When Parents Go Wild

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.

You feed me broccoli because you think it's in my best interest?! I find that hard to believe.

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


27 thoughts on “When Parents Go Wild

  1. Expat Mammy

    I completely agree, with you, we are so quick to attack each other as women and parents. There is a group on FB which completely attacks parents for not breast feeding, immunising their children and not eating organic blah blah.
    The person who runs this particular group is in another group Im in, I left in the end cos I got tired of reading that I had fed my wee man arsenic & pesticides cos he had formula. What they didn’t know is that I’m only starting to live with the guilt of physically not being able to BF.

    Like you say as long as what you beleive is the best for you and your wee family then you can’t go wrong, personally i don’t like Ms Ford but I’m not about to attack someone for using her methods. Isn’t being different what makes us all unique??

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Certainly. And I’ve had friends who have had the same struggle as you. They beat themselves up BIG TIME simply because they couldn’t breastfeed, but were made to feel that they should have. It’s totally ridiculous. We are human. Let’s treat each other that way!

  2. suzanne whitton

    I totally agree with you. People are so quick to judge and not consider. We should really leave people to their own devices and get on with our own. Every child is unique and therefore every parent must me.

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Amen. But isn’t it funny that because we believe in what we are doing with our child so strongly, we drift into judging without completely realizing it. Or I do anyway. I need to practice kindness a bit more, I think.

  3. christy

    So basically people are all jerks? 😛

    Well done for your article. No where near parenthood yet and the controversies it can raise looks scary. Politics in America already makes me glad I don’t live there most of the time and afraid to talk to my relatives about who I will likely vote for…

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Ha. No, not at all. I think people have opinions. That’s fine with me. But I think quite often they throw their opinions around in a way that is insensitive or critical towards others (sometimes without even realizing it). You know that I’m all about having convictions and a strong voice, but it’s about *how* you talk about it.

  4. Singlemarriedmum

    I am absolutely with you. I read through the reams of posts about what people thought of Gina Ford’s new book – some of them were personal, verging on cruel. How can it ever be right to make someone feel bad/guilty because they choose to bring up their children a different way from you? There is no right or wrong way as far as I’m concerned. I have my own views about what I feel works best for me and the kids, but I would never chastise another mum who didn’t do it my way. Heavens alive, it’s hard enough bringing up a family without being told you’re doing it wrong! Like you I’m happy if someone tells me why they do/don’t get Gina Ford/private school/breastfeeding etc – but judging me or telling me I’m a bad parent if my views differ from theirs is crossing the line.

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Thanks. That is exactly what I’m saying. I’d love to hear why people do something or choose not to do something that I do. Just don’t tear me down (directly or indirectly) in the process. We are all doing our best!

  5. MsXpat

    I’m a firm believe in to each his own, and we all got to do what’s best for our family and our life styles. I agree with you as long as you are doing your best and thinking of your child’s needs and best interest I feel you can’t go too wrong. None of us are perfect.

    Good luck to any mother who can jump back into the horizontal mambo after six weeks! I’m afraid it took much longer than than for me, I was so afraid, the trauma of having stitches the memory of child birth was was still fresh in my mind, however I found my own way to make hubby know that I love him. He was patient and in time that aspect of our lives went back to ‘normal’. strongly believe in being open and honest about your feelings with you loved ones and most times you will get the support you need from them.

  6. antitrixtergirl

    The more I read of this blog the more I love it. As a new mother with post natal depression I felt overwhelmed by the seemingly ‘perfect parents’ whose babies slept through the night, fed with no issues and gurgled with delight all day. As my baby did none of those things, I was fed a constant stream of advice, some of it in the spirit of what you’re saying here, ‘try it, it works for me’, but I’m sorry to say that the majority of it came with such a competitive spirit that I left such conversations in an even more depressed and debilitated state. 3 years and a second child on I’ve learned to go with what works for us as a family. My second baby was totally different to the first and so we had to learn a whole other way of doing life. I run a Toddler group and my marvellous team are really good at encouraging mums to do what’s best for their family and we always try to foster an atmosphere that is relaxed and flexible rather than competitive or bitchy. It’s tough enough being a parent without feeling like you’re a failure if you don’t do things in a particular way.

  7. Debra Ceka

    What a brilliant post! I totally agree with everything you have said. I’m a believer in each to their own, I often don’t agree with other parents decisions and parenting styles but I keep my mouth shut! As long as they’re not harming their children (which they’re not!) then they are doing what they think is best. We are all muddling along trying to get it right and it’s all trial and error (especially with your first baby) so you hopefully go with your gut instinct. x

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Yup. Ya do what ya gotta do! Maybe that’s the issue. We just get that niggle to be the one with the best information or insight, when we just need to learn to hold our tongues, unless someone invites us to respond.

  8. Anne

    Amen Britters! Even though I am not a mom myself, the one thing I know is that every parent gets to make their own decisions on raising children and whatever they choose to do is right. Nobody else needs to give the parents their two cents on the issue. Help me remember that if I ever do become a parent, k?

