Like many people, I watched the discussion on ITV’s This Morning with Peaches Geldof and Katie Hopkins. If you missed it, ITV have made it available on Youtube here:
Opinions were expressed, points were made, soundbites were dispensed, names were called. It made for an interesting few minutes, and many people, including many sections of the print media seem to think that Peaches Geldof ‘obliterated’ Katie Hopkins. I don’t agree. In my opinion, neither of these ladies did themselves or their opinions any favours.
Katie’s body language was hostile bordering on intimidatory, giving Peaches no personal space, and Peaches was overly defensive and disrespectful to Katie, not allowing her to speak without interruption. This was a discussion clearly set up as much for confrontation as it was for education and sharing of opinions. While Peaches came across as informed on her subject, her comments on Twitter about the contents of Katie’s skirt were neither dignified or necessary. They were squabbling like kids in the school yard.
My biggest issue with the whole thing however was the portrayal of fathers in the discussion, or rather the lack of it. Where was Dad’s opinion in all of this? The only time husbands or fathers were mentioned was in relation to bedsharing and if it was putting a crimp in their sex lives.
As a Dad, I found this quite demeaning. Yes, I enjoy sex but my relationship with my wife isn’t defined by it. I bring more than just my genitals to the role of husband and father, and for the media to portray that as a man I view my wife solely as a sex object is neither accurate or beneficial.
There was also no mention of a fathers role as a caregiver and equal partner in both the decision making process or the care giving process of parenting. Whatever your view of attachment parenting, and we’ll get to mine shortly, this is a major issue. A father should be involved in these things, otherwise we are reduced to mere sperm donors as far as our children are concerned. Traditionally the man may have gone out to work and the woman stayed home as care giver, but this societal norm has mostly faded with both parents often working and roles being reversed. Even where it remains the case that Dad works and Mum stays home with the kids, for any parenting choice to be implemented to its optimum there has to be agreement in its delivery.
Which brings us on to attachment parenting. Its a label I don’t really subscribe to, even though in practice we have put into practice many of Dr Sears 7 B’s of attachment parenting instinctively. My wife breastfed our daughter and our son, we babywear, we both spent prolonged periods of time bonding with both of our children skin to skin, we definitely believe in the value of boundaries and while we don’t always nail it we do strive to provide balance for our kids.
While I cannot take any credit for Sarah’s decision to feed, I did support her in it. Night time feeds often involved me nipping downstairs to get tea and toast for instance so she could stay settled with our little ones and sleep after without then having to go get herself supplies to replenish her own energy. Yes it saved us having to buy and prepare formula but it did involve other sacrifices, Sarah had Mastitis on more than one occasion, wine was off the menu for prolonged periods, we had to make changes to our lifestyle, but we had these extra little people in our lives now, we had to make changes anyway.
We did share our bed with both of our children. Not out of any sense of principle or to fit in with any rule but just because at times it was more convenient. If your little one is waking every hour or so and its cold, do you really want to have to keep getting out of bed to walk to the moses basket to extract your hungry, crying infant to feed them? Then having settled them do you really want to get out of bed again to put them back in the moses basket, knowing that there’s a 50/50 chance that putting them down in there is likely to wake them again? It meant we slept more by moving them into our bed. Not so much AP, as ELP (Easy Life Parenting – I’m gonna trademark that).
I love babywearing, its comforting for the kids and for me. Its much more convenient than pushing a buggy, allows the children are better vantage point from which to observe and engage with the world than the knee level which they are stuck with in most strollers. I enjoy the variety of slings available, and appreciate the flexibility that different things provide, be it a ring sling in the boot of the car for running into the supermarket, or a wrap for poorly snuggles while I still get on with housework, there is a sling for every occasion if you want one.
The misconception that attachment parenting means letting your kids run rampant is exactly that, a misconception. If you call yourself an AP practitioner and have never said ‘no’ I’d suggest you may be doing it wrong. As Dr Sears states on his website:
“As you will learn the key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby – knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” and having the wisdom to say “yes” to yourself when you need help.”
If you go on lots of parenting websites, you will come across talk of ‘The Mummy Wars’, where different practitioners and followers of different approaches clash. I’ve observed it particularly in the Formula vs Breast debate, and in Vaccinate vs None Vaccinate discussions, where difference of opinions are dealt with in much the same way as Ms Geldof and Ms Hopkins approached their differences: Namely belittling those who offer differing opinions.
One of the worst things about war is that it inevitably creates casualties. The Mummy wars are no different. Except this time the casualties are Dads. Parenting does not work as well without an involved and nurturing dad.
To any Mums and Mums-to-be reading this: please involve the children’s father in the decision making process, he will be far more likely to actively support choices he is involved in. Don’t parent at the cost of your partner, involve him, trust him and if necessary enable him to be the great Dad your kids will benefit from.
To Dads reading this: Parenting isn’t a Mummy only activity, you have a unique contribution to bring to the development of your children. Being a father is a long term investment of time, effort and love, but it is the most rewarding one you will ever make. Involve yourself in the day to day life of your children, in the decision making and care giving processes.
I’ve written to This Morning asking them to revisit some of their parenting discussions with the involvement of Fathers. Maybe we can show that more important than labels, strategies and brands, a loving Mum and Dad is the best start to life for every child.