In October we launch The Spinoff Parents, edited by the incomparable Emily Writes and made possible by Flick Electric Co. Here Emily explains her vision for the section as a place for parents on the internet that won’t make you feel like a miserable failure.
It’s beautiful and incredible and joyous, glorious and so rewarding. It’s such a special thing to be able to do and it’s just breathtakingly wondrous… And it’s really overwhelming a lot of the time. It’s irritating and exhausting and shit and momentous and extraordinarily ordinary – a great mass of messy contradictions.
So why isn’t that reflected in so much of the media aimed at parents?
Why are parenting sections often (generally) a dire cesspit of despair and misery or ridiculous hyperbole about the magnificence of parenting or just DULL (SO FUCKING DULL). Why is there all this talk of nuclear families that look like they could star in butter ads when we know so many of our families don’t look like that? A study out of the University of Otago found that only a quarter of 15 year olds live with both their biological parents.
And the clickbait. My god, the clickbait. You won’t believe how much I drank after seeing the video of the mum who stood up to a bully. The open letters from mums to mums that could just have easily just been conversations – to the mum at the supermarket rubbing the cucumbers suggestively, to the mum who commented on the shape of my adult son’s head, to the mum who wrote an open letter to the other mum.
I’m tired in general but I’m especially tired of half-arsed articles on big issues that face parents. There are so many important discussions we need to have about issues that affect parents and children in this country. What if more than five minutes was spent looking into coronial advice on co-sleeping? Instead of it always being turned into cheap attacks on attachment parenting and a bizarre insistence that people co-sleep because they just don’t know that there’s advice out there that says not to or they know but they’re insisting on thwarting that advice? What if conversations that need to be had about funding for breastfeeding support and access to information about formula choice actually happened instead of them immediately being turned into BREASTFEEDING MUMS VS BOTTLEFEEDING MUMS – WHO WILL WIN – THE FINAL SHOWDOWN – WINNER TAKES ALL – JELLY PIT.
I’m convinced parents don’t want that and that there is an appetite for intelligent commentary on parenting children of all ages – babies to teens and beyond.
I’m convinced parents don’t want endless articles and opinions and reckons that shame them for their choices, that encourage shaming of other parents for their choices, or imply that there are choices where there are none (see every debate on childcare ever). Every conversation I’ve had in the last almost five years has told me what parents want….
It’s sleep. But we can’t provide that.
What we can do is try to provide something for you to read when you’re not sleeping.
Something intelligent – because you still have a brain no matter what anyone else says.
Something funny – parents have a sense of humour! Who knew?!
Something real – stories that don’t hide the truth. Stories that show it all, the messy complexity in an honest way, not designed to spark another “mummy war” or to ostracise and criticise another group of people. Just a truth from a parent shared without judgement in a place where hope and beauty and frustration and fear are allowed.
Something supportive – I’m quite tired of reading articles and columns that are meant to separate me from other parents in order to get me to click or comment. Parenting is a shared experience. Don’t make me pull out the village cliché – but…we all know it’s true. We all know we are better together. We actually want to create a place where the first comment isn’t “Well, I’d personally never use a dummy but that’s because I actually love my child” or “I never let my teenager use an iPad because an iPad is digital heroin, a gateway to a life of immorality and crimes against humanity and an eight second attention span.” Can it be? Yes, it can be.
Something helpful – Advice! Who wants it? Nobody! But we can share tips and hacks that are actually tried and tested and useful. I won’t be doing this because I am literally hanging on by a thread and my tips are things like “watch episodes of I survived… so that you can get tips for getting through the bedtime routine. Getting a child to sleep is very similar to being attacked by a bear or having your hand caught inside an industrial blender that is on fire. The emotions and pain levels are very similar. So watch the survival of others to feel inspired.” You’re welcome. We’ll hopefully have someone who can give actual advice about issues that you care about – and it won’t be “If that doesn’t work put on some amber beads and stick a radish under your pillow.”
Something for everyone – There is fuck all diversity of voices in a lot of parenting media. We want to have many voices sharing the myriad of different parenting experiences. We want to share stories because we believe that’s what brings us together. We want to reject and dismantle the dominant narrative around parenting – it isn’t working for most people let alone all people. We can’t create a place worth having without committing to elevating voices and sharing different perspectives in parenting.
We want this place to belong to you. We want your feedback and, yes, we want your support. We also want to hear from you if you want to write something for us – we want to hear from parents of children of all ages, every type of parent.
We all have different ways of loving and caring for our children – but we love and care for our children. And that’s what unites us.
We want to create a platform that parents actually want to go to. If we have you at 3am because the baby won’t go the fuck to sleep we want to make your time here worthwhile. If you’re ignoring your child’s gymnastics lesson – come here, join us, he’s never going to do a forward roll, you know it and I know it. While your child is ignoring you to play Minecraft, pour yourself a glass of wine and join us. We want this place to be a place where you can laugh and cry and see yourself and see others.
I’m excited and grateful that we have the chance to do this, thanks to Flick Electric. If you’ve ever read my blog, you’ll know Flick have supported me for almost a year now. The Flick folks making the decisions to support The Spinoff Parents and my blog have chosen to do so in part because they’re parents too. They want this place too. They want it to work just as we want it to work.
Let’s try something new.
Let’s show them what we can do together.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.