Debunking Myths of The Parenting Labels

asunset

I’ve seen much written about the ‘categorising’ of mums you see at various places you often (wish you didn’t) find yourself as a parent-play groups, soft plays and other establishments that you’d often rather not have to visit, but they entertain the little ones for a while. These places usually also offer the chance to attempt conversation with other adult humans, might have passable coffee if you’re lucky, and you can tick ‘socialising’ from the list of enrichment activities you have planned for the day (ahem…)

You read much about the ‘supermum,’ the ‘hippie’ mum, the ‘fitness fanatic’ mum, and it’s nice to laugh at these stereotypes, because they do exist, and sometimes these mums are painfully easy to immediately put into ‘boxes.’ I usually do a quick scout of a room if I go somewhere for the first time, and in my mind, I take in everyone and my inner monologue quickly sorts out for me who I’d like to sit near, and who looks like they would be most like me (or like they’d parent similar to me to be fair-that’s what usually matters.)

Recently, I realised that I’d subtly labelled one particular mum, who I had never actually spoken to, ‘that miserable lady.’ I seemed to come across her often, and bypassed her, because her pinched face, and almost permanent scowl, meant that I had instantly labelled her ‘not my type.’ I am also parent to a child who doesn’t always understand physical boundaries (read: a total assassin child,) and I had noted, with a regrettable air of smugness, that her child seemed to have absolutely no regard for other children at all. I don’t think I ever saw him not hitting/punching/scratching. One day, I overheard her telling one of the playgroup volunteers, that both of her children take turns, every night, to wake up. That they could spend a couple of hours awake, at each of these wake ups, and that she basically never slept. She then sat down with a coffee, and took one sip before another mother was tearing shreds off her, because her child was ninja kicking hers-vilifying her for ‘ignoring your child while you drink coffee with your mates.’  Poor woman, she never gets to sleep, thinks it’s safe to take a sip of her coffee, then gets embarrassingly pulled up on her parenting skills by another parent. No wonder she’s bloody miserable.

Similarly, my little ‘over physical’ child, who had been flying high on a ‘gentle touching’ (cringe) streak, relapsed quite magnificently, over several visits to the same soft play. I realised that other frequenters of the same place also eyed him, (and me,) with suspicion when we arrived-obviously worried that their offspring might come under attack. In one mortifying culmination, I was put in the position where I came under verbal attack for my parenting skills, just like ‘that miserable lady,’ (and I’m sorry, I don’t know your name, and I’m still only referring to you as miserable for the purposes of the story. Besides, you have every f***ing right to be miserable-own it, I’m right there with you.) I went through every emotion-mortified, hurt, angry, even angry at my child for putting me in that position. Judging by the looks I received, I suspected that everyone’s inner monologue might refer to me as ‘the assassin’s mum,’ or ‘that parent who can’t control her child’s dreadful behaviour.’ That makes me feel those same emotions, to think that people might label me like that-I’m mortified, hurt, and angry all over again.

I do my absolute best with my children, and sometimes, children are children-they get aggressive, they can lash out. Some do it more than others. I usually watch my little assassin like a hawk-but I have another child, I need to at least say a few words to other adults, I’m human, my son is human, and I have needs too: I need to have a bloody drink (albeit shit coffee,) I need to eat (my body won’t nourish itself you know-it needs that calorie laden ham and cheese toastie to make it through the day,) and I need to pee (especially now my pelvic floor has been trampled on by two tiny humans.) Sometimes I f**k up-I miss warning signs that my child will attack, I dare to look after my own needs for two seconds, and he slips away from my reach, and out of vision from my hawk eye. But do not define me by his behaviour-I’m so much more than the label given to me by his victims. I’m a mum desperately trying to do her best, who gets to see that little assassin wanting to hold her hand while he sleeps at night, and who showers her with kisses while she’s trying to help him eat his dinner. The label applicators don’t get to see that, or the million other parts that make up who I am.

Mums will certainly still fall into categories, and I doubt my instincts will ever not let me walk into a room, and do ‘the scan,’ so I’m not going to wax lyrical about dropping the labels, because it won’t happen. But what I would like, is for people to look beyond those labels. Don’t define people by how you perceive their parenting style to be. Don’t think that someone isn’t worth talking to because they look miserable, I’ve learnt that you should probably make these the first people you talk to. And don’t judge people’s parenting by their child’s behaviour (yes, sometimes a child will be a dick, and it’s obvious the parent is a dick too-use your discretion,) but for the most part, there is a parent who had a whole different identity before their children, who is desperately trying to hold on to that. They are not that fleeting glimpse you get of them at playgroup-just remember that.

24 Comments

  1. December 12, 2016 / 7:57 am

    Love this and of course you are so right. I’m sure most of us walk into a room and do ‘the scan’ and I’m so guilty of attaching labels to parents and judging them for having wild children. Funny thing is I’m probably closer to parents from the school yard that I first avoided than the ones I labelled as ‘OK to mix with’ originally. Because let’s face it we’re all weird in our own little ways, haha x

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 8:18 am

      Thanks for the lovely comment! Yes, I agree, I’ve also become wary of those I originally labelled ‘my type,’ and have found some awesome friends in unexpected places! I also never expected to have an assassin child-and having to combat others expectations of what kind of parent they ‘think’ you must be to have a child like that, has been really hard xx

  2. December 12, 2016 / 8:57 am

    I love that you realized you had subtly judged and you made an effort to look beyond. #bigpinklink

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 9:20 am

      It’s a shame it had to be a harsh judgment to make me realise, but it’s been a brilliant epiphany!

