We are all alloparents part three: what can you do?
2021.07.24. 23:36, andors
In part one of We are All Alloparents, I looked at why alloparenting was necessary, and in part two, why a world without alloparenting is bad for everyone.
I now want to look at what people who want to help, who want to stick it to the kyriarchy by modelling “how not to abuse privilege” to the next generation, can actually do, on a real, day-to-day level.
But I can’t speak for all parents, obviously. And I certainly can’t speak for children. You know; privileged person speaking on behalf of oppressed group, that doesn’t go down so well. I suppose it is slightly different than other privilege/oppression dichotomy in that I was once a child myself. But it was a long time ago, and as someone who has had many long years of adult privilege, I can’t completely trust myself to put myself back into that way of thinking.
So I’m going to keep this short. A few things I’d like to see, and then turn it over to you. As a parent, how could your life be improved by other alloparents? What would you like?
Here’s my two pence worth:
Understand basic child behaviour. “Tantrums” (or the less demonising “episodes” or “meltdowns”, as I’ve heard them called) are normal. They’re not naughty behaviour, and they don’t need to be dealt with or the child taught a lesson. They’re often a response to over stimulation, or not yet having the emotional ability to cope with disappointment. If you see a child having a tantrum, don’t tut or glare. If anything, it’s this that causes the frazzled parent to feel obliged to discipline, harshy, their child. A sympathetic smile goes a very long way. An offer of help – “do you need a hand?” – even longer. It can be hard to intervene if the parent’s already at the point of shouting. But even there, walking on by and not staring is better than looking and making the parent feel even more uncomfortable. Meltdowns are normal. High pitched laughing and screaming is normal. Not wanting to be touched or patted on the head is normal. And for heaven’s sake, don’t take it as an insult if a child hides behind Mum when you approach. Saying “aw, is she/he shy?” is just irritating. How’s a mother meant to say “no, s/he’s not shy. Just natural healthy weariness at a stranger approaching”.
Offer to help with non-baby stuff. A new mother often has no shortage of friends and relatives who want to “help” with the baby (carry it, coo over it, cuddle it) but this leaves her, often worn out and exhausted from the birth, doing the drudge work; cooking, cleaning, tidying, washing – while others can claim they were helping. Tidying up, at the very least after yourself after a visit, is a start. Wash the dishes you’ve used. While you’re at the sink, why not wash a few more? Don’t expect to be waited on. You know where the kettle is. Why not bring your own food? A lot of this applies even after the child is out of babyhood. Offering to help with the child is good, don’t get me wrong; but offering to help with housework might be even better. And if you’re offering to take the baby for a bit so a mother can get some more sleep… why not do a quick whizz round the house picking up toys off the floor while you’re doing it? Besides, the government in the UK seems determined to stop informal babysitting arrangements (thanks, UK government, for legislating against alloparenting) so this might be the only way you can go anyway!
There are certain types of “help” that are never good alloparenting. I once had a man think I needed “help” to pull my dress down at the back after putting Bertie up in the sling had made my dress ride up at the back (which I knew, and which I was about to rectify). His help consisted of pulling down my dress without my permission, and in the process, ripping it. Also, I don’t need directing to a “private room” to breastfeed in. No, I’d not feel more comfortable there. Especially not if it’s the disabled toilet, as it often turns out to be. If I’ve chosen to sit down and nurse my child there… I’ve done it because that’s where I want to do it.
Over to you. How could good alloparents make your life easier?