One of the things I least expected about being a parent was that it immediately thrusts you into a number of ‘wars’ – and I’m not referring to the terrorist tactics my 3 year old resorts to in order to have access to a steady stream of paddle pops. (I kind of expected that, though nothing quite prepared me for it).
I’m referring to the woefully labelled ‘mummy wars’ in which the major battle fields seem to be how we feed, educate and discipline our children, how we bring them into the world and the ever explosive hot button topic of circumcision.
Recently, however, a new battleground is emerging, as an ever increasing stream of fluffy journalists report on the widening gap between parents and non-parents; café owners who have ‘no pram’ policies or refuse to heat up baby food, aeroplanes that offer ‘no kid’ seating, non-parents bemoaning, (ironically), the existence of Whinging Parent Syndrome and parents offering indignant responses.
This new battle confuses me to no end. If parents don’t like other parents, and non-parents don’t like parents, are the kids the only ones getting along?
So at the risk of opening up a new battlefront by speaking out of turn on behalf of millions of mums and dads across Australia, (apologies in advance), here’s my very simple take on the Non-mummy wars.
The Café/Restaurant Battle
There are places it’s appropriate to take children and places it really really isn’t. Most parents get that. In fact, my worst nightmare would be to take my kids somewhere posh to eat. And by posh I mean there’s a table cloth. Or nice music. Actually any music at all. Or anything on the lunch menu over, say, $14. We pretty much stick to cafes in shopping centres.
Having said that, sometimes us mummies and daddies need a coffee. Sometimes we need to get out of the house – and by need, I am referring to a desperate need, because our children have, say, painted their bedroom walls with nail polish and while we were cleaning it they did the same to their own faces, (Yes that has happened to me and no, pink sparkle nail polish does not irritate a toddler’s skin so far as I know). Other times we are tired from lugging reluctant children around shopping centres and really just need to sit down, and the cost of a coffee seems like a bargain for a comfortable seat.
Most of us are entirely respectful of other patrons and use common sense when it comes to which cafes and restaurants we patronise. Most of us make sure our kids are well mannered (as far as they can be) and don’t throw things or smear things. Where possible. We are not miracle workers and they are children.
I know you’ve probably seen some of us on the Parent team who aren’t respectful. I’ve also seen some people on both teams smoke in non-smoking areas and leave rubbish in public places. To quote a line from The Simpsons, (where I get none of my parenting advice), some people are just jerks. Whether they have kids or not.
The thing is parents are looking to feel less isolated from the rest of society, not more isolated. So if my children cause the occasional disruption to the lives of other diners, I can live with the stares and rolled eyes. They’re not perfect, and neither am I. Then again, nobody is. Most of us try pretty damn hard though.
The Aeroplane Battle
I guarantee you if I am ever fortunate enough to be in a plane that has a kid free area and I myself am kid free I will pay a considerable premium to be in those seats. Not because I don’t like kids – I love them! Even my own! But there are some places which are not ideal for kids. It’s necessary for kids to be on planes, but it’s rarely an ideal location for them. Unless, of course, they have a steady supply of Peppa Pig on the iPad and Twisties in their hands, but on both counts we parents tend to get nasty looks when we resort to such measures. We try, we really try, to keep our kids under control in a metal box hundreds of kilometres in the air through turbulence, no sleep and terrible food. We try not to let them scream or kick your seat. Sometimes kids challenge authority though, heaven knows I did when I was a child. And we know why you roll your eyes when you realise you have to sit next to us. We’re not offended – we wouldn’t want to sit next to us either.
Whinging Parent Syndrome
Okay, this is what I hear about the most. I hear from reputable, (if that’s even a thing anymore), media outlets that WPS is spreading like wildfire. WPS is becoming a serious concern, mirroring the apparent rise in Unruly Child Syndrome, (UCS is mostly reported via disapproving looks from bystanders who claim that children these days are getting away with much more than their children ever would). Parents whinge about the silliest things, I’m told. Like a lack of sleep, how expensive kids are and the insane amount of washing a small child can create.
I’m not sure WPS is actually on the rise, however, I just think we just have fewer and fewer opportunities to express ourselves – parents and non-parents alike – when it comes to the day to day things that mildly annoy us. And they build up, leading to a mounting frustration.
We know we chose to be parents, but as clichéd as it sounds we had no idea what that really meant. It’s kind of like starting a new vocation that changes every few days with no pay and very little recognition. It’s a tough job and I’m sure plenty of non-parents have tough jobs too. I bet, sometimes, they feel the need to talk to someone about it. If you do, I’m happy to listen.
Some observers of the WPS condition notice parents whinging not only about the difficulties in raising them, but about the needs of their own children. Like the need to scream in grocery stores because a parent won’t buy them a giant Easter Egg. Or the number of times each day a toddler that is toilet training needs to be changed. (I think you’d be surprised by the answer). Or the fact that they need to eat food that is pink – only pink. Or that they need to open a bottle of fake tan a parent bought for an upcoming wedding and paint themselves with it. (Yes, this also has happened to me. My son glowed for a full week, minus a stark white dribble mark on his chin).
These things do frustrate us and we’re not looking to annoy you or bore you. We just occasionally need a sympathetic ear. Just, I am sure, as many non parents do when they go through a rough patch. It may come across as entitled sometimes, but that’s not necessarily because we are parents. It’s because we are human.
On a personal note, having children is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It’s fulfilling in a way I never knew possible. And sometimes it is indeed all consuming to be tasked with moulding a tiny person’s life. We’re sorry if we’re boring or annoying – we know what it’s like to be non parents. We used to be non parents and we loved it! But a little understanding on both sides of the battlefield could go a long way to an uneasy truce. And as my five year old wisely said to me the other day, life doesn’t have to be perfect. We, parents and non parents alike, don’t have to be perfect. We just have to try and get along.