What's all this then?

I tweet too much. So I needed somewhere else to start storing all the words. This is it. Think of it as the external hard drive for my thoughts.

I don't have an obesssion, a dream, a fixation or a hook, so don't be expecting a focus here. It's like great big lumps of my twitterings. You may see teaching stuff, rants, maternal anxiety and occasional sojourns away from reality.

Anyway, I like a nice chat so we should talk. By we, I of course mean me...

Friday, 18 February 2011

An open letter to Schoolgate Mums... with love, honest.

Hello Mum-at-the-gate!

Nice to see the sun isn’t it? Yes, dinner money was due in this week. Well, that’s the chitchat done with. Let’s get down to business.

Being a parent can be difficult, yes? It’s tiring, it’s trying and sometimes you might find yourself sat on the stairs at 2am with a blanket over your head wondering what happened to your life. What? No, that wasn’t me. It was a friend. Anyway.

The point is, we all know what we’re up against trying to raise children in this rather peculiar century. So why are we making it harder for each other?  Parenting really isn’t a competition, and this playground isn’t a dojo; you’ve no need to be giving me the steely glare, we’re not going into battle. What I’m saying is, shouldn’t we be a whole lot more supportive of each other?

I’ll be honest: your children, whilst excellent examples of the form, do not interest me at all. I’m sure they’re lovely, but I’m indifferent to their spelling scores and housepoint acquisition. And I’m a bit bemused as to why you’re worrying about my kids. They’re no threat to yours: they’re different and they’re not in competition either. They’ll probably barely remember each other in 30 years, let alone be fighting it out for that dream job or the affections of a literary hero. So let’s stop comparing them.

Look. Remember labour? The sweating, the quantities of fluids, the desperation. And then seeing your baby? Your actual brand new person. Well, imagine the midwife had come in and said,

“Look, I know that’s your baby, but look at THIS ONE. This one will be reading ‘The Masked Cleaning Ladies of Om’ in Year 3 and I’m afraid yours will still be on ‘Biff and Chip’. Wouldn’t you rather have this one?”

You’d probably say something like,

“What the bloody hell are you on about? Biff and who? I don’t care about that. I couldn’t give a monkey’s about reading books. It really isn’t important. Now kindly do one.”

And you’d be right. It isn’t important. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. Let’s remember that. You love your child: the rest doesn’t matter.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about us. No, not like that, I mean all of us. Us women here on the playground.

We’ve all been in the wonderful world of work, even if we’re not now. (Unless you’ve been living in a mansion on a trust fund, in which case we should really be better friends.) At work, if you’re no good at something, or a job comes up that you really hate, you rush to palm it off on someone else, don’t you? Come on, I know it’s not just me. If someone else can do the work you loathe better than you and they actually enjoy it, then yeehah! Time to breathe a sigh of relief and head down the pub.

It really shouldn’t be any different now, at school. For example, I like making cakes. I’m not too bad at it. Look! http://twitpic.com/1pqqwj  But just because I bake doesn’t mean you should have to if you hate it. It’s not a competition. Leave baking to the master bakers (sorry, I had to). Similarly, I will not be running in any parents’ races at Sports Day, but if that’s your kind of fun, you go for it. I hope you win. If you can hear Readers without needing to swig from a hip flask of gin, then great. I can’t.  Again, it’s not a competition. Let’s just be relieved that we can, as a body, fill all the roles the school has for us. Let’s be grateful someone else can do the facepainting at the Fayre when we don’t have the skills, because 200 kids all done as “A Tomato” doesn’t look good.

In short, let’s be nice. Let’s be supportive. Let’s tread gently, because we never really know what’s going on behind someone’s polite smalltalk face. Let’s save that fearsome maternal fighting spirit for those that deserve it. No, not the school down the road. The politicians who would take our school funds, the companies who would brand our kids, and last but not least, those unbearable parenting gurus who make us feel inadequate so they can sell their books. Let’s get them first.

Now, time to go, the best kids in the world are coming out of school. No, I meant mi…. oh never mind. See you tomorrow…


  1. Oh Beccy, hang in there. Yes, they should save the maternal she- tigering for what matters.

  2. Thanks Ali! Some days I don't know which is worse... volunteering and getting the sneers or not volunteering and getting the tuts!

    I think if we combined all our ferocity we could certainly scare off those dogmatic authors of Parenting "manuals" (instruction books for kids? I ask you) whose prescriptive approaches encourage us to judge others unfairly.

  3. ''volunteering and getting the sneers ''definitely worse...
    I'm a people-pleaser. I can't help, I fight it, but I was born this way. I'm a sucker for the ''oh Mrs_Moons, please could you..'' and no matter how knackered I am, or how crap the day at work has been, i can find time to bake 12 buns for an unsupported cake stall. Or spend my day off on a trip becuase they've told me the trip might be cancelled.
    I don't want bouquets, I don't want effusive thanks. i just want for my fellow mums not to look at me as if my life is somehow empty because I found time to do small services. Or to sneer ''oh, you're good aren't you?''
    I don't have a religion, but I do believe in small good turns.

  4. Couldn't agree more! As a fellow sufferer of the disease to please, I'm often doing stuff I really wish I wasn't. Like chairing the PTA.

    The thing is, *somebody* has to do it. And in my limited experience of fundraising when people say "somebody" they've missed off the key word "else". So a few of us somebodies end up doing a lot, and that's when the sneering starts.

    It's only having been on the inside of a Staffroom and knowing how much schools appreciate this stuff that stops the tut-sneer combo getting to me. Most of the time...

  5. Absolutely spot on.
    I wish I could send your letter to all the mums in my playground, who can be bothered to stand there at 8.30 in the morning all dolled up, looking perfect for the day ahead talking about how many books there child read the night before and how many clubs their children belong to, the mums that look at me racing in at the last minute with 3 young kids in tow, looking far from my best, with a child that doesn't want to read and is to shy to attend any club, but is perfectly happy. I wish I could shout "Stop staring as I am the same as you"!
    Sorry just had to get that off my chest!
    Great post

  6. Thank you! Rant away. This is a safe place :)

    Glad you mentioned the Clubs thing. It's such a huge source of guilt, isn't it? Yet, time to play without pressure, without constraint, without purpose other than to just *be* is so important for children. Play therapy is effective because it gives children space to sort things out, and understand what's happened. Some research suggests children who receive play therapy recover quicker from traumas than adults receiving other therapies. Wish I had a link to that for you! Play is *that* powerful. Regular playing is no less important for children, and the drive towards more tutoring, more homework, more clubs can lead us to forget that.

    Oh, look - I ranted there too!

    Key point, if your kids are happy then that's fine. Don't feel guilty. There.


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