Guardian commenters and the myth of the perfect parent

Yesterday, in his Guardian Family column, Stuart wrote about a day when he had to take over primary parenting duties because I was laid up with a migraine, and how it wasn’t a barrel of laughs.

I thought it was a particularly sweet piece, but somehow it attracted 400-odd dementedly outraged comments that often dripped with condescension and outright insult.

Generally, my reaction to comments like this is to read them out gleefully to Stuart over breakfast, because I am a delightful and supportive wife. However, today I feel I should actually address them.

These are approximations of the main offenders (or offending comment trends).

“If you find your baby boring you are a terrible parent and should literally give your baby to someone else.”
Look, I find my baby as charming and curious as Paul Rudd with a magnifying glass, but spending an afternoon watching him hit himself on the head with a plastic toy while waiting for a laundry cycle to finish is not my idea of thrilling, either.

Of course I play with him, and sing to him, and gaze at him for hours, marvelling at every single hair on his head, and the fact that he’s here and he’s ours – we both do – but we all have our limits.

You may have a neverending well of fascination for your children, and good on you if so, but being so histrionically judgmental about other parents reeks of arseholery. We’re doing our best just as you are.

“You need to spend more time with your baby.
Well, it’s lucky Stuart gave these commenters our schedule, because how else could they fairly decide whether he spends enough him with our son? For the record, when he’s not working the first thing Stuart does is offer to take Herbie. Good thing, too, or I would be perennially unshowered.

“How could you have been bored? Why didn’t you take your baby to the park or to a baby group? Your wife would have.”
Firstly, I am Herbie’s food source, even with a migraine, so short of dragging me along, all pukey and photophobic, Stuart was a bit tied to the house. Secondly, woe betide Stuart for not preternaturally knowing where the nearest mother-and-baby group was and what time it ran, and thirdly, just fuck off. We’ve all had days where we’re stuck inside with a baby, whether it’s down to weather or illness or sheer dive-into-Netflix knackeredness. I might not have gone out with the baby, in fact. I suppose that makes me an awful parent, too.

“Your wife could deal with it because she HAD NO CHOICE. Society expects it of her, you chauvinist, not like you in your IVORY TOWER OF AN OFFICE.”
Er, I didn’t accidentally poo out a child then discover that I’d been manacled to the stove for a year. I had plenty of choice. I chose to have a baby. I chose to take a long maternity leave and do the largesse of the parenting while Stuart did most of the breadwinning. Thanks for all the empowerment, though.

“Boring? You don’t know what boring is, at least you don’t have to cope with your partner having post-natal depression.”
Actually, despite your assumptions I do have PND, and Stuart does have to cope with it. At least now your own partner knows that you don’t find her mental health very stimulating.

“Your wife sometimes feeling insecure about her parenting skills will result in your child growing up skittish and emotionally damaged.”
THIS IS MY FAVOURITE TYPE OF COMMENT. On behalf of new mothers everywhere who sometimes need reassurance that they’re doing an okay job, thank you for your kind words.

“Your praising your wife for taking naturally to parenting is sexist.”
Yes, and my making Stuart a cup of tea is racist, and if I ever tell anyone they look nice it’s basically terrorism.

“Only boring people are bored.”
Au contraire.

Tl;dr Stuart wrote a column, the comments went nuts, Herbie’s face sums up my feelings on the matter:

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11 Comments

  • Reply Eleanor 9th August 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Whether you’re male or female, worker or stay at home parent, the stage of parenting you both are at is really hard. I love it that he gave you props for doing it. I also love it that he pointed out how hard and sometimes, a bit boring it can be.

  • Reply Mel 9th August 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Don’t feel bad. I’ve just spent three hours waiting for it to be bedtime (for my daughter who obviously is utterly loved and the best decision ever) – I don’t ever comment in blogs or papers but sometimes everyone needs to hear a sane voice. You’re both doing great as parents, your son looks so happy and don’t let anyone bullshit you otherwise

  • Reply DomesticGoddesque 9th August 2015 at 7:19 pm

    The internet: allowing people to have opinions since 1997. Honestly. I spend half my life waiting for bedtime, and it gets later as they get older. Sometimes life is just too mundane to be interesting. The brilliance of Stu’s post is how much love it has in it for you and for Herbie. The brilliance of your post is highlighting how stupid Stupid People really are. I am sorry you are stuck in the PND vortex. I can’t imagine you don’t have a gazillion friends who are very helpful and supportive indeed, but if you need one more, let me know x

    • Reply admin 9th August 2015 at 9:29 pm

      I’d love one more! Fancy a trip to Ashford? We have, a, er, Wetherspoons x

  • Reply Shannon 9th August 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Ugh, internet comments can be the worst. (I say, commenting on the internet).

    I ready Stuart’s article and thought it was really lovely. I’m sorry it had so many horrible responses.

    Of course, things could have been worse – the article could have been published on the Daily Mail. 🙂

  • Reply Kate 9th August 2015 at 8:30 pm

    I read Stuart’s column and thought it was great. It’s not often you get to see both parents’ thoughts about bringing up a baby, especially with such honesty too. And personally I thought the things your husband said about you were lovely! I didn’t read the comments so I’m pretty shocked to find that people were so nasty. As if new parents don’t have it hard enough! Our baby is due in a couple of months and I love reading realistic views of what’s to come so please ignore all the wanks.

  • Reply Germaine 10th August 2015 at 12:55 am

    I read your husband’s article and thought “Holy crap, that’s me to a t!” Except I’m mum and I’m at home with him nearly 24/7 and have been for just over a year. I love my son. I adore him. I read to him, play with him, go walking with him, hiking, rock hounding, play dates…the list goes on…but often times I feel as if I’m just filling in time between meals. I’m bored! There’s only so many times you can do the same thing over and over without feeling like your brain is turning to mush. He’s a year old now and becoming ever more active and inquisitive which is fantastic. It will be even more awesome when he can being to actively participate in mine and my partners various interests. I’ve read blogs by perfect parents who seem absolutely endlessly fascinated by their little ones and their own fascination with bugs and grass and poop and it’s great for putting the guilts on and making me question why I’m not the same. I laughed through your husband’s article and agree whole heartedly-although I am not yet a raging, perpetually undressed alcoholic!

  • Reply Alex 10th August 2015 at 2:36 am

    Love this!! Thanks!

  • Reply Amy 10th August 2015 at 10:06 pm

    My daughter is 5 1/2 months old and some days Old McDonald has a dove and an owl and even a lion as I perform for my number one fan. Being the stay at home parent is a joy but it is hard work and I thought Stuart’s words were lovely.

  • Reply Laura Walker 12th August 2015 at 8:00 am

    As new parents myself and my husband both enjoyed the article. My husband is away with work all next week and I’m really going to miss adult conversation at the end of the day! I love my son to bits and like all new mums feel very unassure at times if I am doing things right!

  • Reply Fibie 24th August 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Guardian BTL comments terrify me sometimes! I frequently go from reading one of the articles and feeling uplifted and interested due the content, to ten comments in, miserable and usually really confused as to why those people are reading a newspaper so diametrically opposed to their own views! I’ve really enjoyed reading about your journey as a family, even more so since I’m expecting my own. Herbie is an adorable wee man. Today I read “Holidays from Hell” on the Guardian website where your Glastonbury experience was mentioned (I’d read your blog post about it a while back)…my partner and I are off to Festival No 6 next month at which point I’ll be 18 weeks… *deep breath* 😮

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