If your an avid reader of parenting blogs, or perhaps take the more chill approach of stalking perfect parent Instagrams until you know everything about a family including the babies’ birth weights, you might have noticed that there’s something of a warfare between different styles of parenting. It can be a minefield trying to work out where you fit in amongst the mummies in your timeline.
My timeline is mostly made up of two specific types of mum. On one side you have the Hippy Mummies, the middle class hippies who breastfeed until the kids are eight and follow the strict rules of gentle parenting. And on the other side you have the self proclaimed Slummy Mummies, who proudly declare that their children have eaten chocolate buttons for dinner the third night in a row and painted the bedroom walls with shit.
The joys of sites like Instagram mean that of course people exaggerate, people portray them in ways they want to be seen, not necessarily how the are. But for the real mums watching these accounts it can be hard, it can feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, feel like you must be doing something wrong if you don’t belong to either of these sides.
For me I firmly believe in the naughty step, that a child needs to hear ‘no’, that they should be able to sooth themselves to sleep in their own bed before they’re 4. I also didn’t let my daughter taste chocolate until she was nearly two, her after school snacks are 90% fruit and veg, and I had a very much planned drug-free birth. But then again I also firmly believe that parents need nights out getting shitfaced, that baby wipes clean as well as a bath when you’re in a hurry, and that muttering ‘fuck off’ under your breath at your child fourteen times a day is totally normal behaviour. Yet totally judge the parents who give their kids the iPad at dinner, feel extremely uncomfortable when I read parents discussing how much they dread the school holidays, and can’t find it funny when your child shouts and hits in anger.
Where does this place me on the grand scale of mothering? I’m not full hippy mum, but I’m also not fully in Camp Slummy.
With the constant talk of finding your mother tribe and surrounding yourself with supportive women it’s easy to feel inadequate when you don’t have that. But it also feels bloody impossible to find said tribe when everyone’s so extreme with the way they choose to parent.
While I completely understand that the Slummy Mummy side came out of the need for something more realistic than the perfect mothers that adorned our social media for so long, I can’t help but wonder (Carrie moment, sorry) if maybe it’s gone too far? While we’ve all had our moments of shiteness (the time I was too hungover to move so TI had a breakfast of dry cereal straight from the box comes to mind) the new trend of boasting about every single thing you do that’s deemed as bad parenting is a little odd. I read a Facebook post from a mum blog on November 1st, stating that after gorging on Halloween sweets until 8pm the kids hadn’t brushed their teeth, nor had they again the next morning. I don’t find that relatable, I find that gross. I love that parent bloggers have taken to sharing the truths of parenting, but competing to be the shittest parent isn’t a competition I want to be part of.
Which brings me to the other side of the battle field, the Hippy Mummies. While I love the idea of raising a child on a quinoa based diet and having them behave impeccably without hearing the word ‘no’ it just isn’t practical. The idea of gentle parenting is something that truly baffles me, we live in a world based around rules, restrictions, laws, and punishments for going against those, so why teach your child that these don’t exist? A child who does what they want when they want is probably going to be bit of an arsehole. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know there are rather a lot of us who have dated a guy who’s mum gives them anything and everything they asked for. How’d that work out? You want that to be your son? Probs not, eh? And then there’s the bed sharing thing, I understand it when they’re little, or poorly, or they get out of bed at 2am and screw putting them back to bed. But if they’re old enough to speak in full sentences should they really be co-sleeping full time? And should you be rocking them to sleep every night, for your own sanity mama, stop. Story, lights out, door shut, wine. (Confession: our Sonos has been stolen and now lives in TI’s room for nightly serenades of classical music – see I’m not totally innocent).
90% of raising children is trying to make them into a decent(ish) adult. It’s a lot of pressure, yes, but not every moment of parenting can be what’s easiest for you. They should print that on condom boxes.
I am aware that this blog could well mark the end of my friendships with other mothers, I probably sound like a judgemental bitch who doesn’t deserve friends. But that’s not where this is coming from. It’s so easy to find something you believe in and take it to the extreme, and from there it’s easy to become preachy about your way of parenting (is that what I’ve done here? Probably, I’m hypocritical as fuck.). But for me this makes it hard to engage with other mothers, because I worry that by not being like you I’ll be judged and disliked and rejected. And this mama does not take rejection well.
I can’t be the only one that feels a little bit out of place amongst the internet mums, my Instagram isn’t perfect, I don’t get sent freebies from M&S, and I don’t write inspirational quotes to remind you that saying ‘no’ damages your child irreversibly. I try to be real, I try to be accessible, and I try to be kind.
This isn’t about putting down other types of parents, every parent is getting through it as best they can. But it’s a side of parenting that I personally don’t see represented. If there can be a thousand blogs informing me that I damaged my child by only breastfeeding for six weeks and chose controlled crying then why can’t there be one arguing that method isn’t perfect. If there can be countless blogs slamming the mums who manage to feed their children vegetables and actually look forward to having them home during the holidays then why can’t I have my opinions to the contrary? I’m sure I could have done a post that involved more bigging up of all mothers, proclaimed we’re all perfect no matter what we do, but we know that’s not true. None of us are perfect. Each and every one of us does things that can be damaging one way or another to our child’s development.
Supporting each other comes in many ways, and personally I think that support involves constructive criticism. If you think my kid’s being a little arsehole, tell me. I won’t enjoy hearing it but it also means I can pick her up on it and future her will be a little bit less arseholey. God knows we could use a few less arseholes in this world.
I’m not a Hippy Mummy and I’m not a Slummy Mummy, I’m somewhere in the middle. And I think that many of us are, maybe we should start our own movement. Here’s to the Midway Mummies.
And at the end of the day, we’re all Bad Mums anyway, because none of us are getting it all right.