Friday, June 13, 2008

Child of our Time

The other night I watched the first episode of the latest series of Child of our Time on TV one. It was looking primarily at the 'Gender Divide'. It considered things like marketing to children, body image, values and how these differed between the 8 year old boys and girls.

Like all of this series, it was very interesting to see the children's perspectives on things. It was heartening to see the girls choose health and kindness as the most important values - and amusing to see the boys choose being rich.

However, I was very disturbed by the negative self image many of the girls already had. Shown 8 different body types in increasing size, all the children selected a smaller body size than their own as ideal, and most chose a much larger one to illustrate their perceptions of their own bodies. Remember, these were 8 year olds. (I do have to mention that the 8 year old boys were choosing things randomly, like the 'fat' one because then they could bash people, there was total disinterest in this exercise).

One child in particular was in tears at least twice in the programme at the idea of being fat - fat people are unliked, mean and not good friends apparently.

It was interesting that the Bratz dolls one child played with was behind some of the feelings - although the little girl would love to wear the clothes her doll does, she couldn't because she is too fat. I have long had a dislike of these dolls and others like it as I have believed that they encourage that sort of feeling. It was good to see proof that I was right with my instincts, though I would prefer to be proven wrong when it means one little girl has obvious self image issues because of it.

In the series there is one little boy whose parents have gone out of their way to raise their children without obvious gender stereotypes. The toys are shared, the parents share roles and there is obvious equality. It was so pleasing to see that it does work - the little boy chose the same values as the girls and throughout his time on screen seemed well balanced and sensitive to others, very different to his peers.

This programme raised many issues for me, as the parent to a girl. I want my daughter to grow up believing that she can do pretty much whatever she wants in the world, while remaining compassionate towards others. I want her to love herself, no matter which genes she has inherited for her physical makeup. Most of all, I want her to be happy.

For me, this programme reassured me that my instincts in parenting in some areas are spot on. There will be no Bratz dolls or similar here (though I might be OK with Barbie type dolls, after all, I had them!) and I will attempt to minimise exposure to music videos (another big issue for the children in the show). Most of all, I will continue to do my best to develop my daughters self belief, so that she can be the best her that she can be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mother Wars

What is it about motherhood that brings out the worst in so many?

You have:
breast versus bottle
extended feeding vs weaning
SAHM vs working mums
MCN vs disposable usage
CIO vs responding to every cry

Obviously most people have a way of parenting in these areas that they have chosen. Often, in the case of some of the choices perceived as more alternative, there is a belief and values system that underpins it. For example, I know many people who use modern cloth nappies (MCN) because they see it as their way of helping with the environmental impact a new baby can have, I really respect that.

But why can't people on one side of the fence see that the people on the other side have their reasons for their choices too. And just because the reasons behind their choices don't match with their own, doesn't make them any less valid or important. It simply makes them different.

A bottle feeder might have many reasons for not breast feeding. They might have had difficulty with milk coming in or with feeding, their baby may have had trouble feeding from the breast, there might be a deeper reason behind their choice including previous sexual abuse. Imagine asking someone why they chose to bottle feed their baby and getting a response regarding sexual abuse. Imagine how bad that would make you feel - now imagine what it would be like to be that person constantly facing judgement for a choice they have made for a very good reason, and a very personal reason.

Everyone wants to convert people to their way of thinking, especially if they feel they have experienced an epiphany. I know that I am a breast feeder extraordinaire these days - funny, as prior to giving birth I always said I would give it a go but not push it if it became too hard (well, i had to pump after every feed for weeks and had the bleeding cracked nipples and I still kept going - but that was right for me, I don't need a mother of the year award). But where does that pressure end?

Information is power. It is very important that choices that people make are as informed as possible. So if you have a cause that you want to push, give information, not judgement. I hope that is what I do with the things i am passionate about.

Some days it seems that we have enough to fight without fighting each other.