I was today. Sometimes I get to the end of the day and text my husband demanding he bring me wine and chocolate because What. The. Actual. Fuck. Maybe my way isn't yours but that is what makes me the best mum for my girls. And that is why you’re the best mums or dads for your kids.

If anything should be taken from this it's just that we all need to keep doing what we're doing and remember that there are always things we can learn from other mums. Even the stuff we don't like. Even if we know it goes against who we are and what we believe we can still sit round a table and enjoy a few chilled vinos knowing that actually the one thing we have got in common is doing the best we can. Instead of getting weighed down in the idea of method (and madness) how about we just get back to being “mum”. Whatever way you choose that to be.

Written by Fiona from @themorsetwins

If you want to write a piece about THAT Daily Mail article, please just get in touch and it will feature on the website. 


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