Heard the one about social services taking your children into care?
Would you challenge someone who joked about social services “coming knocking” as a result of their perceived parenting failures?
Over the last few years I have heard other parents, including influential bloggers online, joking about social services coming to take their children away. With the majority of children taken into care being from poorer backgrounds, these 'jokes' thinly disguise one of the last socially acceptable forms of prejudice: classism.
As a general rule of thumb social services do not ‘come for your children’ if you serve beans on toast for dinner three nights in a row. They don’t come if you teach your child to find Paw Patrol on Netflix so you can have a lie-in on a Saturday morning. And they don’t even come if you have a white wine spritzer with your gastro pub lunch before school pick-up.
How do I know this? Because I have three family members who have been placed into foster care and subsequently adopted.
But of course you don’t need to have this personal experience to know that. Most privileged, educated parents know their children are not at risk. It’s just another version of the on-trend slummy mummy genre; pointing out how little effort you put in to parenting. It’s also a way to pre-empt any perceived judgement, aka judging yourself before anyone else judges you. We’ve all done it. I myself am very guilty of pointing out within 60 seconds of arriving somewhere that my child is wearing odd socks and a grimey dribble bib, or referring to myself as “naughty mummy” if my husband does yet another solo bedtime so I can go to aerobics.
But what if there was a more upfront, more compassionate way? What if we felt able to say: do you know what? I am absolutely shot to pieces from looking after one/two/three/four small people, I haven’t eaten since breakfast, let alone had a drink at the temperature it was designed to be enjoyed at, and I made the decision to give myself a break and take the slightly easier option today.
It’s OK. Really. It’s what the industrial revolution, feminism and Steve Jobs all came together to bequeath us: a slightly easier life than all the mothers who came before us. So take advantage of it. Enjoy it even. Raise your white wine spritzer to whoever invented the washing machine and online shopping. Just don’t pretend that social services have you on their radar, or even give your neighbourhood more than a passing annual glance. It’s an insult to all those families who live under their shadow.
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