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Is judging a mother by how her child behaves or how she parents anti-feminist?

(26 Posts)
gandalf456 Mon 18-Jan-16 14:14:43


I've noticed this a lot - especially when my children were young. When my youngest was about 3 or 4, I could almost feel the gossip around the nursery because he was the naughty one. With my eldest and her anxieties and her struggle with getting to school and doing school work, I could feel it again. I remember conversations from family about how I could have handled things differently and hints from other parents who didn't know me well enough or weren't as brave as to mention things directly.

I know this is regular stuff but the point I am trying to make is that every conversation seemed centred around my child. I was not a woman in my own right. I was gandalf (not my real name), the parent. I was not gandalf who did this job or that job or held this or that belief or had hoped to become a film star when she was 10 or had a good sense of humour. I was gandalf parenting this or that child in this or that way. I do remember feeling quite keenly that I am not my children and I am still me but I don't feel I'm perceived that way.

Does this make sense? And, more importantly, does this happen to men? I don't believe it does to the same extent - even if parents work full time. If not, why not?

TheWomanInTheWall Mon 18-Jan-16 20:35:37

Yes, it makes sense.

No, I doubt it happens to men much, if at all.

Why not? Because patriarchy. grin

As an aside, you should totally get a t shirt with Gandalf The Parent on it.

museumum Mon 18-Jan-16 20:39:54

I have rarely ever seen or heard of a man being judged on the behaviour of their child sad

scallopsrgreat Mon 18-Jan-16 20:41:35

Like TheWoman I don't think it happens to men, certainly not as much. A man only has to walk his child to school and he's bloody amazing. It's certainly sexist to blame the mother for the child's behaviour. Reinforces the stereotype that childcare is the responsibility of the woman.

gandalf456 Mon 18-Jan-16 22:16:56

I would love to, thewoman, but I might blow my coverwink

TheWomanInTheWall Mon 18-Jan-16 22:20:10


I am dead pleased with my new nickname as many shorten it to
TheWoman, which in my mind's ear is said in Sherlock's voice (about Irene Adler). This improves my day no end grin

TheWomanInTheWall Mon 18-Jan-16 22:21:29

Back on topic...

It's interesting that raising children isn't really seen by many as work - but yet when it goes wrong, it's because the mother did a bad job. Cognitive dissonance, much?

gandalf456 Mon 18-Jan-16 22:25:24

Yes and then everyone has an opinion. It's as if mothers are public property

PhilPhilConnors Mon 18-Jan-16 22:48:38

I have a ds with ASD, it seems to be fair game to say to me (never dh) "well you let him do x", or "why are you letting him eat that?" "Why don't you make him run".
When it comes to discipline, the number of times I've heard "do you think it's time for dh to get really cross with him?", because obviously as a mere mother, as well as not managing to feed him right, look after him well enough, it seems I also can't discipline him either hmm
Dh has never had to listen to these comments.

PalmerViolet Mon 18-Jan-16 22:51:15

Mothers do seem to be public property though.

And value judgements are made about mothers all the time. You have only to look at a report about say, a man who has murdered someone, and it will invariably mention that his mother was a single mother/alcoholic/full time worker/SAHM as if we're all supposed to nod sagely and use it as an excuse for his behaviour.

Sounds insane, doesn't it? Have a look at crime reports in newspaper for a few weeks which I've had to do for an assignment and it's a pattern that emerges.

NeverEverAnythingEver Tue 19-Jan-16 09:57:17

I feel the same.

People feel free to tell you you are failing. People also feel free to praise you - like when have I ever given a tiny flying fuck what anyone thinks about my parenting? Who gives them the right to comment? It is something that bothers me A LOT...

And people feel free to treat you like you are a control freak - "will you let him have this packet of sweets the size of the fucking galaxy?" Yes, of course. And then spend the rest of the fucking year saying no you can't have sweets for breakfast. What fun that was. (Sorry for the rant. blush)

Dervel Tue 19-Jan-16 10:33:16

I think op is right it is sexist that we are just critical of mothers. I've never read an article that makes the case for example that the majority of prisoners were abandoned by their fathers. They would much rather say "raised by a single mother". This isn't on.

However I think we should (collectively) be always engaged in what constitutes good/bad parenting. As we're all going to have to live with the consequences. Making it about mothers actually obsfucates and makes that debate harder to habe.

