Capitalizing on boredom in The Daily Mail

One of the pieces being discussed this week has been an article titled “Sorry, but my children bore me to death!” by Helen Kirwan-Taylor (July 26, 2006) in The Daily Mail. As could be expected from the title alone it has drawn many responses, and The Daily Mail itself published another article the next day “Why have children if you don’t like bringing them up?” that condensed much of the critique lobbied at Kirwan-Taylor. The newspaper’s swiftness in capitalizing on the controversy is emblematic of how many of these articles are really just bait, a way to get a polarizing, judgmental debate going. In this particular instance, the shiny, dangling hook is simple: What no mother dares to say is that they would rather not be with their children.

After this generalized (and incredibly presumptuous) statement, the article quickly shifts into confessional-mommy mode, as Kirwan-Taylor recounts her own experience with motherhood. She became a workaholic while her children were small so that she could avoid them, does not find children to be ‘fulfilling, life-changing, life-enhancing fun’, and doesn’t hesitate to describe herself as just a ‘bad’ mom, as exemplified by her being ‘bored rigid’ with reading them bedtime stories. (I must admit I found this surprising, as she makes a living as a journalistic writer. But as that old adage in Spanish tells us “In a blacksmith’s house, the knives are made of wood.”) She then talks about feeling ashamed, unfit, and guilty, and bemoans her lack of entry into the mythical “private club of motherhood”.

It becomes clear that the members of the private club of motherhood are mommies in denial, dark side mommies who are child-centric and have turned their children into the Last Career. Any motherhood club mommies who think or feel otherwise are just keeping a secret from society and themselves, too chicken to be honest and hiding until someone else says it first. Unsurprisingly, that bold new woman would be Kirwan-Taylor, who perhaps doesn’t realize that the argument that children and child rearing are boring, menial tasks has been around for a long, long time. And of course, there is an expert to both validate her confession and pat her on the back because “it takes a brave woman to admit that [that child-rearing can be tedious or dull]”.

So Kirwan-Taylor sets up her own private club, complete with whispered admissions of boredom to the point of depression and madness from both working and stay-at-home mothers. And now that she has her own club and has been validated by experts, she uses mommy-bashing to vindicate herself.

All us bored mothers can take comfort from the fact that our children may yet turn out to be more balanced than those who are love-bombed from the day they are born.

Research increasingly shows that child-centred parenting is creating a generation of narcissistic children who cannot function independently.

'Their demand for external support is enormous,' says Kati St Clair. 'They enter the real world totally ill-prepared. You damage a child just as much by giving them extreme attention as you do by ignoring them altogether. Both are forms of abuse.'

Child experts are increasingly begging parents to let their kids be.

'Parents think they can design their children by feeding them a diet of Mozart — well they can't,' says Dr Rosenfeld.

Sometimes, apparently, the best thing parents can do for their children is to let them be bored.

This, of course, makes mothers like me — who love their children but refuse to cater to their every whim — feel vindicated. By sticking to our guns, we have unwittingly created children who can do things like make up stories (very few kids can any more).

Because I have categorically said: 'I am not a waitress, a driver or a cleaner,' my children have learned to put away their plates and tidy up their rooms. They've become brilliant planners, often inviting their friends to come for the weekend (because I've forgotten to bother).

Frankly, as long as you've fed them, sheltered them and told them they are loved, children will be fine. Mine are — at the risk of sounding smug — well-adjusted, creative children who respect the concept of work. They also accept my limitations.

What is truly a shame about this article is that, predictably, it is of the one-right-way-to-parent variety and leaves no room for difference or tolerance. There are no shades of gray, no middle roads, no other possibilities. If she sounds smug, it’s because she casts herself as superior to other mothers, and not because of how her children may or may not be turning out.

In the end, this so-called confession is a vehicle to polarize mothers and keep the mommy wars fueled. Getting women to fight in public gets an audience and brings in the money. More insidiously, it distracts the conversation from what it should really be about: How do we bring about social changes that support parents, children and families? Ironically, though her children bore her rigid, writing about her relationship to them probably allows her to pay the nanny, the highlights, and the shoes. Not too shabby a consequence for having to deal with such menial, dull creatures.


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