April 21st, 2006

angry, Buttercup

Competitive Parenting is Bullying.

I just realised something.

Now, it's no secret that I'm childfree by choice. While I like children perfectly well, I also like to be able to give them back to their parents at the end of the day. I understand intellectually the level of responsibility required to be a parent, and it is something I have no interest in doing myself. However, that doesn't mean that I don't have an interest in other people's parenting, or the decisions they make. I am interested in the progress of the offspring of my various parent friends, and I want to support them in raising their kids as well as possible.

Lately I've become very aware of this idea of competitive parenting - where in reply to someone having made the best decision in their circumstances, someone else, usually a total stranger, pops in with some comment about how that decision is rubbish according to statistics, and their child is going to suffer as a result. The two examples I've seen recently are breastfeeding and childbirth - where two people who I know damn well are good parents are being made to feel guilty for decisions they've made, in one case, to save the child's life, and in the other, to save the mother's life. I'm not exaggerating here - those are the honest, truthful reasons why they made the decisions the way they did. Yet fucking moron strangers can come bleating in with "don't you know breastfeeding is best for the baby's health?" and "don't you know vaginal births are safest in 95% of cases?", and make those parents feel guilty.

I don't blame the parents for feeling guilty. I know it's easy enough for me to be made to feel guilty after some decision with far fewer hormones involved. It's even worse when you know full well that yes, theoretically what the other person is saying is true, but in your situation it hasn't worked and you're having to go for the second choice option. I put the blame entirely on the apparently "well-meaning" strangers. People who are "so concerned" about the health of a child they've never even met that they trample all over the intelligent, well-educated parents of that child. What is it about parenting that makes other people feel they can stick their noses in?

I have a new theory that it's nothing less than bullying. Parents, particularly mothers who are awash with hormones, are vulnerable - they need support and understanding, not bullying about their decision. If you, the observer, don't know or understand all the details about the relevant medical histories - what the fuck are you doing expressing any opinion other than support for the parent concerned? Why do you think you know more about the health of a child you've never even met than the caregivers and medical professionals who see that child?

If it was another child making comments like "don't you know that?", with the implication of "aren't you stupid?" to your child, you'd see that as bullying. So why don't you see it as bullying when you make those same comments to another parent? Morons. Fuck off back under your rock, and take your opinions with you. Save them for the people who are feeding Coca-Cola in bottles to their babe-in-arms.
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