Dear Malcolm Turnbull, a letter to the PM on parent shaming

Dear Malcolm, A letter to the PM about parent-shaming

Dear Malcolm,

Has the world gone mad? I’m not referring to the president of the United States or Kim Jong-un (although now that I think of it, it’s hard to argue all is well in the world with these two at the helm).

I’m not even referring to Tony Abbott or Eric Abetz and their fanatical fear of progress encroaching on the 1950s world they are so desperate to recreate in all of its rigid, stereotyped misery.

I’m referring to the fact that a grandfather cannot even enjoy a gloriously tender moment with his granddaughter without it causing a fuss. I am referring to the photo of you and baby Alice at the AFL on the weekend. To be fair, the “fuss” is confined to the comments section underneath the post and, to be fair, if you’re searching for anything remotely related to sanity you don’t refer to the comments section. Of anything. Ever.

So let’s be realistic: the “fuss” over you daring to enjoy a beer while also cradling a baby isn’t exactly worthy of a response. Of all the pressing problems in the world you taking a moment to watch the footy and breathe in all of that baby goodness does not rate. It is a beautiful photo, the stuff that ought to fill family albums if any of us actually printed photos to stick in albums anymore.

When I discovered that even a smidge of fuss had been made over it, my heart sank momentarily before it almost leaped from my chest with something akin to joy. And I promise it isn’t schadenfreude: it is the joy of shared experience. Of connection!

Malcolm, welcome to parenting in the year 2017, an arena where nothing you do will escape judgement!

Holding a baby and a cold alcoholic drink?? At the footy?? How very endangering. You could be forgiven for thinking that no child has even been subject to something so ghastly and irresponsible.

It is madness granted, but it is madness that parents the world over, and particularly mothers who continue to undertake the vast majority of the heavy lifting of child-rearing, face every day.

I have written before of the time I dared to purchase my baby daughter a pair of shoes and was practically vilified for my efforts. I have written about the scalding stares I have observed when any of my children have had the audacity to act like a child in public. Stares that capture the public disapproval which, at some point, in some setting, is par for the course for parents in this day and age.

Scroll through Facebook and Instagram and read the comments underneath any parent with a decent following and you will see this laid bare. Mum-shaming (and it is mostly mums catching the wrath although Dads (and grandfathers!) are not immune) is rife.

You will see parents being vilified for giving their children bottles or dummies or carrying them the wrong way. They will be criticised for playing or not playing, feeding/not feeding, cooking, not cooking, breastfeeding, not breastfeeding…

It is a lose lose game because no matter what the parent is doing, or isn’t doing, they will be deemed irresponsible, unworthy, unfit. Because of the ubiquity of these messages, and the narrative they offer about what “good parents” do, they are harder to shrug off than they should be.

I recently listened to Brene Brown explain her method for blocking out message from detractors and it stuck with me.

If you are not parenting – day in and day out – and a parent isn’t breaking any laws, your feedback about how to do the job will fall on deaf ears. So Mr Turnbull I wanted to write in solidarity to say forget the naysayers: keep cuddling the baby girl and your other grandchildren. (And while I have you, perhaps some leadership on the subject of same-sex marriage wouldn’t go astray?)

In solidarity,


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