Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adding to parental anxiety, then backtracking

Twice this week I've read quotes from women who have contributed to the rise of parental anxiety backtracking from their contribution.

Firstly Robin Barker, who wrote Baby Love, says she wishes the book would disappear.

Barker, a midwife and child and family health nurse, approved of the move away from a harsh, distant style of raising children - ''it's just that it all went mad''. She believes having children has become a form of project management, parents obsessing about the little details such as whether their baby should have one spoon of cereal or two and taking to extremes a vision of their children as extensions of themselves.

''There's this incredible competition about whose child is doing what first, right from when they're little babies,'' she says.

''But we can't discount the pressure they're under from external childcare people like me. Honestly, I'd ditch my books now, I'm over all this. I actually wrote them initially to help with some of this stuff but in some ways I think I've made it worse. I really wouldn't care if they disappeared off the face of the Earth.''

Then Nigella Lawson says that cooking is a chore, and parents shouldn't be presenting it as fun for kids. She doesn't however, acknowledge in this piece her contribution to that outcome.

Today's parents, she suggested, mistakenly believed that they had to make cooking "all fun and recreational".

"My mother was a great believer in child labour," Lawson said.

"From quite a young age, five and six probably, my sister and I would be propped up on rickety wooden chairs and put to work."

She added: "I think there was a different view of childhood then - we were expected to be useful to our parents. So we were trained up very early and we all took turns cooking my father's (former chancellor Nigel Lawson's) breakfast."

The mother of two said: "Nowadays, I think parents sometimes feel they have to get into children's television presenter mode and make cooking all fun and recreational, whereas we were just required to help get a meal on the table.

"It just felt normal. I didn't realise I was learning to cook."

She told the magazine: "My mother was a fantastic cook, but often she would be whipping up a mayonnaise, as we helped, with resentment, because she had four children to tend to and you can't be looking after a family of four and constantly be thinking, 'Oh, this is great.'"

The food writer, who served up her first dish on her own, a steamed jam roly poly, at the age of 10, added: "It becomes a chore, because in many ways it is."

Lawson said that she does "not cook seven different things in a week" and that her teenaged children, Cosima, 16, who is known as Mimi, and Bruno, 14, eat a lot of pasta.

Interesting. I keep saying it - intensive parenting has peaked.

1 comment:

chellecahill said...

I've ordered 'The Idle Parent' by Tim Hodgkinson!