This post has been in my head for ages. It’s something I think about all the time, (probably because I’m on social media way too often) but it’s also something that I struggled to write about. Possibly because I’ve suffered a bit of writers block recently, but also because it can be such an emotion inducing topic. And it’s not even a ‘topic’ in the sense of the parenting world. It’s not a blog about breastfeeding, or a blog about baby led weaning, or a blog about sleep or babywearing, or birth or any of the usual minefields of parenting.
Its all of that and it’s none of that. And it’s hard to clarify as you can see by my opening paragraph going round in circles.
This week, a well known NZ publication shared an article looking at the sugar content of babyfoods. When I saw this article pop up in my news feed, I thought it was good to see this information being shared at a mainstream level.
For this particular publication, it was a half decent article. They quoted information. Facts. Provided from a study conducted by actual study conducting people. Not a ‘Family Feud let’s ask 100 Kiwis’ checklist kind of thing. Yes, it contained some alarming statements around childhood obesity and tooth decay, and yes it raised a few questions around the impartiality of some of our best known infant care groups, but nowhere did it call out the parents. The headline did not cry ‘Parents ruining their babies lives by feeding them crap. However, straight away people were on the defensive as if that is exactly what it has done.
Read the comments anywhere, and it’s turned into a shit storm. No one seems interested in the information provided. Instead there’s an overwhelming clamour of ‘Stop mum shaming us!’. ‘Mums know what is best!’. ‘This is just one more way to make parents feel stink’.
I see it over and over and over. Anytime anyone shares facts and information, they get slammed for shaming. Any information, on anything parenting related – be it car seats, polar fleece blankets, pram covers, breastfeeding, playgrounds, the position we sleep in, gender stereotypes, baby names, brain development, the list goes on – gets lost under the overwhelming chorus of ‘Mum guilt! Mum shame! Mum wars!’ There’s even (as I just found out) a name for it, it’s called the backfire effect.
I understand that it can be confrontational to read something that contradicts what we hold as truth. Something that infers what we are doing may not the best way to do it. It can be upsetting to think that the advice we have been given is outdated, or potentially harmful. But no one goes into this parenting gig knowing everything and anything. You can totally be forgiven for not knowing what you don’t know until you knew it.
Think about your job, when you started your job, did you know everything about it? No, you learnt as you went. The longer you stuck at it, the better you got. The more courses you did, or the more training or support that was offered to you, the better you were able to perform. I feel that parenting is similar. There is so much fascinating information out there that challenges ideals we have held dear for so long, because as the human race progresses, we gain knowledge.
We live in an age where we have information available to us at the touch of a button. We have access to studies and research, facts and figures all of which is only a swipe away. And yet, we use this instant access to instead watch porn, cooking shows, cat videos and post cute photos of our children. Which are all great things to do, trust me, I’ve done all of them. But we’re letting ourselves down by not taking advantage of this era of knowledge and accessibility we live in.
Information is important. When we put shutters up and refuse to even read another point of view, or look into the current recommendations, the only person we are doing a disservice to is us. We are adults. We should be able to be adults, and read an article and think ‘hey that’s interesting, I never thought of that before’. Or read an article and say ‘well that’s 5 minutes of my life I will never get back’. And then scroll onto the next thing. We should be able to read things for what they are, instead of seeing things that we may not agree with as a personal attack.
Okay so if you read something that says ‘all parents that do XYZ are shit parents’ and you do XYZ, then feel pissed off someone called you out as a shit parent. For sure. There are plenty of inflammatory posts and blogs and headlines out there that do just that. But that trash isn’t what I’m referring to. What I refer to is the sharing of information, not opinion, and how, even when it’s in black and white; this is what the label says, yes that company has admitted using possible carcinogenics in their baby products etc, the sharing of this information is often seen as an effort to belittle and shame parents.
And that really grates me. It does. What sort of blinkered world do we live in when so many attack facts and figures as ‘hype’ and ‘controversy’. People do not share facts and information to make anyone feel stink. They share it, because as a population, we all have the right to know this information. Can we not have a calm conversation about anything anymore?
I feel like we are in an age called ‘the shaming of information sharing’. It’s turning into a war in the comments section. It’s turning into personal attacks. A competition for who can be the most offended. I know everyone says ‘don’t read the comments’ but everyone does and often the comments influence the way an article is viewed before even clicking on the link and reading it for yourself.
It’s made me think twice about posting things myself. My blog is called ‘Raising Ziggy’, yet some people have read that as ‘How I think you should raise your child’. I have had things said like ‘if you’re gonna blog about the way you parent being the right way then it’s going to get some people’s backs up’. What the fuck? What posts are you reading?
And so, when I talk about homebirth I am hesitant to link to the Ministry of Health website which states, at the top of their page in black and white ‘women who give birth at home or in a birthing centre or small maternity unit are more likely to have a normal birth than those who give birth in hospital.’ Because I am worried that it will be read as ‘if you give birth in hospital you’re shit’. Which is not how I feel at all. And then the information I am trying to share gets lost or misunderstood under a wave of offence taken.
It’s really disheartening.
‘Sharing shaming’ needs to stop. There is some really interesting information available out there. It’s fascinating stuff. There’s research coming out of the Aotearoa Brainwave Trust around infants and brain development that is truly thought-provoking. There are studies being done at Deakin University in Australia around introducing solids that have some very important conclusions. There is research being done into birth, and how we birth that could have positive outcomes for so many more women in the years to come. There is some seriously awesome shit happening, and we are lucky to live in the right time to take advantage of it all.
This is information our parents and grandparents didn’t have access to. But we do. We need to start embracing the sharing of information for what it is. Not a judgement, but an attempt to better inform people, so they can make the right decisions for them, based on all the knowledge available.
Otherwise the information gets lost under a cacophony of ‘stop shaming everyone under the sun’ cries.
And we are the ones that miss out.
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