Maybe it’s just me, but when I became a mum I suddenly became really aware of all the things you shouldn’t do when you have kids.
I’m not talking parenting fails or parenting tribalism. I’m on about the mum-bashing type of Facebook updates and Tweets that you see, alluding to some sort of parenting / non-parenting divide in the world.
Terrified I’d become one of *those* mums, I restricted (or, attempted to restrict) gushy status updates about my new baby. Equally, I held myself back from posting running commentaries about my child’s sleeping / eating / sleeping / eating habits. Mainly, it wasn’t that interesting to me – let alone anyone else – but I was also aware that I didn’t want to annoy people without kids.
But something dawned on me this weekend. And it’s a funny thing because it’s not something I’ve particularly realised before now.
I am a mum. I have a child. I have all the battles and elation and emotions that come with being a parent. But it’s not ALL I am. My relationship to Frog doesn’t completely define me. And you know what? I think my friends know that.
The so-called “parent vs non-parent divide” is just in my head. And on Facebook. And on various websites that are seemingly set up to diss parents who go on about their kids. But in real life, is there really a divide? Not in my world.
I went to a wedding at the weekend. It was brilliant. I watched one of my loveliest friends get married to a brilliant bloke and, afterwards, I partied with parents and non-parents alike. We were without our three year old, so anyone who didn’t know us wouldn’t know we were in the “parent category”. But I chatted with guests who had kids, danced with toddlers on the dancefloor and swilled wine with people who aren’t parents.
At no point did the fact I was a parent put me in some kind of box in the room. And at no point did I put anyone who wasn’t a parent into that other box.
I didn’t talk about whether they wanted kids, were trying for kids or had no interest in becoming parents. We chatted about the gorgeous food, how amazing it was to see our friends so happy, the genius choice of a Katy Perry song as the first dance and what was happening on the news that day.
Conversations were wide-ranging and non-limiting. There was no sense of competition or judgement or, well, anything negative at all. And I don’t think that was just because it was a bloody excellent day.
To a certain degree there is a sense that you join a “club” when you become a mum. When you meet other mums I guess you’ve automatically got something in common, in that you’ve both got a kid.
But, sometimes, that might be all. Conversations beyond your role as a mum might be limiting, because there’s no other common ground between you. And, in just the same way, you might have LOADS in common with someone who isn’t a mum (or a dad).
At this wedding I was chatting to someone who asked me about my daughter. “I love the pics you put of her on Facebook – she’s so cute!” she said. “Oh no – I’m sorry about that!” I replied, immediately thinking I was one *those* mums. “Not at all – I like it!” she assured me. “I think they’re lovely.”
And that’s it really. She wasn’t offended by my pictures in just the same way I wasn’t offended by the updates about my mates’ nights out or impromptu trips to the pub, that are rare for me these days.
If a friend has had a bad day at work I don’t immediately think, “Blimey, she knows NOTHING about a bad day” just because she hasn’t got kids. And I don’t pity the people who don’t have kids, because they’re “missing out” on all the good sides of being a parent.
We’re all people after all.
Or maybe that’s just me. What do you think?
*Obligatory cute kid picture*