Thursday, February 25, 2016

I Give Up On Parenting Advice

It starts the minute that your baby leaves the comfort and bliss of the womb and emerges into the world.  Advice.  A fuck tonne of the stuff.  

And as a never-before-been-a-parent parent you can't help but be swayed by some of it, even if kindly, already parent friends have warned you to ignore most of it.

The day my daughter was born one of the midwives on duty told me to support my breast a certain way to make it easier for my daughter to latch on.  I had no clue what I was doing, so I did that.  The very next feed, me studiously adhering to Sisters advice, the new midwife on duty tells me "Don't hold your breast like that, you'll end up with mastitis."  So I stopped.

And I got mastitis anyway.

Last year I saw a headline that blared: "Kissing your child on the lips is too sexual and confusing."  I chose not to read it.  Because I kiss both my kids on the lips all the time.  And also Fuck You.  Fuck you stupid article that will probably be discredited in like, twenty minutes time.

My kids are five and seven now.  Physically I haven't yet irreparably damaged either of them.  Psychologically they seem okay too, but then there's still time to screw that one up I guess.  Also my son does have an unnatural ability to look you right in the eyes and lie to your face.  So that could be a problem. 

Still anyway, Fuck You parenting advice articles.  I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid anymore.  I'm done.

Because seriously parenting advice articles are like the tabloid magazines of the internet.  The ones scream at me from the shelves by the supermarket checkout and if I happen to be enjoying a child-free grocery run I’ll pick one up and have a flip.  Hell, I like to know if Kim and Kanye are splitting up again, how many babies Bec Hewitt is pregnant with and what's with that dead body Kate Middleton practically tripped over in her backyard?  

And we all know that depending on which publication you pick up Nicole and Keith are either blissfully loved up or heading for splitsville.  And who cares anyway?  Neither reports are true.

But if you have the time or inclination to delve further you will find that the contradictions aren't limited to combatant publications vying for titillation that will translate to supermarket sales.  

They don’t just contradict each other, even within their very own pages they contradict themselves.  Articles about how self-confidence is the key to real beauty sit beside pages of make up advertisements.  Fashions spreads about dressing for your shape followed by the latest diet fad.  You know, so you can change the shape you are.  And in the back a recipe section full of wonderful, drippy, chocolatey treats.

The whole thing is gross.  And I refuse to spend my money on them.  (Looking at them for free though I’m totally down with.)

But what is even more gross is the confounding amount of parenting advice out there that is drowning the internet.  And much of it contradictory.  (I'm linking all these articles.  But don't read them, it will only confuse you.)

Stop telling me what to do with my kids internet.  Just stop.  And stop trying to make me feel scared of every possible thing - from my son losing his penis in a board-short netting accident to the dangerous hazards of swim goggles, grapes and Kinder Surprise toys.  And Cinnamon.  Don’t forget to be afraid of Cinnamon!  Yes Kidspot I'm looking at you.

Because when magazines are laying it on thick about celebrities and diets and make up and fragrances that's easy for me to ignore.  I know that is faff.  Made up faff, though I'm still a bit baffled by how these publications can get away with just making this shit up.

But when you tell me my baby can die if I misuse a nursing pillow, or my pram, or my carseat, or because I buy lettuce.  Well, nervous, protective, loving parents tend to take notice.  I tend to take notice.  I know that the chances of these things happening are minute, and yet they feed into that primordial desire to keep my kids safe.  That is why I find myself cutting the netting out of my sons board shorts and checking that the cinnamon is on an upper shelf of the pantry.

But not anymore.  I'm just opting out.  I'm not taking parenting advice from anyone anymore.  Except maybe my dearest friends who I trust and who I know wouldn't offer me such advice unsolicited.

But when it comes to the internets, I’m done.  No more parenting advice articles for me.

Ever since that one where the mum decided to stoptelling her kid to hurry up I've been skeptical.  There was a big part of me that loved that article.  Because that moment, where she describes looking into her daughters eyes and apologising for making her rush, that is a beautiful moment.  It got me right in the feels, and still does - I read it again this morning and teared up, even though I have come to loathe that article.  

Because that moment?  It's beautiful, but it's also fiction.  I mean I'm not calling this lady a liar - she may well have had that beautiful moment with her kid.  But I am saying that since that article was published nearly three years ago, I bet she has told her kids to hurry up.  She's probably yelled at them once or twice too.

If she hasn't then more power to her, she's a better woman than I.  And a better, more patient mother.  There I said it, because isn’t that ultimately the reaction that articles like this one are aiming for? 

Ultimately it’s not about making us feel all gooey because of this one lovely moment a mother shared with her daughter.

When you boil it down it’s about allowing her to feel smug at the expense of the rest of us feeling totally crap.  “Oh my God,” we think, “I told my babies to hurry up just this morning on our way to school.  Why did I do that?  I should be more patient.”

And then we spend the rest of the day wondering if we’ve irrevocably scarred them, if they are okay out there in the big wide world, and how can we possibly make it up to them when they get home from school. 

And maybe that leads to one of our own gooey moments with our kids, and maybe it leads us to not be so crotchety and rushed the next morning, and maybe that in turn leads us down a path of more mindful parenting.  If so, that would be great.  But also, if it doesn’t, or if it does for a week and then the wheels fall off, or if you just get shitty because you are trying to create a great and meaningful moment with your kid where you apologise and they tell you, “It’s okay, I love you anyway,” but it comes to nothing because your kid is tired and pissy and all they want to do is watch TV?  That’s okay too.  That is all normal.  That is parenting.  Which no one tells you is like 99% grind, confusion, boredom and tiredness and about 1% how all the television ads tell you it’s going to be.  And even that’s okay, because that 1% is so utterly fucking amazing it makes the other 99% worthwhile. 

Today I walked in the door and my daughter had left me a little note out of torn paper on the coffee table “I {heart} U”.  (I love you too baby girl).  That right there is the 1%.

The One Percent

The only thing these advice articles ultimately serve to do is to make us feel lousy about the way we are parenting, the way we are mothering, how we need to be doing better on a daily basis.  And that is just not right.  Because 100% of the parents I know love their kids to bits and do an amazing job at it.  Not a perfect job, not a job without mistakes, missteps and missed opportunities.  But in very real, human, loving ways an amazing job.  And the kids know that.  They feel it.

So I'm over it.  I may not be as good a mother as you, I'm okay with that.  I'm just me, mothering in the only way I know how.

Sometimes that's nurturing, caring, focused, kissing on the lips type mothering.  And sometimes that's shouty, Hurry UP, frustrated even angry mothering.  That's just how it rolls at our place.

I'm doing the best with what I've got.  That has to be okay.  And if you have any further advice on the matter internets?  Just keep it to yourself, okay?

Parenting advice articles.  Yes?  No?  Maybe?

Images One Small Life