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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.

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In light of some recent negativity towards mums who share their lives online, I’ve often wondered if, back in the day, parents were punished so harshly for their parenting choices. I ponder if they were they dragged out into the street, and publicly thrashed, or stoned, like the people who’d stolen bread and stuff.

Perhaps Mary was so proud of her family portrait, and how gorgeous her unsmiling children looked in it, that she pissed everyone off by getting them to admire it when they visited. Did her guests gather together and put anonymous calligraphy notes through her door, telling her she was up her own arse for wanting to share her family with the masses?

I bet Margaret let herself down by treating her colicky baby with what sounds like an awesome concoction of opiates and alcohol, and was the first in line for a thrashing when she wrote to the local paper to share her amazing cure. I suspect that neither were thrashed or stoned, I suspect the worst that happened was that Mary’s pissed off visitors smiled and nodded politely, and Margaret’s mates all came around to learn of this miracle cure-Drs encouraged it, and everyone thought it was fandabbydosy. It proves that everyone parented however the feck they wanted, and nobody batted an eyelid.

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Opiates and alcohol for colic, anyone?

Fast forward to today, and times have changed. It seems that a lot of people would like to stone you and thrash you for the way you parent, but because they can’t (outlawed and all that y’all,) then you have to find a way to show your immediate disdain of how dreadful you perceive other parents to be. You need to cloak up (basically just hide behind your computer screen-it makes a great mask,) get crappy internet user name ‘PerfectParent666’ and virtually bash your targets through the screen.

There’s an extremist branch, who have blown out the cloak and dagger approach, using their own actual names-this sect is mainly made up of Daily Fail journalists. Both sects love that the online nature of their virtual stoning will give them an incredible freedom to say all the things they’d never be able to say to somebody’s face. Anybody can do it, all you have to be is a Twazok With an Ability To Type-I’m sure you’ll agree that they’ll thank me for the useful acronym I just created for them.

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Let’s hide behind these, and virtually bash as many people as we can!

They don’t like parents who share useful ideas for crafts and fun activities, online. And don’t you dare stand against a wall looking amazing in an achingly cool outfit, because that is not allowed. You will be referred to as ‘smug.’ Now, I’ve checked, and the dictionary definition of smug is ‘having or showing excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements.’ Looking ace in a fab outfit and sharing an idea you found that may help someone entertain their children for more than 3 nanoseconds doesn’t quite seem to fit, but is still seen as insufferable to these Keyboard Warrior TWATTs.

Similarly, they will fall off their chairs in sheer convulsions of pure rage, should any parent admit to daytime drinking, wanting time away from their children, or finding motherhood hard or just a bit shit. They will take pleasure in tearing further strips from a woman who has had the courage to admit they just can’t find perfection in every second, and will enjoy leeching any remaining confidence from them, swooping like virtual vultures to peck away at any remaining unexposed vulnerability.

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Don’t you dare enjoy sharing pictures of yourself looking lovely…

Now, I’d like to know what these people would think of me. On one hand, I devour pictures of beautiful mums, with their gorgeous offspring-my Instagram is full of them. I admire them, and although I’d never squeeze my crepy tummy and cellulitic ass into a denim jumpsuit, I’d like to celebrate with them that they can look so awesome, not put them down because I can’t. I also have a whole cupboard dedicated to crafts. It’s just a shame my children fecking hate crafts, and would rather be rolling around in mud and kicking the shit out of each other.

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Please don’t admit it’s not all perfect…

On the other hand, I’ve also had a drink before the children have gone to bed-anything to stop me clawing at my own face like a meth addled zombie. I’ve also sometimes felt that I don’t like being a mum, and I’ve inadvertently messed up the job. So where does that leave me? Will the TWATTS vilify me for sitting on the fence? Does that make me the crappiest of all crappy parents because I can’t even commit to one single parenting cause to be knocked down for? Or does it make me a legend, a superhero parent hybrid cross between a Mister Maker, and Lindsay Lohan-canonised as a parenting style to aspire to, as it covers all bases, and shows super powers for not fully being sucked into any parenting style wholeheartedly.

The answer is, I don’t actually care. I don’t care what an online TWATT has to say about my parenting, and don’t want them to gnaw anything more from my psyche than they can, with their ill informed, jealousy based comments and opinions. I will continue to admire my favourite Instagram families, and leave comments that build them up, to make up for those bashing them down. I’ll continue to collect craft tutorials, until the day my children give in and indulge me. I will daytime drink if I want to (not till I’m passed out obvs-looking after them hungover is not fun.) I will laugh about my parenting fails, and learn from my mistakes.

We are not perfect, and the least perfect of all are those who will hurt people at their most vulnerable, and who can’t find it in themselves to be happy for somebody who is successful, or find a word of sympathy for someone who is struggling. Look at Mary and Margaret and the Victorians-they drank Guinness while pregnant, made their 2 year olds fend for themselves, and swapped tips on drugging their children-and nobody gave a shit.

I’m going to be more Mary and Margaret-I’m going to give less of a damn. I won’t let the words of others invalidate my feelings, or and knock me down. That’s the best reaction for the TWATTS, and with any luck, will make them self combust from their own anger.

*This post luckily hasn’t stemmed from personal experience, but is for all who have been on the receiving end of this.