I’m a new mum.
One of the things that happen to us as we as individuals become defined by having a small child in the UK (aka become parents) is time is reconfigured according to its relationship with the child and especially the merry-go-round of Drs. appointments and visits by the community team. This includes check-ups, immunisations, clinics, weigh-ins and home visits…
Now don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the care and attention offered by the NHS in making sure Small has the best possble start in life but I have some issues with the system partly because of the assumptions it makes and the privileges it affords me.
Unlike many caregivers, I have the luxury of income and a stable roof over my head. More than anything else this prevents me from being categorised as an ‘at risk’ parent.
So our family set-up is unconventional (3 parent queer polyamorous relationship in 2 houses); so my mental health is ‘wobbly’ (as is that of my partners)… in other circumstances I might be deemed unfit but middle-class respectability shields us from that and thus from visits from a social worker and from the threat of Small being taken away.
I get that many people are likely to need extra support to feed and clothe their kids which is supposedly a cocern of this process. Furthermore I am grateful that I have had extra care lavished on my mental health (both in terms of speed of access and number of sessions) because of being a mother but I also see that the system places undue pressure on people.
I am acutely aware that health visitors visits are one of the ways that the state checks whether or not children are being cared for and considers whether they should be removed from their parents.
For example, my beloved wife grew up in a less economically stable home and the fear of not providing appropriate items haunts her – the threat that your child might be taken away because you dont have the new clothes or enough toys is terrifying and real when you are struggling in an area known for its deprivation and yet I grew up with no new clothes but without judgement from social services because my parents owned the house we lived in…
In a similar vein my therapist and I talked about how one might objectively judge being a ‘good enough’ mother and there on the list as used by social workers is ‘adequate gender-appropriate clothing’ …what is gender-appropriate for a month old baby or even a year old child? If someone in more economically deprived circumstances dresses there 2 children in the same clothing despite their different genitalia it might be assumed that they just can’t afford to differentiate between them or even bullying them and therefore to be watched whereas it is more likely that as a middle-class parent if I were to dress my child in neutral or “gender-deviant” clothing it would be assumed that I am merely being ‘non-conventional’ and even “politically correct” and it would be ignored.
Isn’t it amazing how when you do it with the semblance of money and respectability you automatically seem better? I feel very privileged.