There’s been a thread of holier-than-thou judgement of my parenting in a few comments left of late.
It’s made me afraid of using my own space in the way that I find most therapeutic– spilling all my secrets into the digital Neverland. I don’t like being afraid. These are comments that pick and pluck at the spot where I am weakest– my own parenting skills, and the way I navigate life with two little people. The possible damage I may be inflicting on my children.
I think it’s the soft spot of all parents. We’re all hyper-aware of the responsibility of raising little people. We know we will be judged. From the moment we reveal we’re carrying a baby, until long after we’ve passed away. Forty years from now, should our child break all social codes and do something terrible; one of the first places people will look for answers will be with us. Where did we fail? In what facet of parental responsibility where we so inept that it can explain what went wrong with our children?
And we are judged on the tiniest, most inconsequential endeavours. It seems so socially acceptable to comment on the parenting of other people and the probable fate of their children; and to do so with such casual study of their situation. There’s a self-justifying benevolence in the social sport of picking apart another mum because she works, or doesn’t; or smacks, or doesn’t; on whether her children are well-behaved and polite, or not. The behaviour of children is seen as an obvious manifestation of their parents child rearing skills, or lack of them. And we seem to encourage ‘keyhole judgements’– taking a tiny slice of a story and attributing it as the rule, when it just may be the exception.
I think, perhaps, that’s one of the elements that digs at me so much, in regard to comments left here lately. The arrogance of assumption of people feeling that because they’ve read my blog, they then have the right or the obligation to comment on my parenting; on the lives of myself, my mum, and my children.
You only know what I tell you here. Judging me on what I choose to share with you is the online equivalent of judging a parent at a local playground after watching them interact with their child for two minutes. It doesn’t give you enough information to make calls like you do, to look down on someone else because they’re not doing it the way you consider to be ‘right’.
I share a lot of my life on these web pages. I write without thinking much about how I’ll be perceived. I tell stories about my children and myself. That leaves me inherently open to judgement… that’s okay. It’s part of the give and take of blogging. People have every right to voice their opinion, particularly when there’s a comment section inviting that very thing.
But this isn’t so much about me, or my ‘emotional state’. This is about the bullsh*t judgements people feel they have a right to make, when you never know enough about a another’s person life to make that call. Whether you’re their best friend or they’re someone you see for thirty seconds in the local supermarket, or because you’ve read what they’ve chosen to share with you.
It’s about how we make parenting, mothering in particular, into some righteous, beautified social test. It’s about the way a mother and her actions are considered wholly objectified public property. It’s about the way women are expected to ‘embrace mothering’ and your children are supposed to be your ‘whole world’. The way mothers are crucified and shamed if they don’t hold up to other people’s ideals of what a ‘good mother’ should be.
It’s about the way we’re not allowed to say what sometimes might be the truth. That you can love your kids desperately, think they are the most awesome little people… and still not like being a mum very much at all.
My kids aren’t a burden. As I’ve said– they are awesome little people, and I’m honoured to be able to spend the bulk of my time with them. But changing dirty nappies, making school lunches, being yelled at, moderating temper tantrums, listening to whinging, and all the other stuff that comes with small children? That’s a burden. I’m not fond of it. Not at all. I don’t have to be.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some bits of parenting that I thoroughly enjoy. Deep conversations and answering questions. Showing my kids new things, taking them places. Watching their face light up with new concepts my new knowledge. I love playing video games or curling up on the lounge watching movies with my son. I love playing with my daughter’s doll-house (sometimes I even let her help) and painting her fingernails. I like doing the fun stuff. But I find the hard stuff really difficult. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that.
I became a mother, not a martyr. Giving birth didn’t provide me with some selfless gene that made me suddenly enjoy being every aspect of raising kids. I’m inherently selfish. Most people are; we just find ways to temper that against the realities of life and the needs of the people we love.
My children are the most important people in my life. They always have been and probably always will be. But I allow myself to have a life, and a personality, outside of being their mum. I’m devoted to them, but I never want them to be responsible for my happiness. I want to teach them that all of us are responsible for finding our own. I’m happy to sacrifice things. But I keep things, too. And I want to teach my children– my daughter especially– that that’s an okay thing to do. Women are expected to give and give and give until there’s nothing left of themselves but a shell that functions, providing for people’s needs. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m the first to admit that I find spending time alone a necessity. I’m okay with that. I’m also quite happy to admit that I do spend whole weekends with my boyfriend. I’ve confessed to temporarily running away from my kids and wanting to leave for good. I’ve stated– and I stand by it– that some days I just cannot handle my five and three year old (which I’m fairly sure shocks absolutely no one) and everything falls down in a screaming heap.
Why do any of those things have an influence of the effectiveness of my parenting, anyway? Do you have to spend every second with your kids, to parent well? Or is it that you can’t have other focuses in your life? Do you have to enjoy every aspect of motherhood in order to ‘embrace’ it? Are you allowed to like parenting without being particularly enamoured with the really-little-kid phase of it? Can you love your kids without liking being a parent at all?
I’m predicting that even writing that last paragraph is enough to have me labelled as unfit mother– one who’s probably causing deep, awful emotional agony– in some people’s mental filing system.
Again, I’m (surprisingly) okay with that. If you’re that attached to the concept of martyred parent that it personally offends when someone else doesn’t live up to it… I kind of feel sorry for you.
To the commenter who wrote this one; and anyone who feels the same…
I originally had a few hundred words written here, defending myself and my parenting. Then I decided, f*ck it. I have no obligation to justify myself to anyone.
So all I really want to say is this.
And bite me.