Lottapianos Tue 19-Jan-16 13:07:18

'However I think we should (collectively) be always engaged in what constitutes good/bad parenting. As we're all going to have to live with the consequences'

I very much agree. Parents have a duty to bring up children who will not be anti-social nightmares, and not to palm off responsibility for their child's behaviour on their nursery or school or anyone else.

I agree that mothers get most of the blame for anything that is going wrong with a child's behaviour and that this is unfair

thedancingbear Tue 19-Jan-16 13:10:30

I think this is almost certainly on the money. But aren't some of the harshest critics other women?

gandalf456 Tue 19-Jan-16 13:25:28

Often. I don't understand it. Is it competition? In security?

NeverEverAnythingEver Tue 19-Jan-16 13:57:39

It is the patriarchy.

Women are not immune.

TheWomanInTheWall Tue 19-Jan-16 14:24:44

Well, women tend to be around other women parenting more often. Because patriarchy!

It is sometimes, but not always, women making the "raised by a single mother" rather than "left behind by a departing father" editorial choice, of course.

BarbarianMum Tue 19-Jan-16 16:12:04

"raised by a single father" = what a hero, poor bloke
"raised by a single mother" = a failure (personal or societal, depending on your point of view)

And yes, that's the patriarchy for you.

Viviennemary Tue 19-Jan-16 18:05:27

If a person has a child that is difficult that's one thing. But if they are feeble and make no effort to correct a child's behaviour then that's annoying and people can be judgemental of both parents. I agree women are the harshest critics. Men seem rarely to complain about the behaviour of small children. Probably because they think it's somebody else's problem and doesn't affect them too much.

scallopsrgreat Tue 19-Jan-16 19:16:15

Men seem rarely to complain about the behaviour of small children. Really? Can I come and live in your world. That's not been my experience at all. Not as a child or an adult. Men have always been only too keen to express their dislike of children.

But people aren't judgemental of both parents, that's the point. A man has to actively be doing something 'wrong' to be criticised. A woman just has to be present. In fact she doesn't even have to be present. If she's left her children she still gets the blame (unlike men who've left. They just disappear into the ether as if their presence was never required.)

JessicasRabbit Tue 19-Jan-16 19:24:20

It is indeed. I find it shocking how many people comment that DSis has 'an easy life' because our DM helps her with DNeice. Or that she's 'really lucky' to be pursuing a career at the same time as being a parent. It's not just luck, she works damn hard! Finally, the very idea that she gets time to be herself seems outrageous to many people. Now that she's a mum she's supposed to gave her whole life focused on her child, and not just be herself any more.

Some of it is totally judgemental. Like as the woman it was her fault she got pregnant and should be paying for it forever. Comments like 'she made the baby she can look after it'. And at the same time very little judgement is reserved for DNeice's father (I use that term loosely) who disappeared in to the sunset.

Perhaps it's just so pervasive. So many men disappear or don't do their fair share (namult) that it seems normal, and when a single mum is able to cope others are jealous. Nobody stops to think that the underlying assumption that women take care of the kids and men charitably help out is just plain wrong.

scallopsrgreat Tue 19-Jan-16 20:05:24

Men are showing their dislike of children by their actions more than words perhaps? They just don't look after them, leave the childcare to women and sail off into the sunset.

All pretty harsh stuff.

JessicasRabbit Tue 19-Jan-16 22:25:17

Following on from this, I've had a thought about good mum vs good dad.

Ime a 'good mum' is often defined by the child's behaviour, in that it's almost unheard of to describe a woman as a good mum if the child is generally badly behaved. However, a 'good dad' seems to be defined by his own input, in that a man is deemed good dad if he is involved with the child even if that child is badly behaved.

Anyone else experienced this, or is it just me?

ChristineDePisan Fri 22-Jan-16 01:20:06

Women are also judged / blamed for a messy house, not sending their kids to school in the right fancy dress, forgetting the PE kit, running out of dog food... All the day to day stuff that you don't need a vagina to do, but which are presumed to be female responsibilities

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Fri 22-Jan-16 07:17:43

Oh honey try being a single mum with an ASD boy and then you'll literally have strangers telling you what to do!

The prize in unsolicited advice goes to this man on a station who was slightly wobbly on his feet and seemed kind of drunk. DS was bouncing about near him and near the tracks too so I was trying to rein DS in.

Semi drunk man came up to me and told me I needed to let my son run around and "be a boy". Fortunately I had enough mumsnet in me to tell him to bog off!

So yeah, I doubt it happens to men cos they're scarier. And yes women do it too.

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