I love watching Supernanny, it's regular Friday viewing in our household. With Grace all tucked up in bed & something yummy for dinner, it's a secret pleasure for the parents. Part of my pleasure is the (not so) secret glimpse into the life of other families, more dysfunctional than our own. Mind you, we only have one small child, & we have only begun discipline thing; please don't pull mummy's hair/nose/face, that will hurt Tony (thecat), etc. Another benefit is the way it provokes Gerard & I to discuss parenting issues, such as the naughty chair, the amount of toys & stuff kids should have, how dads fit in the picture an\nd the list goes on. Supernanny's come up in conversation at mother's group & it seems other parents watch the show & do the same thing - clarify & discuss parenting values. And squirm.
So what do I think is wrong? It came to me last night & it's been creeping up on me these last couple of weeks. Where is the support system for the mothers? Last night we watched a mother with 7 children from 3 marriages, her husband absent during the week & off to Iraq in the near for 18 months. Her house as Supernanny pointed out was chaotic & dirty. The mother looked to be on the on the edge of losing it. The issues this family, & in particular this mother were facing, went so far beyond the bad language chart & family routine imposed by Supernanny that I felt uncomfortable watching. And, I have a very high discomfort tolerance for reality TV. The sheer workload of doing the washing & keeping house for this number of people would overwhelm almost anyone. No wonder it looked a mess. It also looked as though this woman might be seriously unhappy or depressed and under the circumstances, who wouldn't be. Supernanny did her usual gentle/tough routine & some of the things she addressed seemed genuinely helpful; getting the kids to help sort laundry, encouraging them to praise each other & breaking the cycle of negativity.
What I would have really liked to see her address, though, was the issue of what the mother needed. There was this awful scene of Mum was sitting on the couch, seemingly oblivious to the kids running riot until she snaps at one of them. I felt angry about the way this was bought up later. The question that I thought should have been asked ... Does she ever get some time out for herself? Even just an hour or two a week is something to look forward to & refreshing. Where was time out for mum in the family schedule? And the housework. Instead of all the toys, could some of the family income be used for some cleaning/washing help? Do they do this in the US? I know of ordinary income people in Australia that do. Where was the support for this mother? You know the sympathetic ear from a friend, relative, mother's group, playgroup, doctor, counselor, telephone support line. Parenting is not meant to be done in isolation. If you look on the Channel 4 website Supernanny there are some links to parenting advice & information about UK services that address just these issues. It's a pity Supernanny doesn't address them on TV.
Interestingly, G was quite critical of the absent father & thought he should help out & participate more. And not go to Iraq. Maybe they didn't have much choice. I'm lucky I think. G is very encouraging of me having a break and happily spends large chunks of time with Grace while I go & clear my head. We also have a sleep in day each on the weekend and I can't say how much I look forward to sleep in Saturday! Not that I slept in that much today, as I wanted to go the op-shop & look for some fabric for baby presents. It was fantasticly soothing, a couple of hours by myself, browsing books in the op-shop & two fabric shops. When I came home, Grace was so excited to see me & vice versa.