If you haven’t read the Mail Online (which to be fair, why would you have really?) you can read the article I am referring to here. (Be calm, that’s all I’m saying!)
Dear Anna May Mangan,
I write in response to your recent article of 15th May 2017. I want to start by noting the time of publication; 10 pm. I can only assume that the content of said article is as a result of the late hour, and not really your true thoughts on the current trend of “slummy mummy’s” as you call us. I say us, because I am one; and damn proud of it too. Sorry for the swearing, I forgot that offends you. Unfortunately, real life sometimes lays out situations to us that require a minor cuss or two; the odd expletive or epithet that makes us feel that little bit better about a situation, however dire. I mention the time of publication for two reasons, firstly, that is a very late hour to be sending out something so stirring – because of course that was your aim, and perhaps you needed the night to cool down after your tedious rant? Secondly, I wonder if perhaps you were also under the influence, as you suggest most of us “slummy mummy’s” are? Begs the question now doesn’t it?
I must thank you initially for the article, as it brought up a conversation between me and a complete stranger in Costa Coffee that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. You see, when I read some of your comments, I inadvertently sprayed coffee across the room with laughter (oh, again, apologies if that information is too “real” for you to deal with.) Resulting in a lovely chat with another mum, who was shocked and hysterical at my outburst. You see, we’re not all appalled by real life. If it helps you to know, we did speak to each other because neither of us had our children with us – clearly having being incapable of looking after them for long periods of time without risking their little lives through too much television or peanut butter exposure. So, I was allowing myself (risque I know!) some time to myself with a coffee (rather than gin), and dare I say it, Facebook! The horror! Oh, and the point, we both think you’re a little outdated in your opinion and need to reassess. Which is a shame, as you gained so much loyalty from your debate with Katie Hopkins a few years back.
Your article was immediately off putting, as you position yourself as better educated than your readers by opening with your knowledge of the artist William Hogarth. I don’t expect anyone reading the Daily Mail to really care about your knowledge of Georgian artists or their work, and quite frankly it immediately turned me off reading further because of your “better than you” portrayal in this opening line.
Hogarth was of course very talented but would not necessarily be known to the average Joe’s of our nation. My limited knowledge of Hogarth however, suggests that the man did like his satire, and your reference to him made no real statement other than to suggest that you know your art. Well done you!
His series, Marriage à-la-mode, is the perfect example of the secret humour that he portrayed in each canvas, which I am sure, Gin Lane is no exception; proving that all you have done in this opening paragraph is alienate your audience. In addition, you compare his work as though it is a photograph taken at the time, rather than a perception or portrayal of a lifestyle. Is that not what these “slummy mummy’s” are? A satirical and comical portrayal that is nowhere near the reflection of real life.
As for the rest of the article, it was clear to me that your knowledge of Hogarth is far greater than your knowledge of the women you go on to berate. Which, some might say is a good thing, but please don’t take to your typewriter with aggression against content that you have not thoroughly researched. You look a little silly to say the least. Again, doesn’t that threaten your credibility as a writer and make it clear to all readers that your only intention with this article is to “stir the pot”; be antagonistic and cause problems for problems sake? I’m unsure what you personally will achieve from being unpleasant about other people? I can confirm, from the source, that the dear Sarah has seen a rise in her book sales since you published “that” article. Has yours seen the same spike?
I am a self-confessed poor mother. This isn’t because I want to jump on the band wagon and join in to this “slummy mummy” race to the bottom, as you call it. This is because I’m simply not very good at it. Although my friends and family disagree, I don’t feel that I have that maternal bone, the instincts that drive a mother to know exactly what to do at the right time and to follow through with cool-headed precision. That would be the case whether it be now or if I was living in Hogarth’s 1750’s – I would still feel the same. It is only now that society allow me, and other women, to be truly honest about the fact that parenting is hard.