  9. Expat Mum

    Excellent post. I must just say one thing about the private school blog post though. I read it, and originally what the author was trying to say was that it’s not an automatic assumption that private school is always the best option. If your local state school is good, you might be wasting your money with private school. I argued her point by saying that I don’t have the option of a state school where I am unless I want them to experience gang rapes in the stairwells and police escorts at dismissal. I took exception to the woman who called all private school kids spoilt and bratty and I told her so in no uncertain terms. A shame that every debate about parenting deteriorates into a slanging match.
    This morning I read a nice post about attached parenting (something I’ve never had any interest in doing myself). At the time, there was only one other comment, and it was very supportive. I left a comment a bit like your post, saying each to his/her own, but I have a feeling that the proverbial poo will hit the fan as soon as someone steps out of line and actually outright disagrees.
    And yes, you’re right – it is a total nightmare over here. No one is listening to anyone else; they’re too busy lining up the next salvo.

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      If I follow you, I thought the response to anti-private school post was presented well. What I suppose bothered me was that it was a really good response, until she speculated that she could be insecure. Maybe the lady who is anti-private schools is insecure, but if you follow that argument then I think you land on the idea that she is making her decisions from that place rather than from a place that is centered on the best choice for her children. That doesn’t justify her saying things the way she did though.

      You’re right about the slanging matches. Why we decide what we decide usually comes from a place of passion (whether we realize it or not) and when someone challenges that I think our natural inclination is to attack. Just your basic animal instinct coming out, I suppose.

      Thanks for commenting!

  10. Deborah

    My first and most important comment is that I love that picture of the Duchess! (And I wish I could get my kids to eat broccoli!) I was not famaliar with Gina Ford so I read the link you posted, and then googled her a bit. I find it very interesting that she does not have children…
    I myself am kind of a wing it, take suggestions I like, and disregard suggestions I don’t like. I confess I’ve never read any parenting book in its entirety and the ones I’ve read in part I could count on one hand, Bringing up Boys (I liked but didn’t finish b/c D & I were trying to read together), a couple of books on potty training, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the First Year, and finally the best book I have read but not quite finished yet (although I will), is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. GREAT GREAT book, the only part I haven’t finished deals with ages that my kids are not even close to, so I didn’t see the need right now.
    I agree with you that we parents can overly critical of other parents (whether it be spoken to each other’s faces, silently thought in our minds or complaining to our spouse at dinner about what this other silly mother did!) In general I try to stay away from the ones that are critical out loud to my face or even overly opinionated and I try not to be one of those mothers. Its true what you said being a parent is hard enough without having to deal with the all knowing mommy bullies. Now to work on myself and those unspoken critical thoughts about myself or others….

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      And I definitely need to work on the same. I think I’d be foolish to assume I couldn’t learn something from anyone who does things drastically different than me. I don’t have to do or agree with what they do if it’s not for us, but I can at least listen. I think it may just start there.

  11. Crystal Jigsaw

    I’m actually stopping reading posts now that are too judgmental of other parents and their methods. I’m sick of reading opinions written by parents who think they have all the answers and are always right when there is someone round the corner struggling and needing a little support. As adults, we should be there for each other, not slamming each other down for what we think is the wrong decision. I’ve been judged often for the way I’ve dealt with my autistic daughter but over the years I’ve learned to ignore those judgments and walk away. It’s a sign of ignorance and insecurity. I didn’t like the article by Gina Ford one little bit but I wasn’t prepared to jump on the band wagon and start judging people for agreeing with her. We’re all different and we all adapt different parenting methods, whatever works for us as a family.

    CJ x

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      I’m sure that must have been a challenge for you. I’ll admit that I have read her Contented Baby book and have used her advice about feeding a newly born baby every 2 hours to try to help your milk supply. I also used her bedtime routine to try to put one in place early. I didn’t use all of her advice by ANY stretch and I wouldn’t tell someone they had to listen to any of her advice, but as you say, I wouldn’t berate any parent for feeling that her routines are what will work for them.

  12. vegemitevix

    I can’t help feeling I’ve seen this many times before, as my kids are now 18, 16, 12. I’ve seen the debates about whether you should breastfeed until they’re walking down the aisle, and whether baby food in a can is akin to cyanide, or whether you should co-sleep, wear your baby, smack your toddler, or stay married for the sake of the children! Funny thing I’ve noticed, is that everyone tries their very best, and it may or may not work out the way you think. I’ve seen breast fed babies develop severe allergies, and kids of divorced parents turn out more settled and self-confident than those whose parents stayed together. I’ve seen kids who thrived at private school, and kids who thrived at state school, and kids who thrived being homeschooled. In the end it all comes back to what your family style is, and that is a very personal thing – a direct reflection of your values, belief, religion and own upbringing. The hardest thing of all is standing there with your newborn having no idea which book is the right manual for your child! In the end you need to trust yourself, the relationship you are building with your child, and the overarching love that binds you all together.

  13. Amber Khan

    Very well written indeed. A topic very close to my heart as i’ve just finished writing a book about it (out later 2012). Mothers know guilt. It is like a plague which nibbles at you from inside out. Guilty about not breastfeeding (as discussed), guilty about not spending enough time with the kids, guilty about even thinking of herself (worried that you might be seen as a selfish mum) & the list goes & on (like you said). A mother’s journey need not be a guilt trip. Feeling mummy guilt can make you feel ill, stressed & exhausted. What good a mother would be then to her family? As i always say, a healthy mum makes a happy mum & a happy mum makes a guilt-free mum. To the expat mum & all the guilty mums, let’s wave mummy guilt good-bye for the better future of our families 🙂

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Glad that you stopped by. I certainly struggle with the guilt thing like any Mum (especially when she falls!). It’s tough. We are hard enough on ourselves – we don’t need others doing it for us, do we?! Best wishes with your new book.


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