Ok, so I’m not going to go there. Who wants to get flamed by dozens of angry mamas on this lovely morning? But it’s interesting how much emotion this subject generates. Rational, normal people seem to lose perspective entirely when certain parenting choices come into the conversation.
Me, I’m the Switzerland of parenting, the ultimate Libra. Why? Because I believe the evidence of my own eyes and my eyes tell me that I am surrounded by normal, healthy people all of whom were brought up in different countries with different cultures and in different ways.
Do it now. Go on to facebook and look at your friend list and tell me which ones were bottle-fed and which were breast-fed. Or who was attachment parented and who was Gina Forded. You can’t, can you? But I bet they’re all different and they all turned out ok. Sure none of them are perfect as adults and there’s probably no such thing as the perfect childhood, but who wants to be friends with the perfect person anyway – they’d just make you look bad.
I’m not talking about the products of poverty or negligent parents here, those are societal ills where so much needs to change, I’m talking about parents like you and me who are caring, who have access to resources and just want to make the best decisions for their family.
So why do we get so damn upset when someone chooses a different path to us when raising their child. Of course part of it is the implied criticism, it triggers our mummy-guilt response when we see someone choose a different parenting path to ours. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they’re just different people with different solutions and imagine they think your way is wrong so you pick holes in their choice to justify your own and so it goes on.
But I think there’s more to it than that, I think we live in a world with too much information without the tools to analyse it effectively.
Where does the buck stop when it comes to being rational in this most emotive of arenas? Well, I have some contenders here…
These people are paid to come to conclusions, they’re paid to research and then publish their results. A scientist who spends years of work and thousands of dollars on a project where the answer turns out to be ‘it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference one way or another’ won’t stay a scientist very long. So they identify general trends and small statistical shifts and they write a technical article which needs to be taken in context and might provide an interesting jump off point for some further research before a definitive conclusion can be reached if it ever can. And that’s before taking into account who is paying their salary and supplying the shiny state-of-the-art lab equipment.
We know they’re paid to write about stuff and the more that the stuff they’ve written gets discussed and referenced then the more successful they are as journalists. So who can blame them if they read a dry scientific article and take some of the statistics therein and well, make them a bit more exciting. And they don’t have to lie, they just have to remove the boring contextual bits and then it becomes news. But without context information is useless, and it’s often hard for an interested layperson to look at the original source document. And that’s before taking into account any bias they or their publication may have.
Just type “misleading statistics” into google and you’ll see a whole host of fascinating blogs and articles on the subject of why you shouldn’t necessarily believe what you read in the papers especially as it relates to science – I liked this one but you can spend several enlightening hours reading more on the subject.
Well, the buck stops with us really doesn’t it. The information is there and the information that the information is unreliable is there but we still want an easy answer. We want statistics and science to tell us we’re right. We want a ‘so there’ moment when people criticize us or just do something differently to us and on the Internet or among the myriad parenting books and philosophies we can find it.
Instead of accepting that life and genetics may have made us biased to see things a certain way and others see it differently we find it easier to look for information that backs us up and rubbishes the alternatives, it’s so hard to accept that whilst we may be right, so too are they.
So the next time you see on Facebook that a friend is formula-feeding their baby, the next time you read an article about someone co-sleeping or breastfeeding into toddlerhood. The next time you hear someone talking about CIO or Gina Ford routines or home birthing – stop, think and picture that child in twenty year’s time – will anyone ever know or care?