It is wonderful to have people keeping an eye and ear out for interesting things for me – my Mum and Dad both go above and beyond the call of duty by pointing me to interesting articles and issues for me. This week Dad suggested I listen to the morning interview on Classic FM which was with Robin Barker, nurse and midwife and author of Baby Love one of the classic baby care books.
It was an unexpected delight to listen to her talk, I think I was expecting her to be a knowledgable expert from whom I might learn something. What I didn’t expect was a that she would strike such a chord with me by being so expertly ambiguous.
Robin Barker discussed some of the most controversial areas of parenting with the clear and incisive voice that spoke of someone who has seen much and learnt that it is ok to change your mind and it is ok to admit that you were wrong or mistaken.
Robin was asked to talk about a number of key issues for parents, such as: sleep; discipline; childcare; and the role of mother and father. Interestingly the common theme of her responses seemed to be that these things are all influenced by the way we have structured family life in our society. For her, it seems, we have put too much emphasis on life outside the home and this has had an impact on our children,
What was most telling and therefore made me feel she was insightful was that she recognised her role, and the role of other women and mothers in structuring the family in this way. She was not attributing blame but rather pointing out that she now realises where things might be better. I think it takes a brave and humble person to understand why things have taken a certain turn and admit some the culpability.
For example, She risked controversy by suggesting many children (and their parents) would be better off if they were at home with their mother in the early years rather than in group childcare. She did this from the perspective of someone who worked in childcare and advocated for it for many years. Through this understanding she touched on something I see as a key part of the feminist legacy and that is it was about creating choice for women and only now are we realising the importance of legitimising childcare and mothering as a valuable choice.
What I learnt from listening to this interview was that we are moving on because some people are able to put their ego and self-promotion aside in order to reflect on their experience and come to conclusions that might be controversial and might cause other, less reflective people, to criticise and alienate them. I think this is a fundamentally important process for a strong and democratic (in the broadest, pluralistic sense) to engage in – and, I hope, not just because I happen to agreen with Robin Barker’s interpretation!