Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do you like my shoes?

They're about 10 years old and have seen me through work and nights out, weddings,child-free times and two pregnancies (early trimester only), breastfeeding, back to work and being a stay-at-home mum. Actually, it doesn't really bother me if nobody else likes them. They suit me and I like them. Admittedly they haven't always been perfect for every occasion, but they were the best I could find at the time, within my means. If they've rubbed, I've just hobbled along, hoping that I didn't have far to go and that no-one would criticise my choice of footwear whilst en-route....a bit like parenting itself really, except such decisions are more deep, longer-lasting and more personal than footwear.

If you're wondering where this is going, it's about the subject of choice and freewill, particularly in parenthood, and making decisions that are right for you according to your
personal experience. It's also about having respect for others and not criticising their choices and actions based on your own beliefs. Coming back to the introduction, it's about not judging someone unless you've walked a mile in their shoes, an old saying which attempts to promote empathy.

Our society is not the most empathic. Recently I've heard stay-at-home mums criticising mothers who work full-time. In the past I've heard working mums patronise those who choose to stay-at-home and it doesn't stop there. Two other bloggers have recently provided wonderful insights into their own personal experiences: Ingenious Rose's experience as a Single Parent and Mother at Large on being an older mum, situations which have both previously attracted criticism from others.

Other hot topics that summon the critical tongue-wag include breast-feeding vs bottle-feeding, home-made food vs jars, family size (i.e. number of children), childcare choices, private vs state education and walking to school vs driving. Let's not forget the choice of birthday party, presents, television viewing, computer usage...the list is endless and I am sure that I am yet to come across other dividing factors as my children grow older.

When making choices, our decisions are rightly or wrongly influenced by a number of factors including our age, upbringing, a present or absent partner, income, health, location, previous experiences, peer pressure, guidance from professionals, marketing messages and legal framework. It's a complex cocktail of biological, geographical and socio-economic reference points which ensure that each of us are unique and therefore our situations are different to others, even if at face-value they might appear to be similar if not the same.

Before having children I thought I knew everything about parenting, strange that but I am sure I am not on my own there! However, since having children, I have learned how hard it can be. Now, I just try and get on with enjoying our own family life and not to judge the decisions of others, especially as a means to justifying and affirming my own efforts. Unless other parents' actions are harmful, abusive or illegal, my philosophy these days is to just cut each other some slack and hope that others will do the same. After all, I have enough of my own shoes to worry about without concerning myself with others.


Jo Beaufoix said...

Well said.

There's so much parenting peer pressure, and so many cliques out there.

When I first had Miss E I was so scared of doing things 'wrong' and being judged.

But now with a 7 year old and a 2 year old I'm more comfortable in my role so I try not to judge those doing it different to me.
I just smile at them all and do my own thing, but I'm open to advice and an well aware that what works for one parent/child may not work for another.

In the end, we just have to do the best we can and enjoy it along the way.

Now the only approval I truly need is from my kids, and they're very good at letting me know if I'm not getting it quite right...

Jo Beaufoix said...

P.s. I like your shoes.

Paul said...

Nice piece. I'm glad I'm not the only one with old clothes. Some of my favourites are much older.

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Jo Beaufois - thanks for popping over, lovely to see your photo on my visitor list ;-) I know what you mean about when you first have children, the bewilderment of finding your way around and trying to do everything right is v daunting. I used to take everyone else's advice and not trust my own judgment. Like you it's only now that they are older am I much more comfortable. Glad you like my shoes ;-D

Paul - I suppose fashions always come back round so age doesn't matter :-) Shame about that though, I am not really digging the eighties revival at the moment. It was bad enough the first time round.

Em said...

Peoples opinions about work life balance wind me up, I dont have a choice about working and even if i did i am not sure which choice i would take, prior to having Billy i was going to work full time, how things change. ( i work part time)I kinda envy both types of parents both who work and who dont, must be nice to spend every day with your child and on the other side must be a very stong and driven/organised if you work full time! Sorry to go on!

I have a old faithful pair of trousers, not sure how they havent fallen to pieces! So your not only one who makes things last - lol

Dorothy said...

As a working mother of one child I often find myself at the raw end of other people's opinions. What a bad mother I am for working. What a bad mother I am for only having one, poor little lonely child!!! and that's without mentioning the fact that I chose to give birth via the method with the most medical intervention you could ever hope to have!

Personally speaking I am very accepting of the way in which other people choose to live their lives. You never know what goes on behind closed doors or the real reasons behind the choices people make. I only give advice if asked. Otherwise I guess I am too busy living and enjoying my own life to bother about putting people straight. Too bad other people are so small minded!

21st Century Mummy said...

Jo - hello again...sorry of course there is an x in your name not an s. Hope you didn't notice, but I did. Sorry - but I was a bit tired when I responded last time, but all better now ;-)

Hi Em - thanks for dropping by. It sounds like you've got the best balance, part-time. However, I know what you mean...I work part-time too but out of choice. I need to do something for me, but in a way which still gives us a lot of family time together. However, when I work I want to be with the children, but when I'm with them I sometimes think I'd prefer to be at work. My sister works full-time because she couldn't hack it any other way. We respect each other for the paths we have chosen and laugh at each other along the way ;-D

Dorothy...hello...and welcome to blogland. Great to see you. I think the time has come to start that blog ... and as for Dorothy's daughter, she's a great girl with a great mother...and the further we keep ourselves from the small-minded the better. See you soon ;-)