Has the Zeit of middle-class parenthood ever been more geisted?
The rise of confessional parenting blogs in the last couple of years (with Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum leading the charge from the blogosphere onto the bookshelves) has been mirrored on TV this autumn by BBC2’s ‘Motherland’.
It is essential viewing for anyone who feels that they might be crushed under the weight of Pinterest-inspired decorations, messy-play tidemarks and opinion pieces on what is wrong with today’s mothers. And who doesn’t feel like that at least some of the time?
When the online version of parenthood was all carefully-filtered Instagram pics, photos of darling little ones in cute and cosy knitwear, and humblebrag posts about just how much they love their kids, there maybe wasn’t much comedy to be had. Now that some confessional blogs are opening up a world of post-bedtime gins, matching parent and toddler meltdowns, and meals lovingly prepared from the freezer drawer, sit-com writers can fill their boots.
You’ve probably already watched the whole series in one cringing binge, but the question is which of the faces of modern parenting most closely resembles your own? Are you the harassed working mum that has been driven crazy by her high-wire work-life balancing act?
Maybe you’ve achieved the kind of motherhood Zen that means you have the system of car pools, birthday-party child care and fundraiser alcohol content all worked out with minimum fuss. Or perhaps you guiltily identify a little bit with the yummy mummies of the top table with their prime school-pick-up parking spots and vice-like grip on the local family social scene.
Are there any fathers that see themselves in the show’s own stay-at-home dad, Kevin - possibly one of the cringiest, sweatiest characters you’ll see on TV this year?
If it takes a village to raise a child, then ‘Motherland’ shows you exactly where you can find all the village idiots: skulking around the school gates, or jostling for attention from the big table in the local kid-friendly cafe.
It can be an uncomfortable watch at times, but the characters are so exaggerated that they help most parents feel better about the job they are doing. At least none of us have growled at an audience of other mums and dads at a parent-teacher meeting to back off because ‘this isn’t the Antiques Roadshow’. Have we?
There are some websites now that offer ‘a Bad Mum kit’, with all the essential measures of gin and chocolate any mother at their wits’ end might need, but perhaps this needs taking a stage further with some tweaks to existing parenting equipment to enable some stealth irresponsible parenting. A Joie Chrome DLX travel system is all very well, but perhaps some kind of secret prosecco pouch could even up the odds a little.
Personally, I feel pretty comfortably in the middle of the two extremes. I’ve been at a five-year-old’s birthday party at a municipal swimming pool, but we had a pretty good time. I don’t have inspirational quotes painted on the nursery wall, but I’ve been guilty of posting more than a few filtered pictures of my offspring on Instagram.
I don’t worry I’m going to appear in an episode of ‘Motherland’ any time soon, but I occasionally think that we could do with a visit from ‘Super Nanny’.
But if my family has the same number of people in it at the end of the day as it had at the beginning, then we’ve done OK. I think.