parent opinion

"Just in time for Christmas, the newest stick to beat us parents with is 'toy shaming'."

Parenting is a funny old thing. There’s no other area in our life that has the ability to transform the most sane human being into a judgey know-it-all. And one that seems incapable of keeping their views on how you could do it all a little bit better to themselves.

Prime example. Remember in 2015, there was a single mum in the UK who posted a photo of her Christmas tree appearing to drown under 300 presents for her three children. It was shared around the world 100,000 times in just over a week.

She was called “rotten”, “obscene” and her kids were “spoilt”. She was branded a child abuser. There were calls to take her kids off her. Golly, people were very angry at this woman and they sure wanted her to know.

Well, fast forward three years and this form of mum bashing has gone mainstream.

 

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Yep, just in time for Christmas, the newest stick to beat us parents with is ‘toy shaming’. And it isn’t just for those mums who have spent $5000 on their children during the festive period, like the mamma above.

Parents should now be turning their back firmly on new toys and if you aren’t embracing it, do you even care about your child not turning into a material-obsessed monster who doesn’t care about the earth? Do you? DO YOU?

This is the premise. It’s a two-pronged attempt at stopping our children from focusing too much on materialism. And also, the world is overflowing with plastic so turning our back on the toy trade will help combat this.

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Instead, we should be buying second-hand toys for our children from op-shops. We should be using toy libraries. And at Christmas, we should urge our families, who might not be keen on re-gifting a one-eyed dolly from the Salvation Army, to instead focus on experiences.

All in all, it makes sense. Those reasons to cut back on the swag seem fair, even if you take a more conscious approach and try and mix it up between old and a sprinkling of new. After all, Christmas time alone has become an ever-growing creature of excess.

But as always, it’s not the message with mum shaming, it’s the delivery.

My first encounter of this new breed of subtle digs aimed at my parenting skills came when a new mum friend visited my home. “Oh, Max has got a lot of toys? Are they all new?” she asked.

Now, at the time I didn’t know about this new hip movement that your child should only be gifted up-cycled bottles filled with recycled scraps of child-friendly waste. I hadn’t got the memo.

Instead, I thought it was a weird question. Like “new” as in today, I wondered.

But she soon imparted The Knowledge, with a subtle look of disapproval highlighting that I’d probably done long-term damage to my son, no less. “What a waste,” she said, shaking her head.

The majority of Max’s two boxes of toys had been presents from my friends (first one in the group to have a baby) and my family (first grandchild in the family).

But the conversation was over and like many mammas after being subtly shamed, I was left with that strange trifecta of emotions – embarrassment, confusion and anger.

Christmas gifts for kids
"I was left with that strange trifecta of emotions - embarrassment, confusion and anger." Image: Supplied.
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What is it about modern-day parenting that makes women, and actually just as equally men, feel the need to impart their thoughts on your performance with such gusto and disapproval? No other area of life - work, home or fitness - welcomes such open criticism.

The thing is, we all judge and not just about parenting but about everything in life. Usually though, it’s kept as internal dialogue that you probably don’t even notice. For example, when a colleague adds three teaspoons of sugar to his tea, you might think, ‘Oh, that’s rather unnecessary’.

But you’d never jump in front of Steve from IT and wax lyrical about sugar being the modern-day diet devil, unless perhaps you had a lack of integrated social skills.

But there’s something about parenting in the 21st century that means it is impossible for bystanders not to verbalise the internal dialogue about mum and child and serve it as helpful advice, when really it is nothing more than a judgemental barb.

Toy shaming isn’t about materialism or saving the planet, it’s just another way to bash parents and their ability to navigate one of the hardest journeys in life - raising children. Otherwise, it would be packaged as a much nicer, much more palatable campaign, like Give A Kid An Experience, not Shame A Mum This Christmas.

But maybe this Christmas, all the mums out there could have their wish come true: That everyone in their life, permanent or just fleeting, could learn the forgotten art of engaging the brain before opening the mouth.

We can even package it as plastic-free, up-cycled non-judgmental support, if that suits the mum shamers a little better. And best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing.

Have you ever been mum-shamed over your child's Christmas presents? Share your experiences in a comment below.

It's nearly that time of the year and we all know there are only two types of Christmas people. Which one are you?

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