It is not sunshine and daisy’s, unicorns and rainbows. There are the amazing days of sheer joy and delight at the tiny human you created, But there are also days of darkness, despair and absolute exhaustion so profound that it feels impossible to breathe. Didn’t you have those days? Do you look back on your time as a Mother to young children and see it through rose tinted glasses? No matter which way you look at this, there is joy in every part of motherhood because you created a person, but there is also fear, and worry, and self doubt and horror at what a human body can produce in both noise and stench. These are competitive phrases thrown out for entertainment value, they are not facts.
Yes, some of these wonderful women put a spin on things for comical value; and do you know what, good! Their humour, sense of honesty and fearless abandon tell me that it’s okay not to be okay. They have helped me to laugh through the darkest times of postnatal depression and have brought me out the other side because they knew, they told the truth and they supported me without knowing it.
You however portray yourself as one of the people who judge those mothers in the street for having a toddler who is melting down because of some tiny infraction. You come across as one of those horrendous people that do not accept that the differences in us all make our world so wonderful. Your writing says that you think having a hard time and mental health issues a shameful problem that should be swept under the carpet and not talked about openly. Surely that, in itself, is against all that the charities, people of the UK and the government have achieved in recent years?
I genuinely hope that you are not really the person you portray in this article and if you are, then my heart goes out to you. You seem to have cherry picked from the writing of successful women and chosen only the silly and flippant remarks made amongst the serious and down-right heart meltingly real moments in these books. For me, calling out women like Sarah Turner and Katie Kirby is a mistake. Other women like Amber Dusick and Constance Hall are idolised along with those you named for one reason: they’re honesty. Being honest about parenting is the best thing to have happened to our generation. It makes it okay to feel like crap and think the unthinkable! Their writing normalises parenting and mental health issues associated with new parents; it doesn’t demonise it. It’s ever so rude to call them arrogant and then slate them – who’s arrogant now?
You go on to patronise your readers further as though they think the books these women wrote were created magically in the wee-small hours of the night in some fantasy land! Of course, we all know these women have slogged their guts out to produce their work; that’s another reason why we like them! We appreciate just how hard it is to manage a life, children and a successful career at the same time. You speak as though the readers of these books are all a bunch of gin guzzling, nonchalant, idiots who revel in abusing, degrading and neglecting our children. If anything it is the exact opposite. We understand that everything has balance, and when you become a parent that balance can be tipped and difficult to regain. Something has to give, and often, it’s the minds of very clever and witty women that give out first because there has been no outlet up to now. These bloggers and authors have created that outlet and unmasked a world of frustration and comical moments. It is quite disconcerting to read your suggestion that the fans of these amazing women have weak minds that are being melted by the words of women who thrive on the abuse of children.
I hope your own children, (and grandchildren perhaps?) have grown to understand that middle class Britain, with its piano lessons and baking in the afternoon with the “stop at home mum”, fell out of favour in the 1950’s for the right reasons. We still care that our babies be successful, that they attend extra curricular activities and become everything that they’re capable of being. We are “pushy” because we want only what is best. Just like you did once I imagine. We do not frown upon spending quality time with our tiny humans, we just don’t pretend that we live in a Disney film. No amount of planning and preparation will deflect from the inevitable arguments, mess and general chaos where children are involved. It’s part of their learning process, the fun and the pain!
Women of the twenty first century have the freedom to speak out about the imperfections of parenting, along with the joyous and awe inspiring. Modern feminism is not about man-bashing and inequality of speech; it’s about honesty and coming together as women in the universally understood language of children. I know I speak for us all when I say we are proud of our children and gob-smacked that we have kept them safe in this very scary world. Our babies are the most precious things to be bestowed on us, but the weight of responsibility that a parent must bear is a heavy one, and sometimes, sharing that burden with laughter, gin and secret swearing, makes us even more proud of ourselves for getting through it.
With hope for your future conscience
Imperfect, West Yorkshire