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All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Well aren't you the perfect parent!!

This it seems is the internet's answer to any discussion that cannot be answered with logic - and it's popularity ever increasing.  But is there a darker side?

Here's how it goes (these are real comments from various places on the web):

"I don't agree with Cry It Out methods, I've seen evidence suggesting it can be harmful and prefer more gentle techniques".

"Well aren't you just the perfect parent!!!!"

"I think smacking children is just wrong, how can "no hitting", followed by a hit teach anything?

"It's great you are such a perfect parent and  don't ever lose your temper and smack"

"I try to be responsive to my child - babywear, breastfeed, co-sleep"

"Groan - another one from the perfect parenting brigade."

In none of the above statements is anyone implying or stating they are the perfect- they are sharing their opinion/experiences on a topic; but it seems the "perfect parent" card is one to be played when there is no logical response, or when emotional response trumps the rational brain.

Just like the marketing behind formula, pushing things we didn't do but know to be better as "perfect", allow  other options to sit as "ok".  The alternative is surely admitting we didn't make the best choice or worse considering something may (however inadvertently) potentially caused harm - for many the former is far easier.

The emotional response may not even be logic based - it could be it simply evokes a feeling of inadequacy, guilt or perceived failure.

But does this have deeper, darker roots?

In Jan 2011, A Mumsnet survey revealed that most parents feel unduly pressured to comply with the ‘model of perfect parenting’ as a result of reading Mumsnet:
‘Modern parents face an increasing number of stress-inducing activities on Mumsnet,’ explained Mumsnet spokesman Susan Thurrock. ‘These include reading about only using organic ingredients, browsing articles about the correct classical music for your child to fall asleep to, or contributing to forums about how to park far enough away from school to make it look like you’ve walked. While good Mumsnet users will be able to achieve all this and more without breaking sweat, the bad parents will struggle.’
I thought the last bit a rather odd statement, but on the whole I'm not sure it's that it's Mumsnet per se, but more that the internet generally provides parents with information they never had access to before.  Pre WWW generation you may buy a book or chat to friends - but mothers didn't often access research studies and discuss outcomes, if the health visitor, midwife or nurse said it - it was assumed true.  The thing about being a parent is the more that the more we know, the worse we can feel if we think we missed the mark, OR if there is suggestion we have.  Even if we do a hundred other things that are fantastic, the however many things we don't do can weigh heavier - even more so if someone didn't have or felt they had no choice in something they did, perhaps due to a lack of support with alternatives.

"Desperation decisions" as I call them, typically envoke the strongest feelings later compared to "informed decisions" - and when people feel vulnerable it makes for tension and our old friend "guilt".

Child development expert and author of Self-esteem for Girls: 100 Tips for Raising Happy and Confident Children Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer agrees.
‘The wider context is the huge pressure on parents to be perfect,’ she says. ‘Mothers who have been successful in their previous lives want to be successful in child-rearing too. They decide what camp they belong to – be it Gina Ford or the Baby Whisperer, the stay-at-home camp or the working mums – and gather on the dividing lines. If you feel insecure and vulnerable, you present a greater degree of certainty to hide it. You have to be right, and show no cracks. From the outside, it can seem a lot like bullying.’
The media, marketing companies and generally those out to make a buck (or sell one ;)) leap on this, just like the formula companies do - and from "Perfect Parenting" stems "Mummy Wars".  Dividing parents makes consumers less powerful and vendors more so - if everyone could discuss, chat and share ideas openly, imagine the potential impact on a brand or product should the masses get a whiff of something amiss, or discussion and support about better alternatives?

PHD in parenting writes brilliantly on the topic here, well worth a read.  It says:
"The perfect parent is a myth. That person does not exist. We all make choices as parents, some free choices and some forced choices. Sometimes we are able to do what is best for our children and sometimes we are not"
Aint that the truth. We have parents anxious they are not making the grade of "perfect", yet just like an airbrushed magazine cover - it's chasing the impossible, a fantasy, it doesn't exist.  We have parents calling each other "perfect" as an insult, apparently involved in some mummy war!  Does that mean we should all stop trying to do our best, educating ourselves, learning and changing the way we do things if we decide that's a better option, stop actively seeking help if we need it?  Absolutely not.  But we do need to realise nobody gets it right all the time, and you know, that's what makes us human.

7 comments:

  1. In the middle of a mild debate on a friend's facebook wall discussing the benefits of rear facing car seats, I was called, as an insult, an 'internet mom' for suggesting that babies being safer rear-facing was a fact, rather than an opinon. My reply? Why yes, this is the internet, and I am a mom. What are you?

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  2. Lorien_i: True, there are opinions and there are facts... some things are opinions like "I think children should be in bed by 8pm" and then there are facts... like "Rear facing is 500% safer than forward facing"

    I don't understand why people ignore facts like that just because they don't like them... but I think that's a different debate. haha

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  3. Oh, I'm on a forum where ANY mention of how you, i.e. pack toys, snacks etc instead of say, drugging your kids with cough medicine to make them sleep on a long journey, or breastfeed, or cosleep, or stay at home gets really mean comments about how we can't all be perfect parents, or how lucky the world is to have such perfect parents. They get REALLY mean about it too. I personally think it's a cop out so people think they don't have to feel guilt about their decisions.

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  4. I think the guilt thing really depends on the reasons behind the decision and whether or not it was truly informed. If the parent is fully informed that X may be detrimental to their child but Y is too much effort or expensive or just plain better for the parent and so they choose Y this is when they get the attitude and defensiveness. For example "I know rear facing seats are safer but they are soo expensive. We really need a new kitchen!" (Obvs if you don't have the money its not the same decision!) Its about where your needs fit in with your childrens. I've heard "I'm not going to BF it was bad enough not drinking for 9 months" For me that is not acceptable...my needs can wait...clearly I'm a perfect parent!!! ;-)

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  5. I think perfect is in the intention. Things don't always end up right. Things don't always work out for the best. Things sometimes just turn out plain horrible! But, at the heart of a "perfect" parent, we love our kids and want the best for them, even if we can't always give it.

    Jenna
    momofmanyhats.blogspot.com

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  6. Perfection is culturally bias and in western society giving our children enough attention trumps most Mumsnet ideas on how to be perfect.

    Parents are usually perfect to their children anyway, in their own ways. It doesn't matter how far you park the car from the school: if you're taking your child to school in the first place doesn't that make you a 'good' parent already?

    POSITIVE parenting. Not 'perfect': it's too heavy a word, and comes with strings attached.
    Zion
    www.mammasforvictory.blogspot.com

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  7. perfect parent is parent without a guilt. :)

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