baroquestar: (Default)
[personal profile] baroquestar
So, Maeve picked up a copy of the daily rag on the tram today, and was flicking through it. We were seated directly across from a suited chap, and behind an elderly Italian woman talking nineteen to the dozen at the tram driver. I mention the chatting, because there was no way I would have thought she would overhear or be able to listen to any other conversation.

M. turned to a page with an advertisement showing a statue of a seated Buddha. She pointed and asked, "what is that, Mama?"
"It's a Buddha statue."
"What's a Buddha?"
"Who, really. Buddha was a person. He lived a long time ago, and people revered him as being very wise. Sort of like a god, but not really."
"...what's a god?"
"Oh, wow. OK. Um, you know ghosts? Hang on, start again. Gods are beings. Not people, sort of more than people. They are meant to be very very powerful and can do almost anything, and know almost everything. Some people believe they CAN do anything, and know everything!"
"Well, some people believe in gods. Some people believe in many gods, some people believe there is just one God. Some people don't believe in any gods at all!"
At this point, M got distracted by some other shiny thing or concept, and we had to ding the bell to get off the tram.

As we disembarked, the black-clad Nonna leant forward and poked me in the hip. "You are a GOOD MAMA. You do good job. They ask hard questions sometimes, eh?" I couldn't do anything but beam at her and say "thanks" as I was wrangling a 4yo, two bags and a pile of kinder artwork off the tram. She waved to Maeve. "Bye bye, Bella."
Maeve twisted in my arms, and yelled, "I'm MAEVE! Not Bella! My name's Maeve! Bye!"

M turned to me, amused. "She called me Bella, Mama!"
"Hee! Bella is not a name, sweetie, it's a word. It means beautiful girl in Italian."
"Oh. I AM beautiful!"

Yep, that you are. And so was that woman. She made me feel awesome.

Parenting in public is really hard. Kids are a marginalised group with very little individual power and only developing autonomy, and it is fashionable and acceptable to hate them and wish them out of public spaces. People, who would otherwise describe themselves as accepting and tolerant, feel quite free to make horrific generalisations about all children and their behaviour and state the most appalling resentment towards them for existing, using the kind of language and terms they would NEVER consider acceptable about, say, POC or homosexual people.

And the same resentment is often directed at parents, most usually the mother. There's a definite raison d'etre for I Blame The Mother - motherblaming is practically a sport in our society, and certainly a rich source of revenue for companies who maintain a vested interest in making mothers feel inadequate. I specify mothers, because we are still perceived as the "default parent". Fathers taking care of their children are referred to as "babysitting". A friend of mine, out with his son, is asked, "so, you're giving Mum a break?", totally negating his role as co-parent to his child. Fathers are practically awarded medals for performing any onerous or odorous baby-related task, whereas a woman expressing distaste for the repeated performance of same will be met with "well, that was your choice when you decided to have a baby!"

All this is part of one's daily lived experience when being a Parent in Public. The raised eyebrows, child-hating language, relegation to Default Parent or Understudy depending on one's external gender appearance. I've experienced all of it, and I have what people refer to as a "good" child; one who rarely arcs up in public, does what is asked of her most of the time, and is friendly and outgoing. No matter what we do as parents, we will inevitably be the target of resentment and criticism by people who don't agree with our parenting decisions, or who merely resent our very existence.

So, for once, it was a delight to be told I was doing a good job when I was answering the hard questions as best I could.

on 2010-01-08 04:53 pm (UTC)
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] transcendancing
I'm over here from the Down Under Feminists Carnival, just wanted to say this was lovely to read :) Your delight is contagious - and what you say about being fashionable to hate children rings true to me even though I don't have children of my own. I see it all the time. I try and counter it where appropriate or be overtly positive even if things are loud/difficult. Also, offering to help if it seems appopriate.

on 2010-01-09 11:56 pm (UTC)
Posted by [personal profile] shonias
Also here via DUFC, and I loved it too.

We had 3 kids on a Sydney tram yesterday, and the 2yr & 4yr olds were messing up my hair and giggling loudly and uncontrollably. I am pleased to be able to say that the people we noticed were smiling and happy about the noise. I have seen people scowl at my kids laughing loudly. It's kinda sad that they could be so conditioned to resent kids that they can't let the pure joy infect them.

on 2009-12-15 11:32 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it, it made me feel really warm and squishy.

Child-hating peeps need to listen to the shit that comes out of their mouths, then remember that they weren't willed into existence by aliens at the age of eighteen.

on 2009-12-15 11:45 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I was! I always used to insist that I was born eight, and all the tales my mother tells about me were therefore made up. But I like kids now, so that's OK.

