In good news, parenting is a rapidly changing landscape. Generally speaking, over the last two years there’s been a revolution amongst mothers in particular that has seen them embrace the sisterhood over the motherhood. We’re not lending our support to women because they’re mothers as much as we’re lending our support to women because they are women. That means we’re spending less time defining them by the kind of mother they are and the way they choose to parent and more time celebrating the fact that, as women, we are all in this together and frankly, we need all the love, support, good vibes and fanny power we can get.
In bad news, the transition is not complete. Maybe it never will be but despite the huge leaps we’ve taken away from competitive chat, passive aggressiveness and tiger mum talk, their legacy remains. In certain pockets of parenthood, I still come across mums suffering from insecurity and feelings of inadequacy that lead them to say, quite frankly, the craziest things. This insecurity and feelings of inadequacy are not their fault. They don’t feel that way because they’re below average mums; they feel that way because somewhere along the line they’ve encountered some shitty judgement from some shitty book, or shitty in-law, or bypasser, or doctor, or health visitor or (most likely) another mother who herself is the victim of the same bullshit and suddenly their heckles are up. They’re a mama bear with a really sore head ready to fight anyone who dares to imply that their not doing the very, very best for their child.
The other day I had a park date with a friend who’s a mum. Her daughter is a year younger than mine and we’ve been mum mates since we clocked each other rolling our eyes at some playgroup once. She’s an ace woman: super accomplished, smart, sassy and manages to maintain a pretty damn impressive career while raising a small human. No easy feat, right?
So there we were in the park, discussing childcare and, knowing full well that my Small has been in nursery for full days since she was 1, said, “I just think full days are far too long to leave children in nursery for.” I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps she forgot but we had just been discussing my child’s full days at nursery about 23 seconds before, so I can’t.
You see, here’s my issue with the language of mum. What she said implied that people who leave their kids in nursery for full days are making a shitty choice. What she could have said was, “I’m just not ready to leave my child for full days at nursery.” You see, it’s her damn choice whether she wants to leave her kids there for a morning, a day, a week, or a month. I have no problem with what she chooses and I don’t judge any choices she makes for whatever reasons. I do have a problem with her choosing language that casts a clear judgement on my choices. See?
I haven’t always got it right, especially in the early days, but we all know how exhausting it is to find ourselves in those conversations that, to an outside, may seem like regular mum-chat but to those of you involved are basically a silent battle of undertones, implications and smart-assery. So, I’m going to work on the assumption that none of us wake up wanting to be a dick to other mothers, right? So, here are my top tips for avoiding mum language that doesn’t make people hate you.
Be honest. While it may be a bit scary with a new mum-friend to take the first step, honesty encourages honesty and before you know it guards are slowly dropped. So, don’t pretend that you know everything, that you’ve got it all nailed, that you never fuck up. No one is buying it and it makes it hard to get to know the real you if they think your MO is spouting bullshizzle.
Don’t take your mother self too seriously. This parenting lark is almost 97% about shit, wee, farts (your fanny, their bum bum), incontinence, fannies and willies, and total, complete and utter exhaustion. That’s a shedload of funny material right there…see the funny side.
Even if you think that someone else is making terrible, terrible parenting choices just suck it up and be supportive, or move the conversation along quickly if you’re worried you just can’t help yourself. They’re walking their own path and one of two things will happen. Either they’ll make their crazy choices work for them and you’ll look like a dick for being a negative, or they won’t and (as long as they’re not a dick) they’ll look back on their former self and laugh at how crazy their ideas were. Everyone’s a winner.
I know it may seem like a radical idea but, just in case you understandably forgot, you don’t have to talk about babies and children. Remember that time before we had kids when we talked about other stuff? No, I don’t either, but we must have done and maybe with a little practise we can do it again.
Be kind. If in doubt, just be kind.