Blame it on being a middle child. I admit it – my hand is up – I was the peace-keeper, or at least tried to be. Blame it on being on a mediation course recently. Maybe I’ve just got agreeing to disagree on the brain, but this post has been bubbling in my stomach for months now. I am finding myself increasingly frustrated at how we respond to one another as parents when we disagree.
It starts with Gina Ford. Don’t all good parenting conflicts? Gina Ford’s new book about how to be a contented mother hit the media and there was huge backlash in the parenting world about the strong suggestions she was making to new mothers regarding sexual intimacy with their partner. Her suggestion was that they try to hop back in the sack 6 weeks after the baby was born to assure they were meeting their partner’s needs and (I’m assuming) eventually having their own needs met. And again, I’ll put my hand up. I said publicly that I thought she was a nutjob. Soon after, I read a post directly addressing her where there were hundreds of comments about how ridiculous her “misinformed” advice was and how awful they felt Gina Ford’s principles from The Contented Baby were, as well — how it didn’t work for them, about how it made the already tough job of being a parent even harder. They felt that Gina Ford was responsible for making them feel guilty when things didn’t work and they wanted to make it clear how she was a she-devil. But while I was scrolling through, I came across one commenter who said in response to a journalist’s request: I love her. I use her methods. They have worked for me.
Pretty brave on a forum where a river of emotion is running so high and so strongly in the opposite direction. The problem is, she followed that by pointing out that the friends who hadn’t used those methods had kids who never sleep. And then, like it was always going to, it happened. It became personal. Other commenters started to suggest that this mother, who had made clear that her whole family was really happy, was, in reality, making such terrible decisions by following Gina Ford, that there would be terrible long-term consequences, consequences to her child’s confidence as they grew older, consequences to how attached her child felt to his parents. She may not have known it, but she was being a bad mother.
Fast forward to the last couple of weeks where bloggers have been posting about why private schools are a waste of time and money. Assumptions were made about parents who send their children to private school and assumptions were made about the children themselves – that they would turn into adults who were unable to relate to and looked down on 97% of the population. Again, there have been responses. Responses in themselves are fine. You can disagree. I’d love to send The Duchess to private school for a number of reasons. I didn’t agree with the post. The thing is, I have seen posts and comments since then which have labelled this mother as someone who is foolish for spending her money on things that “don’t matter” rather than her children’s education. I have read things that have assumed she must be insecure to write it in the first place.
Does anyone see the problem yet? Those who suggest that Gina Ford’s methods are worth following – these individuals who claim that, if you don’t do what she says, your child will be less content, will be more difficult, and will struggle with sleep for years to come – are being met by those who say if you follow her principles your child will be less confident, will be less attached to you, will have social and emotional problems. The people who state that private schools actually deprive your child – that they make them unable to relate to the rest of the population and that this will have long-term effects – are being met by people who are saying that it’s only her own insecurity that speaks and that she is depriving her children from a great education simply so they can have family time that they won’t remember.
Whatever position you take, the other person is assuming that, because they disagree, the other party must be making a decision from a place that isn’t completely and totally centered on what they feel is best for their child.
But if I’ve learnt anything in the last 10 1/2 months it is this: whether you do the research or go with your gut, if you love your child and your highest aim is their health and happiness, you are doing what you think is best.
And sometimes people will disagree with that. And sometimes you will disagree with other people. That’s okay. That’s expected. The problem is that so often when we do, we make the other party feel like that is not actually the point from which they make all of their decisions about their child’s future. We judge them. We call them names. We assume they must have personal issues. My hand is up again.
The presidential election is coming up this year and I’m so glad I’m not living in America, because from this summer until the beginning of November when you turn on the television there will be ad after ad of political smear campaigns. Discredit the other guy. I get why they do that. I get why they feel they have to tell you why the other guy is wrong, but I’d so much rather hear their perspective about why they feel like what they are doing is right.
Guys, we are not politicians. We are parents. We already wrestle with guilt and worry over the decisions we make even when we know we want the very best for them. We already worry about giving them what they need.
Share why you do what you do. Great. Maybe I can benefit from it. Maybe I can learn. But you don’t need to smear the other guy. You don’t need to discredit them. If you choose to co-sleep, if you choose to spoon feed, if you choose to work, if you choose to do reward charts, if you choose to send your child to state school, let me know why – but please don’t feed the guilt. Don’t feed the worry. Don’t make the other parent feel that they are wrong for making a decision that wasn’t your decision. Maybe that makes me a bad writer. I don’t really care. I’d rather be kind. I’d rather believe the best about people.
Because at the end of the day, even if it isn’t your best, we are striving to do our best.
Edit: Oh and just in case anyone feels I am making big claims while hiding behind anonymity. I realize that would be unfair.
My name is Brittney. I am The Foreigner. You can contact me at: lifeofanexpatparent (at) gmail (dot )com