Daily Archives: Monday 11 February 2008

Maybe mothers aren’t parents

The New Zealand Families Commission has a shiny new website about parenting. It’s full of helpful tips and advice, from road safety to healthy eating, to dealing with teenagers and budgeting. All good stuff, with links to other sites, and places where people can go to get help.

But there’s a very curious omission. One section of the site has is headed up “Parent Types”. The idea seems to be that you can go there and get some particular advice for dads, or for grandparents. Here’s the advice for dads:

* Show lots of love and affection
* It’s great to rough and tumble when you’re playing but teach your children what the limits are
* If you have a job, spend your time at home on what’s most important to you and your children
* As your children get older, you may need to change your fathering approach
* If you find behaviour and discipline is an issue, you’ll find ideas on our positive behaviour and discipline page
* Try to get regular time out for yourself

All good sensible stuff. There are some great links down the side of the page too – all in all, a good resource. And there’s similar advice and links for grandparents.

But there’s a great, gaping hole on the site. There’s specific advice for fathers, specific advice for grandparents, but absolutely nothing for mothers. Not a link, not a word, nothing.

What’s the subtext? Mothers don’t matter? They are just part of the warp and weft of everyone’s lives, and they can fade into the background. No need to mention that there might be special demands associated with being a mother, in comparison with being a parent.

Or maybe, mothers are seen as the normative parents, the real parents, and fathers are just an optional add-on. So there’s no need for special advice for mothers – all the advice on the site is intended for them alone, and the bit for fathers is just added on so that dads don’t feel excluded.

Either interpretation is vicious. But the exclusion of mothers in the first place is wrong.

I know there is masses of advice available on the web for mothers, and there are some excellent sites and blogs around. So it’s not really as though mothers need yet more advice. But it would have been nice if the Families Commission didn’t overlook us, and even better if they had spend a little time and effort sorting through all the flood of mothering sites, and working out which ones would be most valuable for New Zealand mothers.

I can give them some tips. Try Mums on Top – it’s an NZ site for mothers. A bit too “yummy mummy” for my personal taste, but there’s plenty of good stuff there. And if you find it makes you just a little too nauseous, try feminist blogger Blue Milk.

Dads, of course, can go to the Families Commission site.