She was a really, really good mum.
There was a woman on TV last night who scared the shit out of me.
And I bet that I wasn’t the only one.
Her name is Anna, and she is an excellent mum. An excellent mum because she gave up her job as a pharmacist to look after her children full-time and focus on making sure they “succeed on all fronts”.
To that end, Anna spends her time taking her two children, Frankie and Janie, to a total of 16 extra-curricular activities a week, frequently running a tight 13-hour schedule to make all this happen.
Anna and her kids were on a documentary called Frantic Family Rescue. In the show, three middle-class families were visiting by Carl Honoré, a well-respected advocate for “slow parenting”, who dissected their stressed-out, over-scheduled lives and gave them a plan for calming the f- down.
Of the three Australian families that the London-based academic visited, Anna was his greatest challenge.
Anna has Frankie signed up to piano, guitar lessons and ensemble, ballroom dancing, professional acting, Nippers, athletics, rugby, soccer, and maths coaching. She wants to cover all bases, she says, because she wants her kids to have “options”.
She sits in on piano lessons, she watches every dance class, she has to be in the stands applauding when Frankie runs and she spends a great deal of time cramming with him in the back of taxis. Frankie is eight.
Anna scared the shit of me, not because she is a bad mother, or a bad person, or a shrew or a nag or any of those other things that I’m sure the trolls are calling her today.
No, Anna scared me because she made me feel anxious in two different ways:
1. Why aren’t I more like that?
2. Shit. I am a bit like that.
Anna is a real person. But she also seemed deliberately cast in Frantic Family Rescue as a parable representing the insecure, striving side of contemporary parenting.
The side of us all that has read the studies about how giving kids time for unstructured play is great for building brains, still gives us a nervous knot in our bellies when a friend says they have signed Little Evie up for Karate and French and Tennis this summer, because they heard that a combination of hand-eye coordination and languages is the new silver bullet.
The side of us that feels maybe hot-house tutoring is sending our child the wrong message about priorities, would rather die than not get Little Atticus into the Selective Stream.