Clare has blogged today about a Daily Mail article – “Sorry, but my children bore me to death!” – and rather than clog up her post with my overlong comments I’m blogging it here. This one has been ticking over in mind since I read it, and has bothered me emormously.

Perhaps it is my guilt-ridden-working-mother sensitivity speaking out here, defensively. But then the very fact that I am guilt-ridden as a working mother is a problem for me (on so many levels that I just can’t bring myself to go into it here – maybe another post!) so I am trying not to let my lingering feelings of bad-mother guilt get in the way of responding to this.

Well, the writer of this article, Helen Kirwan-Taylor, discusses how she finds children’s activities boring, and how she is not constantly in thrall to her children and their wants / needs, and how this makes her – in most people’s eyes – a really bad mother. Most of the people commenting on the article agree with her. She is a bad mother – selfish and lazy and superficial. Both she and her kids are missing out.

Although I can’t say I sympathise entirely with her position (after all, she does write for the Daily Mail and therefore must have something wrong with her!) I do respect her point of view. And I find the comments that she is getting interesting. For example, most of the commenters are quick to say that she is selfish, that her kids will turn out badly in some way, that she herself must have something pathological wrong with her, that she shouldn’t even have had the kids in the first place if she wasn’t going to look after them.

Yet she, and several of the mothers she quotes, and a number of the commenters, all describe their experiences honestly and all say that the work of mothering is dull. Are we saying that it isn’t dull and discounting their experiences? Or are we saying that, whether or not they find it dull, they should do it anyway because they chose to have children? Either way, what these commenters are saying is that there is something wrong with Kirwan-Smith and all the other mothers who expressed similar feelings. It is their fault for unnaturally not liking all the baggage of modern motherhood, or else it is their fault for not just putting up with said baggage and putting on a brave face, or else it is their fault for having kids in the first place if they weren’t just going to suck up the bad stuff along with the good.

I read through all 89 of the comments so far on this article, and even for the Daily Mail they strike me as somewhat hysterical (testerical?) in that when you read the article it is clear that Kirwan-Smith does actually spend some time with her kids and does love them and want them. She just doesn’t enjoy children’s parties, or child-centric social events such as school plays, or reading bedtime stories and, where she can, she avoids doing that stuff – preferring to have a work life and a social life as well as a maternal life. Moreover, Kirwan-Smith herself believes that her children are well-adjusted, creative young people developing as independant individuals – but her judgement doesn’t count, of course, because she is a bad mother, and other people’s idea of how her children will turn out is clearly thought to be more credible.

We all love to judge mothers – whether we say that she is a bad, selfish mother who should never have had kids in the first place, or that she is an independent woman bravely speaking out for all the mothers who are made to feel guilty about not being good enough… But what I thought was most interesting about the article and the responses to it is the almost complete absence of any reference to these children’s father. Where is he? Down the pub, if we are to take the only clue in the article seriously. He is certainly not stepping in to read the bedtime stories that his wife dislikes so much.

This is of course standard Dad behaviour. (I said standard, not universal.) Yet where are the people calling him out for being selfish, and not spending time with his kids, and leaving it all to the nanny? Who is asking him why he bothered to have children in the first place? How is his, and many other fathers’, failure to spend time with his children any less blameworthy than his wife’s? What are we hearing about his qualities as a father?

Nowhere, No-one, No-how, Not a dicky bird. Somehow, I am not surprised. Just saddened.

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