I have just unfollowed a bunch of parenting blogs, because they were pious and preachy. In an era where 60% of UK mothers work, it bothers me when bored stay-at-home housewives take to the blogging platforms to wax lyrical about their godlike children and idyllic lives as “full-time mums”. Full-time mothers. Such an oxymoron. I study full-time, and I work part-time, and I’m a full-time mum. I’m not a part-time mother just because I do other things.
Women are under immense pressure to keep up with the demands of having a family whether they work or not, so I’m not saying that stay-at-home mothers have it easy. I personally found the housebound stage of having a child to be boring, monotonous and lonely. That’s why I cringe a little when I read articles by women who seem to think that contrary to all evidence, they are “doing a better job” than those who work, study, use childcare or choose not to define themselves solely as a mother by pursuing their own interests and ambitions alongside raising their children.
Working before your children reach school age is not a moral issue. It’s a choice you make based on your income, availability, boredom threshold and drive to achieve the dreams you dreamt before your parenting dream came true. I feel exactly the same way about breast feeding. If you have the time and the inclination to do it, then that’s great. If not, there are alternatives that won’t be detrimental to your child in any way, and nothing is more beneficial to a baby than a calm, happy mother.
Obviously, I’m not going to provide links to the worst offenders, but I have seen posts on Tumblr and Blogspot where the agenda-pushing has been tantamount to Parenting Nazism. It seems that the three things you need to become a parenting expert are a child, a desktop PC and a Mumsnet account. Even worse than the insensitive lambasting of women who work/don’t breastfeed/don’t believe their children are the Second Coming, are the comments below the posts themselves. The vitriol that spews forth from these cackling fishwives is shameful, and proof, if proof were needed, that the life of a stay-at-home mum is boring, monotonous and lonely.
So, as I have a child, a laptop and a blog, I feel more than qualified to compose my own list of “Parenting Suggestions”. Feel free to disagree with me, but this is just how I am doing it.
Rule #1 aka The Golden Rule:
All children want is to feel safe and secure, and to have stuff to do. It’s very simple. From toddlerhood right up until the late teens, nothing makes a child act up more than boredom. The urge to learn, explore and create is inate, so a stimulated child is a happy one. There’s no need to spend a lot of money or create elaborate games for toddlers and there’s no room for snobbery when it comes to keeping them entertained. My daughter is never happier than when she’s got a pile of blank paper and a pot of brightly coloured crayons. Of course, colouring in and drawing has helped to tune her fine motor skills, but that’s not what it’s about: it’s about keeping her busy and stimulated, and clapping my hands when she presents me with her mad scribblings.
Young children are born helpers. Not only do little tasks keep them busy (see above), but making them do their bit ensures they learn negotiation skills and gives them a sense of pride and achievement. From the moment she could walk, my daughter has helped load the washing machine and tidy her toys away. Of course, sometimes she’s not interested and that’s fine, but 9 times out of 10, she relishes being the one that gets to put the last book on the bookshelf or, even better, press the start button on the tumble dryer.
Let your child watch television. I’m going to say something controversial here. The television is a great babysitter. Of course, I’m not talking about shackling them to the idiot box to the point of neglect, but children’s TV, in small doses, is absolutely invaluable. I’m sure I owe a lot of my daughter’s huge vocabulary to carefully selected educational television programmes. Admittedly, I’d need a strait-jacket if I wanted Violet to sit still through a whole episode of one of her favourite shows, but I know that if Show Me Show Me comes on, I have half an hour where she’ll keep one eye on the television and I can do the dishes, or clean the bathroom. While I was keeping her safe from the chemicals in bathroom cleaner, she was being kept company by friendly characters and learning to count to ten at the age of 19 months.
Give your child into trouble. They won’t hate you. You don’t even have to feel guilty, although you probably will. When my daughter does something bad (hang on, am I allowed to use that word? Mumsnet says I’ll give her a complex!), I come down to her eye-level, hold her hands, and tell her in a firm voice that what she did was naughty and why. For example: “You DON’T throw Mummy’s phone. That’s naughty. You will break it.” Of course, I get the big bottom lip, and she throws her arms around me, but the long-term upshot of the momentary guilt is that I have a child who I can take virtually anywhere and know she’ll behave as well as a 21-month-old toddler can. Respect and boundaries are so important, more important than any fear you might have of turning them against you. As long as you let them know they are safe and loved, the chances of them rejecting you are slim. If you let them please themselves 100% of the time, the chances of them growing up a brat are high.
“Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”
You don’t own your children. You are merely a custodian. Everyone has hopes and aspirations for their children, but it’s so important to remember that you are guiding them for a fraction of their lives. Obviously, I want Violet to have opportunities I never had, but I can’t impose my agenda or expectations on her. I can only steer her in the right direction, and accept that she will make her own decisions. She is her own person, and not an extension of me.
Make up silly songs and do funny dances.
Born this way,