Collective Self-Congratulatory Crap

It comes as no surprise to those that know me that I am not a fan of Mother’s Day. I’m not generally a fan of commercialised general days (Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day come under my ‘kill switch’ too). However, this year I felt myself more cross than usual and simply ignoring it by myself doesn’t seem quite enough. So I’ll blog about it too, because, you know, that’ll do it.

Here’s a snapshot of some Mother’s Day present suggestions that have been witnessed by me this year:

Ikea: an ironing board.

Local magazine article making suggestions to kids: Do the washing up for her for a day.

A Telegraph article that’s frankly so full of crap it’s hard to know which line to pick out – spa products for the stressed mum who’s looking tired and dishevelled, cookery books, handbags, sportswear, or flowers for the mum who has everything. Apparently it’s our duty to put her first for 24 hours because we’re so crap at it the rest of the year – I paraphrase, but you get the gist.

Taking her out to brunch / lunch / dinner – to save her the washing up.

A spa day.

A spa day.

A spa day. [Repeat to fade]

It is disheartening to find that in 2014, we are falling over ourselves to suggest that we should be giving a woman 1 day off the housework, or cooking, and that the only thing that might genuinely interest her on her 1 day off doing the housework is her appearance.

Here are some suggestions for Father’s Day gifts / events from last year:

Den building in various National Trust locations.

Power tools.

Golf days, football days, drive a fast car days, sports stadium tours.

Gadgets.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but perhaps it would make more sense to buy *him* the sodding ironing board if he’s not managed to find it in the last 364 days? Seems high time he might need one.

The gender stereotypes of these two parenting days are not just irritating, they don’t happen in a vacuum, they are reinforcing every aspiration-limiting message we give to our children. I don’t want to teach my children that mums do the cleaning and dads drive fast cars, put up shelves and kick a football. I don’t want to teach my children that mums are allowed 1 day off the tedious housework, while dads are allowed 365 days a year of fun. These are damaging messages to give to adults. They are damaging messages to give to our children.

This is collective, self-congratulatory, self-delusional crap (I was going to say nonsense, but it needs a much, much stronger word than that), on a national scale, and I see no reason to celebrate it.

 

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In The Life Of The Child, Nothing Has Changed

I have learned something about parenting. Specifically my parenting. I make no claims to have learned anything about your parenting, that would take me into the realm of parenting self help books and that’s not really my thing. It turns out that the thing I thought would be the hardest, was not the hardest.

I thought that the excruciating lack of sleep and the torturous interrupted nights would be the hardest. They were (mostly were, sometimes still happening) pretty darn hard.

I thought that not being able to be spontaneous anymore would be really tough. It is, but not really anywhere as much as I feared. My mum told me that was coming, so it didn’t take me by surprise.

No, it turns out that being consistent is the hardest thing.

I am good at sticking to it if I’ve said no.

I am pretty good at getting food on their plates at roughly the same time every day.

I have fairly simple rules that they mostly know and that’s all fine.

But on any given day, there are incidences and actions from my kids (especially the 4.5yo) that fall outside these simple rules. Things she does that she just don’t know about yet; like putting lipgloss on a teddy bear to prepare it for a photo (how would she know that lipgloss doesn’t wash off, or is only for humans??), or cutting holes in table cloths because… actually I have no idea why, or tying scarves round the bed frame, or…. the list could be quite long really.

Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I tell her off. Sometimes I try to explain why something is terrifying to a grown up. Sometimes I think she doesn’t have any idea whether her trying out something new is going to make me shout at her or laugh out loud. Sometimes something that would make me laugh out loud one day is just one thing too many to deal with on another and makes me shout. Sometimes I think that in the life of the child that must get quite confusing. For her, nothing has changed and I don’t think she should have to monitor how hassled I feel before she is comfortable to explore the world around her.

On Perspective (and Grumpiness)

Compared to the pain I was in a year ago, I am doing really well. 

Compared to the pain I was in 6 months ago, I am doing really well. 

I have had no bedbound days since my operation at the end of September. I have halved my medication from this time last year. I have started doing things with my 22 month old that require me to lift her into the car, take her places, push her in the swing and stop her running into the path of an oncoming vehicle. 

I am doing really well. 

Sometimes my leg goes numb and I have pins and needles in random places, like the middle of my calf. 

Sometimes I can feel my back on the verge of giving way and I need to stop what I’m doing and give myself a break. 

Sometimes I want to lie down immediately and feel like I might weep if I don’t get the chance to soon. 

Sometimes I am really grumpy with it all. 

And sometimes, I feel like a complete arse for feeling grumpy with it all. I remind myself that I have halved my medication and had no bedbound days, I remind myself that many people would give anything to be as mobile as I am. I remind myself that I was really lucky to get the surgery I needed and that it has made such a big difference. 

I need to keep the perspective, and remember how well I am doing. 

I also need to let myself feel a bit crap sometimes too. Sometimes I forget that that is OK too. 

Feminine Sports and Other Nonsense

Here are some things that have been said to me by my 4 year old daughter, and by friends’ daughters of similar ages to their parents: 

“Boys don’t do ballet do they mum? They only tapdance”

“Football is for boys”

“Boys can already play football at school, it’s too hard to join in” 

And said to a friend’s daughter: “You can’t play tag with us because you run too fast.”

(There are many more of these and variations on the theme). 

 

Here are some observations: 

There are virtually no women represented in the National Football Museum. 

There is hardly any women’s sport on television, and women’s successes in sport (women’s cricket anyone?) can pass by unnoticed. 

You don’t see schools’ girls sports (hockey or netball) on television. 

Advertising of sports and toys reinforces gender stereotypes.

Girls do less exercise than boys. 

Girls’ shoes (school shoes and otherwise) are not made for running around or climbing trees. 

Our Sports and Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, suggested that women who are put off by ‘unfeminine sports’ should be encouraged to try ballet or cheerleading. [And I refer you back to my daughter’s comment ‘boys don’t do ballet, do they mum?’ 

 

How we play when we are little affects how we play when we grow bigger. I don’t know about you but I am pretty self conscious about trying something new, and about not doing something well. It comes as no surprise to me that joining a group of children who play football faster, better, more confidently, more knowledgeably is a hard thing to do. It comes as no surprise to me that joining a group of children in a ballet class that is for girls is a tough thing to do if you’re a boy and want to fit in. 

 

It seems that sports brands such as Nike and Adidas have been leading the way in marketing sports to women. It’s not about being feminine or segregating sports yet further. More of this please. Because how we (parents, teachers, grown ups, marketing companies) talk to our children about gender matters.