Being the Good Mum: Everyone’s Got an Opinion

“After the break, you won’t want to miss this story.”  Here we go again.  Peter Mansbridge and his crew serving up another story that’s trending about the modern mom.

* Mums avoiding minute amounts of radiation in their child’s milk (See interview with parents walking out of upscale Urban Fare.  Is this a typical Vancouver parent?)

* Mums using harnesses for their toddlers (Cut to video of mum “walking” child in a harness on the grass.  Is this where she usually uses it?)

* Mums enrolling their children in expensive preschool programmes

* Mums and potential mums using fertility treatments (Did the parents really say that their child’s completion of this programme is a culmination of their dreams?)

* Mums react to the election banter about families. (The topics they roll out for every election and then promptly forget.)

The story rolls and somewhat worn-out generalizations are served up, packaged within a glossy presentation put together by an experienced journalist.   Canadians everywhere roll their eyes collectively.

These days it seems everyone’s got an opinion about mothers and what they should and shouldn’t be doing.  It’s a longstanding tradition, you might say.  Except that now in this era of social media and Reality TV, “news light” stories can be found when you turn on your TV, a talk show, or crank up the computer. Even if you avoid the journalist looking for a story, if you’re a mum of young children you’ve probably been given some of the following bits of advice by people you know and random strangers passing by.  The advice covers all manner of topics and aren’t necessarily the sexy topics featured on the evening news.  For every opinion, there’s an opposite point of view.  The push and pull continues, as it has done for generations.

So buckle up.  When it comes to advice, no stone is left unturned.

– She isn’t dressed warm enough. She needs another sweater.  She needs a jacket.  Her jacket isn’t buttoned up enough.  She needs a warmer jacket. She needs shoes and socks.

*  She is over dressed.  It’s spring.  She’ll be too warm. She doesn’t need another layer. That jacket is for winter.

–  She needs organically correct clothes that don’t have chemicals and dyes in them.

* Organic clothes?  That’s ridiculous.  Regular clothes are fine.

–  Here are the latest fashions on your favourite mom website for you to buy for your child.

* Who spends that much on clothes?

– Here are the latest green products for you to buy for your child.

* You did hear what I said about spending too much, didn’t you?

– She has a fever. She needs Tylenol.  You can get other drugs from the doctor as well.

* Don’t use Tylenol. They advise against it these days. Here’s a link to the latest news story.

– Don’t use children’s products that have been recalled.

* Are you serious?  Put the protective clip on your drop-side crib and get over the fact that children have died using them.

– You should be feeding your baby solids.

* Don’t feed your baby solids so early. They’ve changed the standards now. Ask your doctor.

–  You should give your toddler soft cooked peanuts to introduce nuts. It’s now thought that delaying nuts can make the problem worse.

* Don’t give nuts too early. It could cause an allergic reaction.

– Your baby will get cold.  Put a blanket on him.

* Babies shouldn’t sleep with blankets.  It can cause SIDS.

– Babies should sleep in sleeveless blankets sewn at the bottom instead of blankets.

– Don’t keep your baby in this blanket sleeper when they can start to crawl.

– Let your child dig in the dirt and be a child. It helps to ward off asthma.

* You don’t know what kind of chemicals are in the dirt these days. Don’t let your child put anything in her mouth.

– She’s not feeling well.  She needs homemade comfort food.

* You can’t be making homemade food for them all the time.  You don’t have the time.  Serve her store bought soup.

– Store bought soup isn’t healthy.

– Serve your children organic food.

* Organic food is too expensive and how do we know it’s organic?

– If your child isn’t feeling well get her in to see a doctor.

* Don’t waste the doctor’s time with small concerns.  The health care system is overburdened as it is.

– Get some extra cleaning help.  You have enough to do. You don’t have the time to be cleaning bathtubs and floors.

* You’re not working during the week. Surely you can find time to clean your house.

– Take a break during the day and do something for yourself.

* There she was, in the middle of the day, sitting on the couch watching Oprah.

– How old is your child? (She’s 2)    Oh she’s not much older than my two.  Does she come here often? (Her grandma usually brings her.  I work.)  Oh. I see.  (Do you work?)  I don’t work right now.

Conversation ends abruptly.

– She cries too much. She cries all the time.

* She cries because she isn’t speaking yet.  It’s where she is at developmentally.

– To help her speak sooner, keep your statements short using single words or two word phrases.

* Children need to be exposed to natural language patterns. These new suggestions are ridiculous.

– You pick her up too much.  She is clinging to you.

* Children need to feel the close bond of their parent in the early years.

– Co-sleep with you baby.

* You can roll over on your baby and smother her if you co-sleep.

– Breast feeding is better than formula.

* I couldn’t breast feed. It wasn’t working.

– Don’t give up. Seek help. (You gave up too soon.)

* I did seek help.

– I know where my baby is.  I won’t smother her.  Your baby – sleeping in her own room – doesn’t know where you are.

– Children are developing their emotional foundations at this age.  Don’t yell at them.

* You are too soft with her.  There is no discipline.  You need to be firmer.

– She needs to eat a variety of food – preferably homemade.

* Just serve her baby food. It’s not realistic to make food from scatch.

– The pioneers made food from scratch.

* That’s because they had to.

– She’s throwing her bowl/not eating.  Children her age don’t do that.

* She’s a toddler. This is what she does.

– Listen to Super Nanny.  Put her on the naughty cushion.

* Don’t follow Super Nanny.  Children shouldn’t be put on time outs – especially at this age.

– She needs to be socialized better and meet more children. This is why she isn’t talking very much.

