A couple of days ago, I was scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed, when I came across this article on Kidspot. Titled, “Why I hate eating dinner with my kids”, it seemed so mundane to me, and if it didn’t have over 100 lengthy comments from ‘concerned readers’ below it, I probably would have kept scrolling.
The article was pretty much as I expected. Woman spends heaps of time with her kids during the day, woman feeds kids dinner early so she can eat dinner with her husband, kids go to bed on time. No offence to the author, but in my mind it was pretty much a non-event. My first thought was who even cares? And then, I read the comments.
“I sometimes wonder why you have children if you have raised them to a point where not even the parents can stand to best[sic] with them…….”
“Wow! What a selfish women[sic]. You might have kids but I wouldn’t call you a mother.”
“Why have kids if you’re just so hung up on “me time”???!?????”
“So so SAD. Why have kids?”
This is a just a selection of the incredibly harsh, judgmental, holier than thou, comments on this post. To my immense surprise, it appears that random strangers are not only concerned about, but are actively and cruelly judging, other women for the way they choose to approach dinnertime. Now, I am far from perfect. However, I can honestly say that I have never, in my life, given that much of a crap about when and how someone else slaps a plate of spag bol in front of their small people. Not once.
Let me be clear. The only thing this woman did was feed her children at a different time to herself. She didn’t chain them to anything or beat them. She did not admit that she locks them in their rooms all afternoon. She didn’t say she starved them, or fed them only stale bread crust and water. She isn’t selling them to sexual predators online. She just doesn’t eat dinner with them.
I totally get where she is coming from. I really do. Because, sometimes, my kids can be arseholes, and I am not afraid to admit it. Sometimes, I can think of nothing I want to do less than spending time with my precious trio of little darlings. After a long day of crazy, I am the woman who is literally counting down the minutes until I can convince my kids to go to bed. On more than one occasion, my husband has turned the clock forward in the living room, in a desperate attempt to convince our small people that it’s time to go to sleep (unfortunately, this stops working the minute your eldest child learns to tell the time on her own watch).
If ensuring that her kids are fed early, and strictly adhering to a 7:30 “toys down” rule is what keeps this woman squarely in the middle of the sanity square in this hectic reality version of “Game of Life”, then I say more power to her. Personally, I rather like eating dinner as a family – perhaps because it’s not something I often get to do, as a shift working mum, who works mainly nights. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have other parenting hacks, that keep my own sanity somewhat in check.
My kids all know that they will not be partaking in activities that fall between the hours of 9am and 10:30am on a Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday: they will be in the creche while mummy goes to the gym. Sometimes, I barely workout at all- a lazy 5km run on the treadie, followed by a vigorous session of checking Facebook, and reading news articles, while I sit comfortably in a couch in the foyer. It’s my sanity saver, and I don’t plan to change it for anyone. Regardless of what they think of my parenting. I also endeavour to plan play dates at really fun play centres, instead of at home – quite frankly, they are less likely to tell me they are bored when there is a plethora of slides and shiny things to keep them amused.
I love my kids. I really, really love them. So much, that I have had to restrain myself from rage, when other children pick on them. So much, that even though I know intellectually that they are not the brightest, most amazing things on the planet, sometimes emotionally I am pretty sure they are the cleverest beings ever created. However, I’m human, and they too are tiny humans, and humans occasionally have a tendency to be arseholes.
I know they don’t mean to, by the way. I don’t always mean to, either. Sometimes, being an arsehole is as unintentional as the act of breathing. And admitting that they are arseholes occasionally doesn’t mean that I love them any less. If anything, when they are at their worst, I love them more. More, because despite bad moods, tantrums, lies, or entire cartons of eggs smashed to smithereens on the kitchen floor, my lap is still available for sitting in, and my arms still available to give hugs.
And, while I’m certain that most parents get as frustrated with their kids as I do, it’s not always something parents (mums especially) seem comfortable admitting. And I get that ‘arsehole’ may not be the word that every mother would use to describe their kids at their worst, but it’s as good a word as any, and I’m OK with it.
What I’m not OK with, is sanctimonious parents commenting on honest posts, with things like “I wouldn’t call you a mother”. I’m not OK with hiding behind a tiny profile picture, and ripping other parents to shreds, for things that are completely insignificant, which do not effect the lives of any other person in any negative way. I mean, come on, people! Eating dinner separately to your kids isn’t child abuse. It’s a freaking life hack.
I would prefer to know people that admit that their kids piss them off sometimes. In a world of bogus social media posts, where every picture is filtered and every status is edited, letting it all hang out is often underrated. And, every time I see a perfect picture of a perfect person, with their perfect little #happymummy #perfectlittleangels #perfectlife bullshit, I vomit in my mouth a little. Because it’s not perfect. And I don’t believe you if you say it is. I am yet to meet one person, who, while up to the elbows in shit, covered in wee, and tripping over endless squeaky, slippery, sharp-edged little play things, can honestly say that it’s always fun, all the time.
If you are a mum who feeds her kids early , and has them in bed by 7:30, so you can drink wine, and shower without a captive and curious audience, more power to you! If the concept of dealing with your treasures alone all day has you racing to the nearest gym for a Zumba class and some adult conversation, preach it, sister! There is nothing wrong with needing a break, be it once in a while, or at regular intervals. I certainly need them. And I’m sure the mummy crucifiers who love to post their judgments on social media do, too.
If you are a mum who likes to pretend that you have never ever been anything but a perfect, attentive parent, I have a challenge for you: be real. Let it all hang out once in a while. Stop vilifying women on public forums and on social media. I hate to get all biblical, but there is a parable in the Bible about a public stoning, where the big man himself challenges the crowd: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Regardless of any person’s opinion about religion, as far as life advice goes, this is pretty solid.
I worry that, by vilifying women for opening up about the little things, we are setting women up to be too afraid to open up when it comes to the big things. I know that if I were a mum who was struggling with the big things, like serious mental health issues, or domestic violence, I might find myself discouraged about reaching out if I read some of the snarky, nasty comments left by armchair warriors on social media.
So please, disagree if you want. Go for gold. I am more than happy to put myself out there if I disagree with someone’s viewpoint. But denigrating and abusing women for opening up about their lives is not helping anyone, and I doubt it ever really will.