  3. December 12, 2016 / 9:15 am

    I’m guilty of this – you’ve really given me pause for thought here. Great post as always love #bigpinklink

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 9:21 am

      Thanks Rach, it’s so easy to do, I did it all the time! But it’s not until it’s you in that position that you realise…!!

  4. December 12, 2016 / 9:40 am

    Children have their own personalities and have to learn but it i so tough when you know you are being judged by others even though you are helping your child with their learning journey. Easy to judge too but as you say, things are not always what they seem. #bigpinklink

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 9:48 am

      That’s exactly right-I’m helping them both as best I can-it’s that that I sometimes wish I could shout to others!! X

  5. December 12, 2016 / 10:30 am

    What a lovely article. And so true. We shouldn’t define people by labels – it’s easy shorthand but it is limiting and judgemental. There is so much more to us if we just look a little deeper x #bigpinklink

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 10:32 am

      Thank you!! Yes, sometimes I want to say to people ‘I used to like dancing and long walks, and the theatre-I am NOT just my child’s behaviour-I am this whole other person!!’ X

  6. December 12, 2016 / 10:53 am

    Very true. I have a ‘bull in a china shop’ toddler who leaves crying children in his wake at soft plays, so I expect I am judged but I also judge as well – I’m sure we all do it to a certain extent. It’s hard to look behind the mask when everyone is tired and it doesn’t take much to smile rather than to grimace at each other but you’re absolutely right – we can’t judge a mum by their cover! #bigpinklink

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 11:04 am

      Oooh, I like that-‘don’t judge a mum by their (eye bag wearing, sick encrusted clothing) cover! X

  7. December 12, 2016 / 12:23 pm

    I try not to judge others based on their children’s behaviour, because I know my child isn’t always an angel. There are times when she’s the only one acting up and I’m afraid people are going to think I’m a terrible mother – but sometimes kids are just going to do their thing, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. #bigpinklink

  8. December 12, 2016 / 1:23 pm

    Ah yes the over physical child…I just don’t go out, that’s healthy surely!? Maybe there should be groups for the physical children to assassin ‘play’ together without judgment…
    actually that could get dangerous,
    Anyway I feel for you, I’m with you on this one and, yes, a good reminder not to judge. Well not immediately anyway,
    Lovely post, really enjoyed it

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 3:40 pm

      Yes, there are judgments to be made eventually (like I say, you just get to know that some people are knobs eventually,) I just try not to do that now, based on the child’s behaviour, or straight away!! I do a lot of staying in sometimes, but recently finding that doesn’t do my mental health any good… A softplay for the assassins actually sounds a great idea!! X

  9. December 12, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    It’s certainly human behaviour to put people in to boxes, but I have been so wrong on many occasions. You are absolutely right that there are so many factors at play, it is far more complicated than fitting in to one type. The older I’ve got, the more I realise this. I think that we are all far too judgmental and, as you say, we need to cut each other some slack. Alison x #BigPinlLink

  10. December 12, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    It’s so hard walking into a room full of parents and instantly feeling that you are going to be judged and criticized because of your child’s behaviour. I think you can usually see when a parent is trying their best though and you’re totally right in that those are the parents that need the hot drink and the friendly smile the most. I am usually that parent – and for me its actually comforting to know that my child isn’t the only one that is intent on swinging from the light fittings. #bigpinklink xx

    • This Mum's Life
      December 12, 2016 / 9:45 pm

      Me too-there’s a massive comfort in another assassin child’s parents!! X

  11. December 12, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    This is a brilliant post, and one we can all learn from, especially during this season of good will. I am guilty of categorising and when another kid hits yours it’s so easy to get riled up and judge, but it is so true that the parenting is not always the problem. This week I am resolve to talk to one of my resident “miserable mums” and see where it takes me. #bigpinklink

  12. December 12, 2016 / 9:12 pm

    It’s so easily done, we all do it- human nature. I think we all need to step back and think before judging but sometimes need a little reminder! #bigpinklink

  13. December 13, 2016 / 7:08 pm

    Love it. Is so easy to make snap judgements (good or bad) but it’s only an appearance you see. Having two boys with autism and a pre schooler I’ve had some simply awful looks.

    I overheard me being referred to as donkey mum because I carried all my kids, but they didn’t understand why. Plus why not s majestic shore horse, why a donkey!

    Anyways, in agreement here!

    #bigpinklink

  14. December 14, 2016 / 7:49 pm

    Oooh Luce you are good! This is a brilliant post, so well written & it’s spot on. Thanks for being a punter this week! 😉 #bigpinklink

  15. December 14, 2016 / 10:02 pm

    I love this so much, you have absolutely nailed it. xx #bigpinklink

  16. December 28, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    I’ve got no idea what other mums must think of me – I shudder to think!! #bigpinklink