Thursday, 20 October 2011

It's not just parents who should be interested in parenting

I'm back in the freelance market again after my maternity leave and, yawn yawn cliche cliche, I pitched an article to the family section of a newspaper. I liked the pitch - all about the rise of parent bloggers, but got a swift rejection from the editor. They try, the editor told me, to avoid articles about parenting, because the section is about family, not about parenting, and that they want articles that people can relate to whether or not they have young children.

Fair enough - they can publish whatever they want to publish - but I am quite surprised that they think parenting is only of interest to people actually doing it at that moment. Sure, the colour of your child's poo or their weaning habits may only be of interest to you and your partner, and perhaps an involved grandparent, but the wider issues of parenting go much further than this.

After all, who gets the blame if there are riots? Parents. Who is responsible for ensuring teenagers eat, drink and fornicate sensibly? Parents. Who needs to encourage children to ensure they get the skills necessary to contribute to society, economically and socially? Parents of course. Parenting isn't a niche issue - it impacts on us all, and I don't believe that only people going through it at the moment have views on it. I enjoyed reading about parenting when I was a child, when I was a childless 20-something and now. I imagine I will in the future.

"What we are looking for are stories from the other end of the spectrum, when families are grown up and the really interesting things in life have happened to them," the editor wrote back to me. And I am interested in these things too, but that's because I am interested in all types of human relationships. I am not old, but I am interested in stories about that part of life too. I am not adopted, but I find stories about adoption fascinating. I have discovered no deep dark secrets that I am willing to share, there are no famous people in my family, I think I know about all my siblings, no one has hidden any treasure and, luckily, there have been no great disasters. But I want to read about all of these things when other people write about them.

It's not to say my article should have been commissioned. Freelancers know that for every commission you get you also get twenty rejections. Indeed that is the job of an editor. And the joy of blogging, I am finding, is that you can write what you want without having to persuade anyone else to see merit in it in order to have it published. But I do resent the suggestion that being a parent and having young children is only interesting to those going through it at the time. I do believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I expect everyone in that village to be interested in how it is done, just as I am interested in their lives, whatever stage they are at.


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