And you're both wonderful mamas, in case I haven't mentioned that lately...

on 2009-12-15 11:35 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
You're both fantastic parents too, you know. I've enjoyed A Year of etc just for living your parenting lives a little vicariously!

on 2009-12-15 11:59 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I think I've said this before in response to one of your entries, I've certainly thought it before; when I have children I'm going to go back through your blog for the last four years and read it thoroughly, because you get so much right.

on 2009-12-15 11:33 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Aw, thanks C. :)

on 2009-12-15 03:08 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Hm, I think I'm sometimes one of those child-haters. I should probably reconsider the stance; I guess I react badly to random loud noises and kids tend to produce them frequently.

I do attempt not to actually show this displeasure, I just avoid places with high kid concentrations. I feel really bad when a parent with child comes into somewhere like a cafe, and gets glared at when the child produces noise; but then, it is nice to have some quiet and read the paper. I guess in my mind it doesn't count as anti-child discrimination as I'd feel as ill-disposed to a loud adult :)

on 2009-12-15 11:31 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I think it's ok to resent one's personal space being invaded, certainly. I don't expect all people to want to be parents, or to spend most of their time with children.

It is debatable as to what reasonable expectations of silence/quiet/etc are in most public spaces, though. I guess my point is that people feel free to say "I hate noisy brats and I don't think they should be allowed in cafes/libraries/restaurants", otherwise-reasonable people who would never say that about another group of people, who, for health/development/cultural reasons might ALSO behave in a way that is noisier or more space-occupying than a white middle-class adult able-bodied norm.

on 2009-12-16 01:33 am (UTC)
ext_54463: (Handmaid's Tale)
Posted by [identity profile]
Have you read Sex & Destiny, Shiv? It's been a few years since I looked at it, but I remember there being some good reading in there about Western cultural norms and the way we have become increasingly (even in 1984, when it was written) inclined towards making children socially invisible.

on 2009-12-16 02:29 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Ooh, it's been a long time, and I don't think I ever read the entire thing, just excerpts for Text and Gender in third year.

Will chase it up, cheers!

on 2009-12-16 05:12 am (UTC)
ext_4241: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile]
Or they might, in fact: I've heard comments about how people with intellectual disabilities shouldn't be allowed out in public plenty of times. And the way people with physical disabilities are often treated in public for taking up space makes it pretty obvious that a fair few people really don't like us around, either.

on 2009-12-16 05:45 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
You're absolutely right, of course. I wrote that, then thought about your scooter-reaction post.

on 2009-12-15 05:18 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
One of the things I noticed over here in Denmark is that there are "baby changing rooms" in BOTH the male and female toilets. Hooray!

on 2009-12-15 11:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]

Most places at least put a change table in a unisex room or toilet these days. Not always, though. And don't get me started on breastfeeding rooms being in toilets. :D

on 2009-12-16 07:13 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Many public washrooms in Canada have changing tables in the mens. I don't know about the womens, but I can only assume so :)

Thought I've never seen them in use

on 2009-12-15 08:04 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Fantastic post. You are awesome.

on 2009-12-15 11:35 pm (UTC)

on 2009-12-16 02:12 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Great answers to tough questions! I got that question in the car once, and had real trouble not clouding the answer with my own opinions (atheist), while driving. I ended up comparing God to the Easter Bunny (oops) and then moving on to talk about respect of others' beliefs. It was much easier to use the example of what we choose to eat (vegetarians) than to talk about such an abstract concept as religion.

I think you're a great Mamma too :)

on 2009-12-16 02:33 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Well, Robin and I are atheists* too, and I considered saying " Mummy and Robin" at the end, but held off for some reason. Her attention was distracted elsewhere, and I think I was conscious of others listening in too.

* - my atheism is not held to the exclusion of any spiritual practice, but I don't do G/god/s.

on 2009-12-16 03:18 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
you are an inspiration to me as a mother. i'm glad other people are seeing and acknowledging your epic win.
Edited on 2009-12-16 03:19 am (UTC)

on 2009-12-16 04:48 am (UTC)

on 2009-12-16 06:38 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
It is definitely hard to parent in the public eye. I mean I LOVE kids and always acknowledge them and am still prone to think a parent should do 'something' when kids are causing a public disturbance (even though i KNOW there's not always anything to be done) but that's MY problem, not yours.
and you are a FANTASTIC parent. (with a pretty awesome daughter to prove it)
that lady sounds awesome too.

the whole dads as secondary parent thing is just sad really :(

on 2009-12-17 05:18 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Lovely story, thoughtful discussion - I really do enjoy your blog posts. (Especially now that I have my own bella bambina to raise as best we can - as an early breeder for my friendship group, having online role models like you and [ profile] thelancrewitch is really good!)

on 2009-12-19 11:50 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
my parents have a very "old fashioned" way of looking at child care when it comes to the father - Craig gets Evie ready in the mornings when I work - he gets her dressed and fed while I get myself organised because I leave an hour earlier than he does... My mum actually said to me, "You can't make him do that!!" when I asked "why?" her answer was "because he's the man!" uh excuse me?! She was met with a harsh dose of reality in my response.

I agree with the others you are a good Mama :)
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