Michelle Gregg Is Not A Bad Parent.

A funny thing has happened over the past few days. It would seem that a pretty sizable majority of folk around the Western world have transformed into Carol and Mike Brady. You know, those so-called "perfect" parents? 

These guys have it DOWN. They have not let their kids have any more than thirty minutes of structured, fully educational screen time, have served their sweethearts nothing but the most wonderful nutritionally-balanced meals and snacks, have not once yelled, raised their voices or otherwise lost their tempers during Jimmy's fourth tantrum of the day, have not once been inconsistent in their discipline (or, heaven forbid, lack of!), have made sure to timetable in hours of extra-curricular activities and volunteering and most importantly have never, EVER found their kid getting into something they shouldn't or lost sight of their children in public for even a single split second. 

What other explanation could there be for the utter outpouring of vitriol towards Michelle Gregg, the mother of the four year old boy who climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo? At the time of writing this post there have been over 302,000 signatures (300,000 was the amount required to take it to the necessary authorities) on a petition to encourage child protection services and the police to have the parents be "held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life".

The petition also states,  

“We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child's home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child's home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death”

I'm sorry, what now? Because the parents happened to lose sight of their kid in public for a few seconds that means they are negligent to the extent that they are in need of investigation? Lets not pretend it must've been longer than a few seconds for the boy to get into the enclosure. If you have young kids you know how incredibly fast they can be, and how little time it takes for them to get into something they shouldn't, particularly if they have their mind set on it. Sure, most of the time it's probably at home throwing baby wipes all over the living room floor whilst you're in the kitchen or smearing lotion on the furniture whilst you take a load of washing upstairs. They pet a strange dog after you tell them "no", which thankfully turns out to be friendly. They stick a small piece of Lego up their nose and then sneeze it out, or some other comparably inconsequential thing. 

But it can just as easily be in public and running into the road whilst you're rummaging in your bag for a tissue, or disappearing into a crowd whilst you take your hand away from theirs to find your car keys, or as may have been the situation here, turning around to take care of another kid and telling them to stay put, then when you turn around and are desperately looking for them in the crowd you realise to your horror that they've somehow managed to slip through fences and drop fifteen feet into a gorilla enclosure. The difference between any of the above and what has occurred here being that this whole thing played out in a very public forum in the age of social media with scores of people filming and calling for charges to be made against the parents after the death of an animal. That's what it comes down to, you know? Had this situation not had the tragic outcome it had, I doubt anybody witnessing a parent letting go of a child's hand for a second or two would be calling for charges of criminal negligence.

And this is a tragedy. I am a huge animal lover and animal rights activist. I'm not a big fan of zoos to begin with, truth be told. And there's the whole issue about how on earth the kid managed to get in there in the first place. I hate that Harambe was shot; it makes my heart hurt that such a magnificent and endangered animal has been lost, and I know there have been other similar incidents where gorillas have not been killed for comparable behaviour. It is such a difficult situation; if the zoo had had instant effect tranquilizers on site, there may have been a different outcome for Harambe. Sadly, they did not. They made a decision based on the knowledge and equipment they had, and they are hated for it. I don't envy their position right now one bit. I have to say though, if that were my kid in there, I would do what needed to be done to protect them. I would shoot a gorilla to ensure the safety of my kid if that is what it took. I would shoot an elephant or a lion or a tiger or a freaking unicorn if I had to. Don't tell me that as a parent, you wouldn't do the same. 

And please don't try and deflect the fact that this could just as easily have happened to you by saying that Michelle Gregg must have been talking on her phone or scrolling Facebook or that she obviously needs CPS to check on her home life because DAMN, GIRL. I can't imagine how she must be feeling right now. I can't imagine how she must've felt at the time - my heart goes out to her. 

I've lost my kid in a supermarket. I've looked into the back seat of my car and noticed he'd managed to wriggle out of his car seat restraints. I've had to pull over because he was seconds away from managing to open the car door. I've had to run and rugby tackle my youngest to the ground when he was two because he ran off in a fit of temper straight towards the road outside our house when there were cars approaching. I've had to yank my eldest back from just stepping out into a busy road more times than I can count on one hand. I've had a few trips to the hospital with my boys for falls and scrapes that quite honestly, could probably have been avoided.

I am not a bad parent. This shit just doesn't get talked about because we know the judgement that would rain down on us if we dared to air it out, and because honestly, we're so scared to admit that there's NOTHING we can do to completely guarantee our child's safety.

Michelle Gregg is not a bad parent. But because we're so scared to admit that this could be us, we attack her and cast her out and call for criminal charges to make her "other" and deflect away from the sobering realisation that it could have just as easily been us. 

Let's not, alright? 


Back To Work

Today was my first day at work in almost four weeks. I had scheduled a holiday for the first two weeks in May, but then as luck would have it an ear operation I'd been waiting on was penned in for Monday 9th. So then that week, plus one extra week (on doctors orders) were spent recovering. Some of it sucked, some of it wasn't so bad, and finally for the past few days I've felt great and have been itching for my leave period to end so I could get back to work. I swear I've been like a kid again, counting down the days to the beginning of a new school year. Other people did that too, right? 

