In the grand scheme of things, motherhood is in a pretty good place these days (like, maybe, Blair Drummond Safari Park if you were a kid).
On the one, grubby, non-toxic, paint-covered hand, we’ve made a huge leap forward from generations past of parenting being a mothers-only game, while at the same time having thrown off the 80s power suit of the working mum as the only way motherhood was a career.
Being a maw is cool.
Ne Naw Ne Naw the sound of the parenting police...
It’s sassy, it has bite. It says I might be a stay at home mum, my partner might do all the childcare. I might breastfeed, I might bottle-fed, I might work two jobs, I might let my kids eat fish fingers for tea - but, do you know what, whatever, I am one good mutha.
However, in amongst this maternal rebellion something a wee bit weird has happened.
Rather than opening us up to an ‘anything goes’ (apart from don’t you dare draw on the walls) kind of mentality, becoming and being a parent has been fetishised. Perhaps because it seems so darn cool. And this fetishisation of parenthood means everyone feels they have a vested interest - that they’re going to tell you about - in raising your child.
There has always been your local over-the- garden fence variety of parenting police, those that whisper conspicuously or tut loudly about how a mum or dad is parenting their kid. That’s not new. What is different, perhaps, is that it has become increasingly legitimised and legalised.
Take pregnancy as a good starting point for any parenting conversation (well duh…!).
These days there is a constant stream of advice for pregnant women that is almost always justified with some reference to (often not robust) medical research.
Case in point is the official guidelines about alcohol in pregnancy.
Women are categorically told not to drink at all when with child and yet low levels of drinking alcohol haven’t been shown to cause harm. Rather than arming us with the information and wherewithal (‘ha, must be their baby brain!’) to assess risk and make a judgement ourselves, we are treated as irresponsibly as children.
Of course, most folk wielding parenting police badges will say they’re just thinking of the poor, defenceless, little children, which might make sense if so much of their time and effort wasn’t focused on shaming parents.
It’s almost like the real police just sat around gabbing over a cuppa about how awful crime has become.
Clearly, a line has to be drawn (but just NOT ON THE WALLS!) between opinions and real danger.
Even experts are beginning to agree - which should appeal to the PP - last week a number of parenting and medical groups got together to say official advice on drinking in pregnancy is too prescriptive and causes unnecessary worry for women.
Parenthood is already fraught with anxiety; all most mums and dads want for their kids is for them to be happy, healthy and safe. By being bombarded daily with frightening information on the risks of our parenting decisions it’s a wonder we ever get any parenting done at all.
We want to teach our children kindness, understanding and acceptance so let’s start there too when discussing parenting.
Parenthood is evolving and so should our policing of it.