In my (almost) five years of parenting small people, I’ve come to realise that there is a hell of a lot of shaming going ‘round. Being shamed for caesarean births, breastfeeding in public, being shamed for bottle feeding. Some people will shame you for using a dummy, co-sleeping, being on your phone while at the park. The list is endless.
One thing we need to stop being shamed for though is the desire for “better” for our kids.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with wanting better for your child. Every parent does. But more and more I’m noticing an undercurrent of shaming of parents who vocalise their want for ‘more’ or ‘better’.
I first came across it when I started discussing schools with a friend. I casually mentioned that I was looking at the local private school (among others) as an option for when my eldest starts kindergarten.
And then the shaming started.
It wasn’t overt at first. It was more. "Lots of children go to the public school and there’s nothing wrong with it.” As a side note I totally agree and my children will be attending the local public school just as I did, but the point is, I was made to feel apologetic for seeking options. For deviating out of the current trend in my social group. For assessing and evaluating.
The shaming isn’t restricted to schools though.
I know of a family who are looking to build a new house.
They purchased a property not long ago, which is no mean feat in this Sydney market. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a small, 1950’s style red brick number in a nice street. The house itself is well maintained and totally liveable.
However, once they started discussing the option of knocking down and rebuilding with friends, they felt awkward, uncomfortable.
“What’s wrong with the house you have,” they were asked. “People have lived in small houses for decades and have been just fine. You only just bought it," said one friend.
That’s true, but just because people have done something the same way since 1960 doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be forever more. This family wasn't looking to build in the immediate future, they were simply plotting a goal they hoped to work towards.
It was as if they were being ungrateful and greedy. Wanting something more than what they had already. They had a house, right. They should be happy with that.
There is nothing wrong with reaching for the next goal for your family. There is nothing wrong with working towards something.
This is not about finances, how much you can afford. Perhaps ‘having more’ for your family means spending more time together. If so you spend your energy working towards that goal. I’d love to spend more time with my children so I work hard now in the hopes that one day maybe that would be a foreseeable option. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen but if you have no goals, what are you looking forward to?
Right now, there is no possible way I could afford private schooling, a brand new house or overseas holidays for my family. But that doesn’t stop me trying. It doesn’t stop me putting measures in place to give us the best chances of it one day being a possibility. I just shouldn’t be shamed for speaking about it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to give your children a better life than the one they have now. The one my kids have now is probably pretty damn great, but like all things there could be room for improvement.
Some people are happy to plod along in life, living the same days, year after year. They are content with what they do, what they have, how they live but some of us want more, want better.
We shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for it.