Shaming And Blaming Women For Asking For Help
Last week Australian model and mother Rachael Finch broke the internet last week with news that (SHOCK HORROR!) her daughter has sleepovers at grandma’s on the weekend.
“Every weekend (Violet) goes to Mish’s mum’s house, and we get our weekend to ourselves. I think that’s incredibly healthy for the relationship. And on Sunday, when we pick her up, we have 100 per cent energy back,” Finch told Sunday Style magazine.
Sounds pretty much like her version of the village we are all craving. But comments and responses were ranged from passive aggressive to outright vicious.
I know they say NEVER read the comments but I’ll just provide a small sample because this is really important…
“I actually like raising my own kids and spending time with them"
“How ridiculous & selfish. I'm a SAHM to a 4yo, 2yo & an 8mo. Neither of them have ever spent a day away from me apart from to give birth & my 4yo has started preschool this year 2 days a week. We have NEVER had a night or day away from them & wouldn't even entertain the idea.”
“Obviously Rachael and hubby don't mind using and abusing their parents so they can have 'quality time' together, how about just stepping up and being parents?”
Trolls plagued the internet questioning why Rachel even had children and suggested she had attachment issues.
Then it happened AGAIN, this time to the Canadian Prime Minister's wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. She reached out and asked for more staff so she could continue serving more people through her charity work.
“I’d love to be everywhere but I can’t, I have three children and a husband who is prime minister. I need help. I need a team to help me serve the people.” She told French language newspaper Le Soliel.
Sophie has deep compassion and a desire to serve others, and she admits she needs help in order to do that. But the response, well, I'll share a small selection with you, brace yourself...
"This person is a pathetic, whingeing ingrate. It doesn't matter if it's a male, female or space alien. That sense of entitlement is just wretch-worthy."
"Perhaps she should try being competent instead of whining like a self-serving parasite."
"Sophie-Gregoire Trudeau: moving women forward by acting like a spoiled princess, inspiring."
Sophie now has a 'let them eat cake' style hashtag in her name: #prayforsophie
Oh dear. I'm really sorry to put you through that. I'm even sorrier that mothers like Sophie and Rachel, as well as everyday non-celeb mums like me and you, are subjected to the exact same sentiment whenever we reach out for help too.
Whether or not this kind of support is possible for you or something you even want is beside the point, but I feel it’s important that we normalise this in the greater context of human parenting.
Let me start from the very beginning. For a long time scientists thought that human babies were born too early, when they were still small enough to fit through a woman’s pelvis. They thought that this was because our upright pelvises couldn't grow any larger but recent research found this theory to be completely untrue.
The new theory that’s going around is that actually humans are hardwired to have their brain develop in a highly social environment. If you think of a brain developing in a quiet, dark womb there’s very little stimulation. When you think of a baby outside the womb, there are lots of cuddles and kisses, skin-on-skin, singing, talking and rocking. All of this love and intense emotional development are what make human brains different. And that’s how we became the empathetic and compassionate people we are today.
But, none of this could happen if we didn’t start out with allo-parenting. It truly takes a village, and that's what Sophie and Rachel are building for themselves in their own modern ways. Here is how it used to be done:
“Newborns in the Efe Pygmy tribe are passed around from one adult carer to another on average eight times every hour. Babies are cared for by 14 different adults in 8 hours and spend only 40% of their time with their biological mothers.”
Jared Diamond, author of The World Until Yesterday
The truth is for modern women there are limited options for getting the kind of support our ancestors took for granted. Most of us don’t come into contact with 14 loving and attentive adults in 8 hours to share the care of our children, as well as the load of cooking and cleaning.
Childcare and paid parental leave is drastically under-funded. Meanwhile free support is thin on the ground - family and friends are too busy and rarely offer, or they live too far away to be of any practical support.
But I still feel the biggest barrier is in our cultural attitude to women. You have to ask, and ask hard, and then you will be blamed and shamed, you will be judged as not coping, or not loving your children enough.
Meanwhile your husband will get off scot-free! No one talks about the domestic support needed for Justin Trudeau's public service career to flourish. It's taken for granted that behind every great man...
Which leads me to the other big question here; why is childcare and housework still only seen as a women’s issue?
Next week I’m going to write about the help my husband and I have in our home and the help I have in my business that enables me to do the work I do.
People often ask me how I do it all, and the answer is I don’t. I have a team, we work together as a village. (And my house is pretty messy!!!) Next week on the blog I’ll share the details of my village with you.