Opinions on parenting. Everyone has one…

26 04 2011

Opinion. It’s the source all arguments.

I have always maintained there is no such thing as a right or wrong opinion, it doesn’t mean I wont defend to the death my opinion on a matter, or provide evidence to dispute another’s opinion. Such evidence can be empirical or emotional, the former holding slightly more weight with me.

it's a deathray... dont patronise me

A discussion I had got me thinking about experience versus empathy and how valid each is, in forming or defending an opinion.

The initial discussion was around my previous post Retail Manipulation and Destruction of Childhood, where I commented on a journalist’s support of retail’s early-sexualisation of children and why her being childfree may make her opinion in favour of dressing kids like whores, hold less weight, albeit in my own special blunt way. It appears, that to suggest there is little reputable comparison between empathy based and experiential based opinions, angered some.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion but if you voice an opinion publicly, you are putting yourself in a position to have it rebutted publicly.

Fine by me, I love a debate!

However, to claim that an opinion based solely on empathy rather than experience holds equal weight, is like claiming to know how it is to live with no legs when you have a pair of perfectly working legs.

You can imagine how it might feel to have no legs. You can opine on how it must be having no legs. You can even agree or disagree on opinions regarding legless people, but you cannot speak out as an authority or voice of experience on having no legs.

Having someone point this out is fact, not an attempt to patronise or belittle.

The claim “I find that patronising” a very weak debate tactic and it tries to introduce a degree of guilt upon the alleged perpetrator that is both unnecessary and quite frankly ridiculous.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

“no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

and I vehemently stand by this statement, particularly in debate. If someone feels patronised by a comment, its important for them to consider why they feel patronised, rather than making accusations at the person with whom they debate.

If someone with no legs says you don’t know how it is to live with no legs; is it patronising or is it reality? You know how to live with legs thus you can only imagine living without, you can hold an opinion on the matter but if it doesn’t directly affect you, you cannot know how it feels.

The same goes with parenting, the source of the initial “debate” and my decision to look at opinion weighting.

It seems everyone has an opinion on parenting, whether or not they are parents themselves. People are quick to point out you’re doing it wrong or they would do it differently. People just love to tell you to hit your child when it cries without knowing why its crying,  they militantly want you to force feed it from a breast or bottle, to leave your child to cry itself to sleep or to never do so for fear of damaging it psyche. It doesn’t matter if its internet based communication or an old man at the bus stop, someone always wants to tell you how you should be doing things.

Irritatingly this isn’t restricted to people who have been there and done that, bought the clichéd t-shirt and worn it until their tits fell out of the age-worn holes. There are plenty of people who have no children of their own and no experience of parenting or child rearing, just waiting for you to pass them so they can share their opinion on your parenting skills or choices.

Is it more patronising for a parent to say, “but you can’t know how it is unless you have kids” or to be told that not having kids isn’t a barrier to “knowing how it is”?

I admit pre-parenthood I was probably a patronising little git. I held an opinion on everything and being the eldest of four children and umpteen grandchildren, I felt qualified enough to opine on child rearing. After all, I had been a child once myself, how much more experience or qualification can you need than that?

How naive I was.

Yet at the time I would vehemently defend my right to opine on an equal footing with parents. Since being thrust into parenthood rather unexpectedly (9 months is not long enough to prepare for that shock), I realise these people, of which I was one myself, are just irritants to parents who are struggling to do their best.

Looking back I think of myself,

“what a tit”

To say the reality of parenting has been the same as my pre-parenthood musings would be offensive. My opinions back then, no less valid to me at the time, were based on empathy or analysis but not true experience.

The reality of the experience of parenthood makes me cringe at how ridiculous some of my pre-parenthood statements were. Not all were wrong but many were crude and ignorant.

And these were not just the musings of some gobshite teen! As a 30-something heavily pregnant woman I opined away.

I was not wrong to do so, merely inexperienced to speak of my opinion like some kind of empirical truth.

In the same way I may take an exception to a childless woman, attempting to justify dressing a hypothetical 7-year-old girl like a whore and belittling experienced parents who disagree with petty insults and name-calling. I also take exception and possibly more so, at a mother justifying dressing their young child like a whore because all the other kids are doing it or they don’t want to stifle their 7 year olds sexual awakening. In my opinion a parent should have an understanding of the desire or even instinct, to protect their offspring from potential harm. I refer the reader back to my points on paragraphs 5  & 13 of the original blog piece, where “no” and “childhood” seems to be words removed from the modern parents dictionary.

There is a huge difference between allowing your child to explore a dangerous but fascinating world around them in their own time and thrusting them out to survive a sexual existence before they are naturally ready to do so. That is my opinion as a parent. I’m sure  it’s also the opinion of many non-parents. It would seem like a common sense position to hold.

If a child-free person tries to claim their opposing opinion on parenting  holds equal weight then I hope they refer back to it, if they ever do venture into parenthood, and see if they still feel the same. I would happily bet real money on that opinion changing with experience. It would be an insanely narcissistic and selfish person who put feminist ideological beliefs before the instinctive maternal desire to protect.

The point about the initial sexualisation of children debate that angered me, was that it was claimed to be in the name of “true feminism”.  I remember a time when sexual objectification of adult women was vehemently fought against by feminists, now they fight for the right to sexually objectify children? What is that about? What alternate reality are the next generation being led into? What opinions will my daughter face, should she become a parent?

In my opinion it’s fucking bonkers.




and also  little scary.




2 responses

26 04 2011

addition: Post parenthood I am probably also a patronising git but not so little anymore.

27 04 2011

As I’ve moved from a position of “never having kids” to “this is going to happen, someday not too far down the line” my harsh judgement of parents has decreased significantly! Being or not being a parent says very little about your capability to parent — there are plenty of terrible parents and knowledgeable non-parents — but experience can only add to your abilities and understanding.

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