Ok deep breath, here it goes:
List of women’s faults…as judged by society
Looks like a giant
Looks like a dwarf
Wears make up? Looks like a slapper, tries too hard
Doesn’t wear make up? Needs to make more of an effort, plain Jane
Wears short skirts? Too tarty
Wears long skirts? Too frumpy
Talks a lot? Too gobby
Doesn’t talk a lot? Not a girl’s girl, too quiet
Assertive? A bitch
Open about sex? A slag
More reserved about sex? Frigid
Shows an interest in others? Too nosy
Keeps to herself? Not a people person
Too strict with the kids
Let’s the kids get away with too much
Works? Doesn’t spend enough time with the kids
Doesn’t work? Should be using her brain
….I could go on for pages!
We get told to breastfeed and then get encouraged to bottle feed. Bottle feed then ask why we’re not breast feeding. Get told not to use dummies, then get asked why the baby doesn’t have a dummy when having a cry in the supermarket. Get instructions on how people don’t know your baby think your baby will best sleep. Co-sleep, don’t co-sleep, let the baby cry, don’t let the baby cry.
And I have to be honest, the harshest critics are usually other women. The comments I used to get about my 6 weeks early1.98kg baby were gems like: “don’t you feed him enough?”. I’ve had many friends who haven’t felt comfortable taking their kids to CHILD FRIENDLY establishments too worried about what others might think and in fact apologetic if someone says anything. (My advice is if they’re offering a children’s menu, high chairs and advertise themselves as family friendly and you don’t like kids then find somewhere else!)
My point is with all this conflicting information, advice and endless judgement it’s no wonder us women are pulling our hair out and getting stressed. We need to teach our girls to trust their own instincts, listen to their own bodies and have the confidence in themselves to make the choices that make them happy. Not the choices that make Josephine Blogs down the street happy. I have boys and try and instil the same thing in them. My eldest asks me “Do you like my toy car mummy?” I say to him “Do you like your toy car? If so, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” Of course, it’s important to raise children to respect others and listen to various opinions but it’s just as important, if not more so to help them make their own judgement. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Selfies…crikey imagine if you were in a room top to floor mirrors 24/7 with people commenting through a loud speaker on everything you do? No wonder people and particularly feel so self-conscious.
There’s no easy solution and no one rule fits all, but a lot of the mums I’ve met who have had postnatal depression or felt down about motherhood, worried a lot about what other people think and therefore didn’t talk about it. When my friends and I started families, I was naïvely surprised by the mothers who had postnatal depression. They were typically the ones who seemed on top of it all and it was only after they’d received help that they opened up about it.
Later in parenthood, people wonder if XYZ is a normal thing for a child to do, or are they only ones who’s kid has had an epic meltdown because their banana has broken? Is their child the only one who never ever sleeps? The amount of times I’ve heard “Oh I’m so glad to hear that someone else didn’t have the energy to cook their offspring a 5-course meal with 10 varieties of fruit and veg. My kids got Weetabix for dinner too…”. We need to be more open and discuss both the highs and lows of parenting. We need to prepare our children for having children. When you were thinking of having a family or when you’re pregnant how many horror (reality) stories did you hear? I swear before my 1st was born I was expecting sun-kissed fairies to dance a merry tune and his poo to be the colour of a glittery rainbow.
The fact is, the reality wouldn’t have put me off having kids and even though nothing could prepare you, talking about the good, the bad and the very ugly (child in cot, thought he was napping I walked in and he’d effectively taken off his nappy and had a dirty protest) helps us. It helps us understand that others are going through the same, it helps us because it can feel lifting to talk and it helps us because it makes us realise that comments like the one I’ve mentioned in the list above are a load of tosh.Women are amazing and don’t deserve the criticism we get. We need to support each other. Everyone is different but by talking we can see that we’re not the only ones going through the tough times and who knows? It might help others in the process.