I mentioned ‘PR parenting’ in my previous post and I’m not sure I quite realised what I’d done until I read it back but, somewhat unwittingly, I feel I’ve hit on an epidemic amongst modern parenting. Everywhere I look I see parents who have all become uber-efficient PR machines when it comes to presenting themselves as keepers of Small Humans. I don’t know whether it’s the internet, or the books, or the ever-increasing desire to not just have it all, but to be great at it all that drives it, but somewhere along the line of social evolution, we’ve all become so concerned with what other people think that we are editing and embellishing our tales of parenting.
I get it. I’m not judging. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. I’m just sad, bewildered and blown away by this never-ending roller-coaster of bullshit that we’re all on. We can’t get off it in case someone calls us out on it and labels us a shitty parent because we admitted to shoving our kids in front of the TV, or giving them chips for tea or ice-cream for breakfast.
Every conversation regarding parenting (except perhaps amongst your very closest, most trusted friends) is coloured with competition and anxiety. Whatever the topic of conversation, be it breastfeeding, diet, education, sleeping…we amp up our versions of what we really do. We photoshop our parenting; we may not lie but we definitely omit some stuff and why? Because we’ve all been pitted against each other by some smarty-pants in some office somewhere with nothing much better to do than ‘investigate’, ‘study’, ‘explore’ the notion of parenting.
This smarty pants spent way too much time and money and energy figuring all this ‘parenting’ stuff out and then, in the biggest crapshoot since some dude thought the world was flat, they took out their big, black, indelible marker pens and scratched labels on to everything. In perhaps the most dangerous act of academia yet, they gave birth to terms such as ‘helicopter parenting’, ‘attachment parenting’, ‘authoritarian parenting’, ‘permissive parenting’, ‘uninvolved parenting’, and a whole host of other parenting nonsense as if we could all, our own individual souls and hearts and experiences, be lumped into one of these.
You see, parenting can’t be defined in such a way. Parenting isn’t really a verb. It’s not so much the act of ‘doing’ as it is the act of ‘being’. How you parent is all about who you are – what conversations you’ve had, the experiences you’ve known, the books you’ve read (and I’m not talking parenting books). It’s the people you’ve loved, the times you’ve been scared, shocked, saddened. It’s the hands you’ve held and the songs you’ve listened to on repeat over and over and over again. It’s every heartbreak, every lie, every truth…it’s every moment of your entire life all bundled up and solid and breathing inside you. Every decision you make as a parent is a direct result of something that you feel inside you. It’s not because of a book you read, or an article that told you to not shout, or say no or to hold on tight.
There is no such thing as ‘parenting’. There is the parent. You. That’s it. How you act as a parent is how you act as a person, as a human. We don’t talk about ‘wifing’ or ‘husbanding’. We don’t talking ‘sistering’ or ‘brothering’. We are just allowed to be wives and husbands and sisters and brothers. We should just be allowed to be parents in our own unqiue, colourful and wonderful right. Those people who are neglectful and abusive and awful don’t practise bad parenting – they are bad parents, bad people.
Let’s stop this talk of ‘parenting’. Let’s stop defining the indefinable. Let’s just accept that we are all different people and therefore different parents. Let’s enjoy that, embrace it. Let’s marvel at the magnitude of variety amongst us all and let’s learn from it. Let’s not get so worried about what kind of parent we are…let’s just parent the shit out of our children in our own wonderful way. Let’s sit down and listen to each others’ real and honest tales of keeping small humans alive without smirking or judging or nodding politely.
Because (and this is for those REALLY self-righteous people) NEWSFLASH: there’s no right answer when it comes to being a parent. You may think you have the best version of parenting going on, but if that was true we’d all be made to do it that way and last time I checked we were free to raise our children in the best way we knew how.
So be kind to each other. We’ve all cried and torn our hair out and examined the ever-increasing wrinkles. We’ve all wondered if we’re doing it right or wrong. We’ve all had moments of crisis or insecurity and we’ve all had moments of downright, fucking brilliance. Let’s get off our parenting high-horses, let’s stop the PR polishing, and let’s just get on with being great parents and great people.