Jimmy and Nadia Bartel went on holiday.
It is, you would think, where the story both starts and and ends. But because the internet is fiery and its warriors defiant, self-righteous and a little grumpy if we’re honest, the story doesn’t start and end with a holiday.
The story starts with a holiday and ends with the most monumental and misguided parent shaming you can concoct, wrapped up nicely with inherent sexism to boot. What a gift, eh?
You see, Nadia and Jimmy Bartel went on holiday without their nearly three-year-old son, Aston. And because of this, and the subsequent war of words between judgey parents that sat within the comments section of the mum-of-one’s Instagram, she was forced to issue a statement of sorts, defending her decision.
“Finally home with my big boy. He has changed so much in a week (tonnes of new words) and I missed him more than I even imagined. It was such a hard decision to leave him but I am feeling so refreshed. I have to make a small mention on the parent shaming I received going on a holiday without him. I totally respect everyone’s parenting choices. You know the right choice for your child and if that means taking them on holiday with you, then hell yes you should, and I wouldn’t judge you either way,” she wrote.
“I love going on holidays with Aston and will continue to do so, but the Maldives with its over water bungalows is not the right holiday for a toddler (in my opinion) I received an awesome opportunity to go away with my hubby- we both work so hard during the year with few chances to hang out just us and we loved the week away together- that doesn’t mean we love or care for Aston less than a parent who decides to take their child on every holiday!!! I was so comfortable leaving Aston, as I was leaving him with my Mum and Dad (his Nonna and Nonno) they live around the corner so he sees them often and loves spending time with them, he pretty much already thinks they are way cooler than me anyway.”
The fashion blogger and business owner’s statement was littered with self-effacing humility – the desire to not tread on toes or awake the trolling beasts but instead go quietly and kindly. ‘I love my son,’ she was forced to say, as if it were a given we’d begun to question.
Somewhere else, just a few clicks away, sits the Instagram account of Nadia’s husband, the former AFL-paying Jimmy Bartel. It wouldn’t be unfair to either to conclude that to the world, Jimmy was known first. Nadia came second. So if Jimmy Bartel was the professional footballer, one of the most famous faces in the sporting industry, why are his holiday photos populated with supportive comments and loving sentiments while his wife bears the brunt of the shaming?
There are two threads in the saga that never should've been.
The first - most obviously - is the stupidity in assuming it's not important for two parents to have some time away from their children.
But the second, curiously but perhaps not surprisingly, is the intense and sharp focus we're putting on the mother. Why is it, you may ask, that when a father and mother go on holidays, it's the mother who is forced to defend her choices, when her husband made exactly the same ones? Why is it that it was Nadia who was forced to issue a statement? Why is it that Jimmy Bartel's Instagram account is void of the kind of criticism levelled at his wife?
It's never been clearer how hard it is for mums to shake the primary carer tag. They are mothers, first and foremost. But their husbands? Oh, their husbands are people.
What's interesting is not just how internet trolls have responded, but the nature of the conversation that has ensued ever since. In fact, its the headlines that carry as much bias as the odd disgruntled commenter.
They looked like this:
Nadia Bartel criticised for going on holiday without her son
Nadia Bartel returns home from holiday, hits back at 'parent shaming'
Nadia Bartel: The truth about her controversial holiday without her son
Nadia Bartel hits back at criticism of kid-free holiday with husband Jimmy
Aussie mum slammed over kid-free holiday
It's just that, ah, there's something missing. It starts with J and end in 'immy'.
Because as long as we report these stories as case of mum-shaming, not parent-shaming, then we'll forever reduce a mum to just that.
Listen: Nadia Bartel talks to Holly Wainwright about having a career after a baby.