* You can’t be running around all the time.  You don’t have the time and they need to have a simple schedule.

– She should be enrolled in classes for children where she can meet children and prepare for school.

* These classes are too expensive and are unnecessary.  She can learn things at home.

– She should be bathed every day.

* Toddlers don’t need to be bathed every day. It’s not good for their skin.

– She should be using cloth diapers. It’s better for the environment.

* Washing cloth diapers uses up more resources of energy and water, and creates more pollutants than disposable diapers.

–  Don’t let her cry. She’ll get hysterical.  Can’t you see she needs comforting.

* Let her cry. She’s become too much of a crier and needs to learn she can’t have her way all the time.  She’s learn to stop.

– She’s not a child in a Romanian orphanage sitting in a crib all day learning not to cry because no one will come.

– Make sure your home is safe for your child.  Do you have enough of devices x, y & z?

* Why do you need these things.? You’re being over protective.  Let her be.

– Make sure you keep her car seat back facing as long as possible – like they do in Europe.

* What? You haven’t turned her car seat around yet?

– Children shouldn’t watch TV at a young age.

* That’s ridiculous. There’s no harm in letting children watching cartoons.

– Don’t make the mistakes of previous generations of parents.  You don’t want to be a helicopter parent do you?

* Just ignore these debates.  They’re rubbish. Nobody admits to being a helicopter parent.  Can you find a parent of a Generation Y or Gen Next who will admit to such a transgression?

– You need to sign your child up early for a good pre-school.

* Why rush?  That’s silly.  There are  lots of good pre-schools.

– Choose a pre-school that prepares the child for Kindergarten.

* At a young age children should not be pressed into academics.  They need time to play and be children.

– Make sure you pick a school with a high quality programme – preferably Montessori.

* All pre-schools are the same and these Montessori programmes are  too expensive.

– Take care to offer your child the right balance of care and opportunities.

* You spend all of your waking time on your child/children.  You don’t spend enough time on yourself/your spouse.

– Cook healthy food for your family

* Buy premade food. Make it easier on yourself.  You don’t have time and it’s just as healthy.

– Offer your child the same food 12 times if necessary, until she likes it. You don’t want her to develop food issues.

* Insist that she try just a little. Otherwise she’ll never want to try it and you can’t be making food and wasting it.

– Your child picks at her food and doesn’t eat enough. She’s too thin.

* She eats well during the course of the whole week.  Her weight is fine.

– Your child isn’t speaking enough for her age. She needs medical intervention.

* Some children speak quite late. There isn’t an issue.

– Take advantage of the medical support/services provided by the healthcare system.

* Doctors will have you running around stressing out way too much.  Avoid all of this nonsense. Your child will be fine.

– Your child isn’t well?  It’s nothing.   Mum’s worry too much.

*  It’s good that you brought your child in. This is a serious situation – potentially life threatening.

– The modern mum should take care of herself.  She should get some childcare help and go to the gym regularly for yoga classes

* Childcare? What childcare? I don’t have relatives nearby and offers to help from friends are to be used for special occassions.  Not multiple times a week.

– Get your husband to help.

* My husband?  He’s been up since 6 and traveled three hours on transit.  He needs a rest.

* Husband?  What husband?

– The modern mum needs to take care of her appearance for herself, never mind anyone else.  The modern mum can be sexy.   Heck – it’s a crude saying from younger men  – but some are even referred to as MILF.

* Are you serious?  It’s hard enough to get my children dressed and get the morning routine going, then get into clothes and showered myself. Did I mention I was up late cleaning and I’m tired?  Now you want me to go for regular hair cuts, tart up with makeup and shop for the latest clothes?  Did I mention we have one household car, limited funds and other priorities for our shopping time?

– You don’t have time to work part-time or full-time.  You have young children who need high quality care. Your children are only young once.

* Did you hear about Susie?  She has three children and is a Director at her firm.  She uses daycare/has a nanny.  They’re financially secure and her career is going gang busters.  Have you seen the fabulous house they just bought on the west-side?

– Mums need to let other people know what about the contributions that they make to their family and the community. When friends/family get together a mum should clearly state information about her challenges/achievements as a mum.

* Why does she keep overstating her contributions?  Is she the only woman who’s a mum/busy/working hard?  I’m a hard working single woman.  Who cares about my story?

– A mother and wife should not neglect her husband.  This can lead to problems.  You know what I’m talking about here.

* Every couple has these challenges of finding the time and energy to fit it all in. I’m doing my best. I was up at 6. It’s 11 and I’m still cleaning.

– Just let things slide with the housework. It’s all about priorities.

* Have you seen how messy their house is. What is she doing all day? She doesn’t go to work.

– Don’t listen to other people’s advice and critiques.  Do your own thing.

* You act like people have never parented before and don’t have any experiences worth sharing.  You’re not the first person to ever have a child.

– Have you tried X? Why don’t you do Y?  When my children were young I always did Z even though I was a super busy working [and uber, super] mom.

* You’re a good mum.  Keep up the good work!

If you’re struggling with these issues and wonder where the right path lies, here’s author Alyson Schafer’s take on the 8 myths she discovered about motherhood.

  • Myth: My Children are a Reflection of Me
  • Myth: Self-Care is Selfish
  • Myth: My Marriage Can Wait
  • Myth: Good Mother’s Are All-Caring and All -Protecting
  • Myth: Good Mother’s are in Control
  • Myth: Good Mother’s Manage Sibling Conflict
  • Myth: Only the Best Education for My Child
  • Myth: Good Mothers Make Life Fun and Entertaining

What would you add to this list of critiques about approaches to motherhood?

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