I mean, I love my job. I really, really love my job. The company and their ethos, my colleagues (I've made some very solid friendships there and am truly thankful for that), my managers, my work, the products... I just genuinely love all of it. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to say that about paid employment, because honestly until landing this gig they've all been pretty uninspiring. Just something I did for a paycheck, you know? But this is so much more. So yes. There was one very exited Chantelle making her way into the town center this morning for her 10:30am start.

Whilst I was driving to my mum's to pick up Reuben after my shift (Joshua was at my mother-in-law's) I was reflecting on how much I enjoyed my day and that on the flip side, having all this time off sick has meant I've been around my boys a lot more. Which has been completely wonderful, but at the same time reminded me of the years I spent as a full-time stay-at-home-mum, and gave me another level of appreciation for my work life...

  • I will not hear "Muuuuuuuum! He took my toy/moved the iPad/pointed at me/breathed my air!" for a good half day, at least. Longer if I'm doing a full 8 hour day. I know, right?!
  • My colleagues are responsible for their own lunches. I don't have to agonize over whether they are eating nutritionally balanced food whilst still giving them things they'll actually want to eat. I won't hear them saying, "but Muuuuuuuum! I don't LIKE *enter name of lovingly prepared meal here*", and they won't cry because I cut their sandwich into triangles like they asked, then decided they wanted squares.
  • My colleagues are all pretty adept at dressing themselves without complaint (I've never had to wrestle any of them into a pair of trousers whilst they were running in the opposite direction, for example) and at putting on their own shoes and coats. My colleagues don't pitch a fit when they need to wear a coat in cold weather, either. 
  • I will not have to wipe somebody's bottom, nose or any other bodily orifice free of fluids for the entirety of my shift.
  • Should I so choose, I get to eat chocolate bars ALL TO MYSELF without having to quickly scarf the whole damn thing in the utility room because my children can hear the rustling of sweet wrappers through walls and no, damnit, I don't want to share this time. 
  • Nobody will bang on the door and demand conversation/attention/snacks whilst I'm visiting the bathroom.

I mean, on the downside, I can't go to work in my pyjamas with two day old bed hair, but you can't have everything, right? 

I Am A Woman, And...

If I act like I’ve got it together, I’m a damn hypocrite. If I don’t appear to have it together, I’m a train wreck.

If I wear too much makeup, I’m vain and insecure and I "don't need it anyway".  If I don’t wear enough, I obviously don’t care about looking presentable.

If I lose weight quickly after having a baby, I care too much about how I look and I must be a terrible mother. But if I don’t lose the weight, I’ve really let myself go. 

If my thighs touch, I'm too fat. If they don’t, I’m too skinny.

If I show emotion, I’m a drama queen, or I’m weak, or I’m PMSing. If I show no emotion, I’m a heartless bitch.

If I speak my mind, I’m aggressive or arrogant. If I stay silent, I’m an enabler.

If I have a career, I’m neglecting the needs of my family. If I stay home, I’m undoing the work of years of feminism and throwing my life away.

If I take initiative and lead the way, I’m bossy and controlling. If I don’t step up, I’m a doormat.

If I don’t have sex before marriage, I’m a moral zealot. If I do have sex before marriage, I’m promiscuous. I'm damaged goods, and no longer "wife material". 

If I don’t have an active sex life or don’t enjoy it, I’m a prude. If I have lots of sex, I’m a slut.

In a society that caters to the male gaze, I am socialised to tie my self-worth into my sex appeal, and then shamed for daring to be openly sexual. I am valued for my desirability and chastened for my own sexual desires. I am simultaneously pressured into being feminine and put down for being "girly".

I am a woman. 

And I am free to decide who I want to be and to act how I want to act without fear of degradation and without being shamed for demanding self-respect. 

I am a woman. 

And it is not your place to determine my worth based on outdated, misogynistic double standards. 

How To Completely Lose Your Self Confidence.

Oh, hello blog! Man, do I suck at blogging. See, my problem with blogging is second-guessing myself. I'm all ready to fire up the laptop and type out some anecdote or opinion or whatever, and then I'm struck by a huge bolt of "who-the-hell-is-going-to-want-to-read-about-that". So I sit and stew and within a few minutes have managed to talk myself out of coming and using one of the few emotional outlets I have. And this self-doubt thing is contagious, you know? So the next time I think I might want to get something off my chest I remember the time before and think that actually, my life is dull as dishwater and a couple months down the line chances are I won't want to read all of this stuff, so why subject anyone else to it? So I wait for something "worthwhile" to crop up so I can write about it. Then one week turns into two, two weeks into a month, and before I know it six months have passed and all these little moments that I wanted to talk about along the way are long forgotten. Slow clap, self. Well done.

The thing is, though, I will want to read all of this stuff. This stuff is my life. This stuff is my boys reaching milestones and marriage confessions and family time and a million WTF parenting moments and friendships and stories and dreams all woven together that actually make life into something extraordinary. Y'know, in a regular everyday kind of way. I know, I should write inspirational inserts for Hallmark cards or something. But seriously though, whether it's life-changing or not, I want it recorded. I'm not doing this for anybody but myself. So here we are.

Over the last week or so I've re-designed my website, I've changed the domain address and I've created a new Facebook page. I'm finding myself loving this little blog again and I can feel myself gaining some momentum. So lets go, baby!