Cheese on toast
Photo by Juliette Culver via Flickr.

A friend and her son popped over just before Christmas when my parents were also visiting for the day.

I started to make everyone cheese on toast for lunch (I know, I am an amazing hostess spoiling them with such a gourmet meal) and then the phone rang so my mum took over “cooking” while I answered the call (love my mum).
When I came back to finish up she said she had already put the cheese and butter on the toast and put it back under the grill.
Wait, what?
“Why have you put the butter on already?” I asked. “That’s not how you make cheese on toast. Everyone knows you melt the cheese and then put the butter on when you take it out.”

“No, it’s far better this way because it soaks into the bread,” she said.

“No, it’s better the proper way because it’s all melty but the bread isn’t soggy,” I said.

“I don’t know anyone else who makes cheese on toast like that, how can it be the proper way?” she added, standing her ground.

We carried on debating the merits of when it is best to put the butter on until we both sniffed the air wondering what that burning smell was. Argh, the toast! *

I was reminded of this “discussion” recently when reading a parenting blog post on a specific issue where the author was vehemently sure their way was THE ONLY WAY and not only left no room for differing opinions but basically said if you did it a different way you were a terrible parent. I’ve noticed a lot of topics are given this so called “mummy wars” treatment, including nappies (cloth v disposable), dummies, reins, co-sleeping, slings v carriers, organic food, screen time, weaning (puree or baby-led) and even elf on the shelf (seriously, Google “elf on the shelf hate”).

Being a relative newcomer to mummyhood, and especially as someone who struggled in the early months (oh, ok, who still struggles) I constantly searched the internet for help. I had a vague notion about the way I wanted to parent but finding articles telling me in no uncertain terms that I was DOING IT ALL WRONG (or worse, causing harm) made me even more distressed than I already was – especially when, as time wore on (and I got more confidence), I realised that wasn’t necessarily the case.

And you know what I wonder? A bit like arguing over the toast while it burns (Ah ha!), are we turning on each over issues that really, as long as you and your child are happy and healthy, are a matter of personal choice while big problems, such as poor ante/peri/post natal mental health care, are left by the wayside?

In the 16 months since I’ve been knocked sideways by parenthood, I’ve found we are often our own harshest critics. We don’t need other people to stand in judgement.

I am not saying we shouldn’t write about all parenting issues and have passionate opinions – otherwise I wouldn’t have started a parenting blog – and, as a passionate opinionated person, I believe “debate” is healthy. What got me through some tough times were the honest experiences people shared (the good, the bad and the ugly). The “this is what we did, this is what happened” not the “if you don’t do it this way you’re horrible”.

Just as I’ve discovered that cheese on toast tastes good no matter when you put the butter on, being a parent is a beautiful, at times challenging, gift that also often appears to have no right or wrong to it. Maybe it’s time we stopped fighting with each other or treating parenting as a competition and realised that by accepting our differences and being on the same team we can be even better? But, as I said, I’m new to all this, what do you think?

* I told my husband about the cheese on toast argument and his response was. “You don’t put butter on cheese on toast, you weirdo.” Yet another side of the story.