Something has gotten under my skin today. I shan't tell you what it is. I wondered whether to blog it, and then remembered that I already had, back in the days when I didn't have any readers. First aired in November, now to be found on UK Gold.
What a monster we have created.
Who decided that we should professionalise motherhood? Don’t get me wrong, I object to the double shift that most women work as much as the next card carrying feminist, and I have always believed that raising our children should go down as our best achievement as we prepare to shuffle off this mortal coil. But when our sisters in the sixties and seventies fought for the private sphere to be made political – and for women’s work in the home to be recognised as, indeed, work - did they realise they were tilling the ground for the emergence of a new form of child abuse in the form of the career-mother? I suspect not.
Everybody knows one. The stay-at-home mother who feeds her pre-school child on a diet of Tumble Tots, Monkey Music and Play Group For The Gifted Child, followed by an hour of Mozart, a soupçon of French for toddlers, and some basic pre-verbal algebra. They relax by making pictures with macaroni or baking organic, wholemeal fairy cakes and the day hasn’t ended successfully until daddy has read a chapter from ‘Homer: the Picture Book’. The poor child ends another day wondering whether it has made the grade.
Do they realise that, as mother subjects them to yet another round of work toddler stylee, she is doing this out of love? I suspect not. Do they somehow recognise that mother is doing this out of a desire to offset her own fears of inadequacy? That their own emotional needs are secondary? Eventually, I suspect, they do.
Just for the record, children (in particular very small children) require relationship above all else. Over-structuring their time leaves little room for the spontaneous development of attachment that will provide the blue print for all of their later relationships. That is not to say that intellectual stimulation and structure are not important. But they really should take second place to the child’s capacity to experience itself in relation to a loving and accepting other. Sitting with your child in front of CBeebies, chatting and taking pleasure in their pleasure, is, ironically, probably far better for their emotional development than any number of outings to Professional Toddler Stimulation plc.
You know who you are. Please just stop it.
PS. I have a friend of a friend who is über Yummy Mummy. Her husband is a surgeon. She refuses to do his washing or ironing (she does her own and the children’s) and hires a cleaner on the grounds that ‘my job is motherhood’. I must admit – child development issues aside - I can’t help but admire her chutzpah.