Monday, 23 February 2015

I thought I left peer pressure in high school...

My first visit with hubby to a baby shop didn't last long. Not because he hates shopping. We had gone to check out prams. They are a big investment after all so it's only fitting that you do some research. We had a quick look, tried a few, had a short peruse of some other baby products and then walked out again fairly quickly. We were completely overwhelmed! I felt like I was suffocating. I had heard that once you had a baby, this whole new world revealed itself, one that you had previously been completely oblivious too despite having lived alongside it childless for so long. I had expected this world to contain things like baby clothes, prams, cots and baby products. I did not expect baby classes. 

Baby classes! I am quickly coming to realise that baby classes are big business at the moment. When I say baby classes, I'm talking about the numerous music groups, baby gym/movement groups and sensory classes which all seek to help the development of your baby. I can't seem to escape them. They are everywhere! Well, perhaps if I took a break from Facebook I'd find some relief, but only some. It seems that I am constantly confronted by them, whether it's through adverts, discussions on the best ones, photos of people who have gone to them or simply people liking the various group pages. 

Now this would be okay except I seem to have a problem. 

The problem is that every time I am confronted by one of these groups I find myself consumed with anger. At the mere mention of one, the anger surfaces. While I am pretty good at containing it in social situations, it seems to explode in the form of a passionate vent, often to my husband (the poor guy.) This seems rather an odd reaction, quite the overreaction really, considering it is just to baby classes. If the topic was poverty, injustice or abuse, it would be quite an appropriate reaction but to baby classes, well not so much. 

Now before I continue, I need to put in a disclaimer. I have been debating whether or not to write about this particular topic for a few weeks. It is a bit risky. I do not want to come across as judgmental or condemning. That's not at all my purpose for writing this. The thing is, I found myself with such a strong reaction to these groups but with little understanding as to why I so passionately reacted in this way. I thought that seeing as these baby classes weren't going anywhere, I best explore and come to some understanding as to what was triggering this avalanche of emotion within me. 

So why don't I like (understatement!) baby classes? What is it about them that makes me so angry? 

I quickly realised that it's not all baby classes that cause this reaction. There are some like Wriggle and Rhyme, run by the local library, and Mainly Music, that I actually feel quite positive towards. There are others, like swimming classes, that I have mixed feelings towards. Then there are those that cause the reactions mentioned above. 

So why a slight reaction to swimming classes? And which other classes trigger the reaction? 

When I analyse it, it generally seems to be the classes that cost. Not the ones that cost a few dollars each session, but the ones that cost $10-$15 a session, which adds up to $100 or more a term. They might be sensory classes or baby movement classes, they can come in any form of class really, but it's when they begin to cost quite a bit each term that my problem arises.

So there is it, my issue seems to be with the cost.  This next bit is where I really struggle to convey my issue - yes it's with the cost, but why?

For the simple reason that cost creates division. It creates inclusion and exclusion. Those that can afford are included, those that can't are excluded. This is not unique to baby classes of course, it's found throughout society, I just happen to be experiencing it in the shape of baby classes at the moment.

Here is where I seem to run into high school peer pressure all over again. Except now it would probably be labelled societal pressure.  It's not as overt as wearing labels, smoking, drinking etc. like at high school. It is a very subliminal message. No one says it out loud, or at least I've never heard it, but the message is there (or at least I'm pretty sure it is, otherwise I may just be imagining it all!). The message is simple:

If you are a good Mum you would take your baby to a baby class because baby classes help their development and a good Mum considers their baby worth the cost. 

There it is. I've said it. It's out there.

Does this mean that if I don't take my baby to one of these baby classes then I am a bad Mum? I do not value their development? I do not think my baby is worth paying the money for?

I suppose I run into this pressure a bit more because I live in an area where some people, not all, have disposable income to spend on such classes. They choose to spend their money on these classes because their desire is to aid their baby's development and that is a good desire. They do the best that they can as a Mum.

My husband and I are not in this position though. We do not have much disposable income. Now that I am a stay at home mum we are drawing on savings as unfortunately my husband's wage does not cover our living costs (and we do not live excessively). This is our choice though. I could go back to work but at this point in time, we choose to sacrifice a double wage to know that one of us is at home with our daughter. I'm not complaining about this, it is what it is.

Despite our choice, it does not take away the pressure I feel. I want to be a good Mum. I want to do what is best for my baby. We are fortunate enough to have received money at Christmas which we use to pay for swimming classes. These were a priority to us because we want our daughter to love water and be safe around water. I realise that they are a luxury though and that there are many people who can not afford them (hence my mixed feelings towards swimming classes mentioned earlier).

When it comes to any other classes though, well we simply can't afford them. It's not like we are completely broke. We have enough to have cars, food, clothes, a house etc. While we live on a very tight budget, potentially there are areas that we could sacrifice even more in. This leads to questions. Perhaps I should sacrifice my outing for coffee each week so that I can afford to take my baby to one of these baby classes? Perhaps we should go without an ice cream outing or takeaways and instead use the money for one of these classes?

These questions can quickly spiral out of control. They can lead to so many more questions and fears. What if I don't make these sacrifices? What if I don't take my baby to one of these classes and everyone else does, does that mean that in the future my baby will not be as smart as everyone else? Will they be disadvantaged because they have missed out and it's all my fault?


I realise that I need to stop. Stop thinking like this. Stop going down this path. Stop wasting all this energy. I need to step back and reevaluate some basic ideas.

First of all, regardless or whether I take my baby to any classes, I am a good Mum. This is not up for debate. My baby is happy and healthy. My 'status' as a good Mum is not dependent on what classes I take her to.

Secondly, since when did a child need to attend a class to develop? Baby classes are only a recent phenomena. For centuries, children have developed into incredibly intelligent, well adjusted adults without having attended a baby class. I am not saying that classes are not beneficial, but they are not essential. You can be a good Mum without attending a single class. Playing with my child at home, taking her into the garden, taking her on a walk to the beach or around the corner to the park, these are all things that will aid her development.

Thirdly, every Mum, or the vast majority of Mum's anyway, want what is best for their child. There is no blanket rule as to what this looks like because everyone is unique. It might look like staying at home with your baby, it might be taking them to various classes, it might be returning to work in order to pay the bills and provide for them. The list is endless. My way of being a good Mum will look different to someone else's and that is okay (obviously I am not endorsing anything that causes harm of any sort to a child as this is NEVER good).

So where does this leave me? Well, my issue with baby classes has been unraveled. Will I still get frustrated at the phenomena of baby classes? Most probably, just in the same way as I get frustrated at many societal pressures I see operating on people. Now, however, I feel free from this pressure. I have identified it and I have taken away it's power by recognising that, as with so many pressures, the basis of the pressure holds no truth.

I am a good Mum.

I do not need to attend classes to be a good Mum.

However if I do choose to attend a class, it won't change anything. I will still be a good Mum.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you and I don't even have kids! Seen this happening way too often.