This week I got a leaflet through my door from my local Conservative MEPs, with a questionnaire to fill out about my views. I checked through, and there were no ‘Don’t Know’; ‘Not Sure’; ‘Well it Depends’ or ‘That’s a Stupid Question’ options, so I can’t fill it in.
I never know the answers to questions which are phrased in black and white, either/or extremes. Take this one for example; do I agree with:
‘Fairness means people getting what they deserve, with those who work hard getting rewarded and no more something for nothing.’
‘Fairness means sharing prosperity equally and ensuring that laws and tax rates are designed to shift power and money from the rich to people on low and average incomes.’
They could have just asked ‘Are you a Tory or a Socialist?’ couldn’t they, and got it over with. The sub-text of course, depending on which extreme of the political spectrum you dwell, is ‘Are you a Good Person or a Bad Person?’
In the world of parenting, we are also asked to come down on one side or the other of a very polarised debate set along strict party lines, and the stark choices are just as full of loaded meanings, especially for mothers. Are you a good mother or a bad mother? These are the kind of questions which supposedly give you an answer to that question:
Do you think breast is best or is bottle-feeding ok?
Do you believe mothers should stay at home or go out to work?
Do you think children need firm boundaries and discipline or do you believe they need freedom?
Do you believe in leaving babies to cry at night or do you think they should be taken into your bed?
Do you believe in a strict feeding regime or in feeding on demand?
As in politics, the underlying assumption and meaning of those questions is to place you firmly in one ideological camp or the other. The answers will make you a good mother or a bad mother depending on which camp you belong to.
In my view the correct answer to all of the above is ‘Well it depends. Everybody is an individual, with different circumstances and beliefs, and I couldn’t possibly have the right to give a definitive opinion either way. None of these options is 100% Right or Wrong, all are dependent on different factors, and sometimes it’s a bit of both.’ Good mother or bad mother? I’d say good enough mother, whatever.
In the politics of parenting though, that’s not generally an option that’s included.