The internet appears to have gotten wind of a letter you wrote to neighbours of yours; working parents whose child spends the day at nursery. Well, Sheila, I think you need to wind your neck in love. And I say that with exponentially harsher words swirling around my mind.

You see Sheila, I think you’ve behaved pretty appallingly. You’ve judged parents, based on nothing more than a snapshot of their life. You have decided that they are damaging their child, that their baby is perpetually distressed, that there is no point to them even having had their baby. That’s pretty vitriolic if you ask me, Sheila.

Let me tell you about my children Sheila. Toby is nearly 3 1/2 and is an intelligent, feisty, beautiful child. His imagination is phenomenal, by the age of 18 months he had the vocabulary of a child at least 2, now he can make up stories and songs on the spot and they are superb.

Martha is 19 months old and the cheekiest, most stubborn, sociable, lovely child. Her smile lights up any room, she is witty and chatty and nothing gets past her clever little mind.

Toby and Martha each started nursery at the age of 11 months. My husband and I work full time in good jobs, jobs we’re passionate about, jobs that challenge us and stimulate our brains.

My neighbours may well see me wrestling the children into the car each morning; my face bare of make up, Toby and Martha shouting protestations. They may wonder what the hell is going on – and god only knows that some mornings I wonder the same!

They may see my husband – a devoted and wonderful father – juggling two tired toddlers, their coats, their bags, into the house each evening.

My neighbours may pity us, respect us, be confused by us, or be ambivalent to us. Guess what? It doesn’t bloody matter, and neither does your opinion.

Sheila, here is the thing my dear:

No two children, parents, families, are the same. Some parents, and that means mums and dads, thrive at home full time. Some thrive at work. Some thrive doing a bit of both. They’re all right.

Some parents – myself included – found parenthood incredibly difficult. Have you ever had postnatal depression Sheila? Have you ever felt that no matter how much you love your children with all your heart, you are broken and drowning? Have you ever felt like a complete failure whose children would be better with virtually anyone else in this world?

Have you ever been a single parent trying to be enough of a parent, enough of a breadwinner, enough of a cook, cleaner, activity enabler, bloody butcher, baker, candlestick maker, enough of everything, alone?

Have you ever wanted to work in a job that fulfils you and challenges you intellectually, so that you are a contented and balanced version of yourself both when you’re in parent mode and in employee mode?

Sheila, have you ever for one tiny damn moment in your life considered that variety is the spice of life? That there is no one set way for all parents to raise their children?

I actively try to assume positive intentions in people, not to judge, and certainly not to judge when I don’t have the full story. So Sheila, I won’t judge you for your letter because I don’t know your version of events. But how about you try to remember that philosophy next time you fancy ramming your unwanted opinions down someone’s throat (or through their post box)?

There’s no point in having life if you can’t live it the way you see fit.

Hannah

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