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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: