CRAP (Confusion Ridicule And Pretence) Empower Families Not Disempower!!

Most who know me will know I am not a great fan of forums. In my opinion, they tend to lead to competitive parenting. The advice is often contradictory, doing nothing to give parents confidence in their own abilities. This is the reason I suggest to people coming through my classes, that if they are after advice on particular subject, to contact myself or another birth professional and ask them to point them in the direction of balanced information they can read.

Why? Simple, I believe that it is our job to empower parents, help them get the information they need, for them to be able to make an informed choice. My personal opinions on parenting are irrelevant, it is for them, as parents to trust their instincts and make best decisions for their family based upon as much information as they need. After all, all families, their lifestyles, and their needs, are different!

However,  recently  I am getting worried about telling the parents I work with that they can ask another birth/parenting professional for this support… as a lot of what I have been seeing online recently really makes my heart sink. While most Birth/Parenting Professionals claim ‘empowerment’ is at the heart of what they do, actually it seems to be that they have lost sight of what this means, in favour of pushing their own agenda and opinion as the BEST.  This is so contrary to empowerment, as at its very heart (as anyone working in advocacy will know) is informed choice.

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Quite frankly, I have been sickened by some of the hypocrisy I have been witnessing of late. Lengthy debates online between various ‘camps’ of professionals. Debates calling in to doubt other people’s credentials as experts… We have holier than though attitudes from some of these so-called ‘professionals’ claiming their way is the only way. Does no one else see the irony here? That by making these attacks they are not empowering parents, but disempowering them. They are basically calling anyone who chooses to do something other than what they advocate as ignorant, and sometimes even dangerous.  This is regardless of how the parents made their decisions, and why.

Indeed, I have also been very uncomfortable to witness tweets such as “I can hear a baby crying very loudly in a neighbouring house 🙁 wish I could go and calm him/her.” How disempowering for the mother/father would that be? It also sounds a little judgemental to me. Surely what anybody should be wishing is that the mother/father could have some support to understand their baby’s needs? Although, we still we see so many of these birth professionals only ever talk about the mother, or at best only paying lip service to dads.

The recent attacks on birth/parenting experts as an entity, is quite staggering. Especially as they come from people that claim to be… well, just that, birth or parenting experts! Some of these experts are even now using selective evidence to show that if parents do not subscribe to exactly what they believe, then basically they are harming or neglecting their baby. The reality is we all know that on all things medical, opinion is more often than not divided and quite often contradictory. Not only that, but it is constantly changing. What we believed only 10 years ago is now no longer accurate. A perfect example of this is sleeping positions for babies, current advice is now is now to lay them on their backs to sleep… but it has not always been this. Obviously, as more research is carried out, so opinions and advice change.

So with this in mind, what is wrong with parents hearing several ‘expert’ points of view in order to make their own informed choices and then choosing the path that their instincts are telling them to follow?

What I find even more amazing, is the amount of criticism being undertaken at the moment which is made on assumption. How can you criticise someone if you have not even read their standpoint? Would you write a book review without bothering to read the book? This is sheer arrogance, and again smacks of ‘if it isn’t my way then it must be WRONG!’ That is NOT empowerment.

And still that old chestnut continues to be brought out – because some of these parenting experts don’t have children, they can’t be experts. Really? So male midwives cannot be any good at their jobs then? What about revered birth professionals such as Michel Odent, how can he possibly be the expert he is? After all, he has never given birth…

There have been a number of attacks on myself, by people I have little or no respect for, but at least they have done it in closed forums and in private conversations. The amount of public attacks recently are really out-of-order, in my opinion. Parents do not need to witness slanging matches about who is best, just support to understand there ARE different methods, to learn confidence in themselves, and to make their own choice about what is right for them. As a birth/parenting professional, if you can support this, even if personally you don’t agree with it, then THAT is empowerment.

I believe every family is unique, every baby is unique, and no one size fits all. As professionals, our personal opinions are irrelevant. We will all have our own individual approach, but we should also respect that it may not be for everyone. No one should claim to be THAT much of an expert!  Information and choices are what the parents we work with seek, so let’s please stop the slanging matches and get on with our job.  After all we have the best job in the world, and it is such a privilege to share these parent’s journeys.

 

15 thoughts on “CRAP (Confusion Ridicule And Pretence) Empower Families Not Disempower!!

  1. Are you pleased you’ve got this off your chest then?
    Don’t you feel that some people just want to write/tweet/facebook statuses and opinions just for the purposes of fuelling debate?
    I worry that families will feel confused whichever way they turn for input, support or advice. I want to see everyone putting a disclaimer on their comments, tweets and statements saying something along the lines of:
    “What I’m saying is what I think works. It doesn’t mean that it will work for you or your family as I’m not with you hands on right now, helping you do it. And what’s also important is that you take my opinion, beliefs and advice as being the product of my experience, research and practise to date. It doesn’t make it fact, it makes it my recommendations. And there’s going to be lots of other people out there who think differently to me. So if you want to give my suggestions a go, then great. And if not, no worries, because it takes lots of different opinions, views and parenting styles to make the world go around…..”

    Something like that? I’ve not got time to craft something properly, but that’s the kind of thing I’m thinking about…

    • Am I pleased? Strange question, of course I’m not I am saddened I even felt the need to write it.

      I think some people write to be controversial, yes, unfortunately I also think some write from pure arrogance and have lost sight of what is actually important, The Parents!

      Whatever their motivations for writing and attacking each other they should be ashamed, they do a huge disservice to the parents that place their trust in them.

      Parents have a difficult enough job as it is, society has made us less confident in our natural parenting abilities, and as Birth/Baby professionals we should be re-instilling that confidence. Instead we see people we thought we could turn to being attacked and become uncertain as to which advice or information we may like to follow. We become uncertain as to what is correct information, so in effect the people that should be empowering us are in fact dis empowering us.

      We don’t need disclaimers, as the majority of Birth/Baby professionals stay true to their core motivations and beliefs, it is as usual a minority that are so bloody arrogant as to believe they have all the answers.

  2. Oh I hear you….

    Experienced this with the old chestnut of Breast vs’ bottle argument and after probably the toughest 3 days of our lives (considerably more for my wife than me) we soon realised that even the pro-breast “professionals” all had their own way of doing things that blinkered many of them to the fact that the human body, the baby and everything else meant that sometimes “their method” wasn’t necessarily the best move.

    In many ways the confusion and doubt it caused my wife probably had a hand in the post-natal depression she suffered for the best part of a year afterwards.

    • Martin, I Hope things have settled own now, and things are OK.

      Sorry for your experiences, it is unfortunate when even those supposedly singing from same hymn sheet give conflicting advice. Sleep deprivation, family adjustment is hard enough without having conflicting advice.

      Most Birth professionals I believe do still have true core values. But maybe Liz in previous comments has a point, in that we should be clearer in saying this is our suggestion but also be happy enough to offer road mapping to different support if that doesn’t work for parents. No one size fits all with parenting

      • Thankfully at 22 months on, we’re on a much more even keel primarily because of career decisions by my wife to cut back her hours, and my flexible business hours (I’m self employed). Of course sleep deprivation (Love those teeth!) has eased considerably so that’s a bit help too!

        Our biggest problem with the conflicting advice was very much as you point out, the “my way or the highway” attitude and what was so bizarre was that for the first week it was from midwives who all worked together (How, was a complete mystery!). It was never spiteful but lack of coordinated information or making it clear that YMMV did make us think “We’re doing it all wrong!” more than once.

  3. Dean, totally agree, I have noticed this recently on Twitter and it saddens me!! We are and should be about empowering parents, what makes a parenting expert, only the mother or father as we are all different, we and only we know what is best for our children! What works for one parent will not work for another and we need to let parents trust their instincts and judgements and do what they feel is best for their babies!!

    Off soap box now ;0)

  4. ‘unfortunately I also think some write from pure arrogance and have lost sight of what is actually important, The Parents!’

    Are you referring to anyone in particular with this blog? There have been areas of disagreements between ‘experts’ for a long time – some claim to be more expert than others! I am not sure I totally agree with your statement (above) either. I think some of the ongoing debate at the moment is actually to do with trying to parent from the point of view of what’s best for the CHILD, rather that (as you say) ‘what is actually important, The Parents’. Whilst I completely accept that many parents will feel they need guidance and support (which is sadly where the ‘experts’ come in rather than family or friends) – surely to lose sight of the fact that there is a child who cannot speak for themselves caught in the middle is to miss a rather important piece from the jigsaw?

    • Thank you, you make a good point, I would have done better to phrase it as the family.

      My comments are aimed at all that would rather add to the confusion, resort to personal attacks, are demonstrating sone amazing hypocrisy and have lost sight of that which is truly important. Also those that are doing a dis service to the birth/baby professionals who work with such passion and giving.

      I’m sure some will recognize the comments I have referenced but I am not singling people out, I want them to stop and think.

  5. I agree Dean .As professionals in our chosen field we both know we don’t do it for the money!
    I give parents the advice they ask me for and they choose to use it .I don’t advertise they come to me for help.I help them because after 24 years experience and training I really can make a difference .But I am still learning .
    I don’t get paid for all the articles I write ,nor do I get paid for standing at the Baby Shows for 3 days offering my advice for free .
    I know that people will always think that their way is the best way .And they are entitled to their opinions ,but what I think is truly awful is when they name people and attack them when they have no idea about the people or what they do .That is just bullying and thankfully most people recognise that .

    I will continue doing what I am doing until sleep deprived parents in tears stop calling me!
    Keep up the great work you do with all the Daddies out there!

    • Thank you for commenting Jo.

      I agree with the named attacks on yourself and numerous other Birth/Baby experts, it is sad indeed that we are seeing these attacks increase. They do nothing to support families, just add to the confusion many feel.

      I just want all of us to think about and put families first rather than our own egos. And yes the bullying and personal attacks need to stop, working with parents for most of us is more vocational than anything else.

      I want everyone to keep doing what they are doing, but with respect to others working with parents and families as well.

      What we are currently seeing across UK is born out of disrespect and with the power of the internet it has become to easy to become disrespectful

  6. Dean – I have read this post several times, and have taken each comment into account as well. It is such a hard thing for you to have raised and for that I can only praise you! It is upsetting when I see comments being written about individual professionals where they are basically being pulled apart. To me that is the most unprofessional thing anyone can do. As you so very rightly point out we are here in our role for the whole family, to help and ease any pain or unease they may have, or indeed just here to be an ear to listen to their worries and concerns. Our job is to be an advocate for the child and family and not to be judgemental in anyway – or to push our own beliefs or opinions onto them. A true expert professional will always present every view point, and understand that there are times when deviations from the norm will occur and will help empower the child and family to make an informed decision that suits their needs.

    I just hope that those that have made mistakes take notice of blog posts like this and stop, think and reflect on their own practice – that is the gold standard in a health professional’s role; to reflect, evaluate and implement change for the better.

    • Louise Thank you for response. I think you sum up quite brilliantly our responsibilities.

      I too also hope that people will take time to reflect.

  7. Just wanted to pick up on something you said:

    “perfect example of this is sleeping positions for babies, current advice is now is now to lay them on their backs to sleep… but it has not always been this.”

    You’re right, it hasn’t. Briefly, it was suggested that babies should lie on their front. And what would you know… it was one of those so-called “baby experts” who first suggested mums NOT put babies on their back: Dr Spock. It’s been estimated that around 50,000 babies may have died because of his advice.

    So err, I think would rather have these “experts” publicly questioned, their advice taken apart and check out for what it is – because it helps weed out nuggets of unhelpful and potentially dangerous advice, helping to prevent repeats of that ^.

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