I hate Jewish Mother jokes. I can't abide them. They are sexist and racist. Jokes like, "What's the difference between a Jewish mother and a rottweiler? The rottweiler lets go eventually." Oh yes, ha ha ,very ribald, very Bernard Manning. And besides being an overprotective, loving mother is what? Really BAD?
I couldn't stand these sort of jokes even before I became a mother myself, mainly because they always seemed so outdated to a hinterland of Jewish parental observation existing somewhere between the Everglades 1952 and Miami 1960. These jokes do not represent my experience of being mothered by a Jewish mother or being a Jewish mother myself.
Oh, don't mind me. I'm in a bit of a motherhood frenzy today. It's the subject du jour. I've just been on a television panel with the esteemed child psychologist Oliver James debating his observations that a) the naughty step is pointless and that b) mothers can be divided into the three following categories: the Organiser (the one who works her child into her schedule and is routine obsessed), the Hugger (loving, nurturing, instinctive, but often loses own sense of identity in the child), and the Fleximum (bit of a hugger but also has own sense of life and work so tries a win-win situation – apparently this works best as long as the other childcarer is tip top loving, nurturing and consistent).
Phew. I opened this up to my 8000 or so Twitter followers after the show and a raging debate ensued – between Jewish mums, black mums, Muslim mums, writer mums, stay-at-home mums, banker mums, politico mums, rich and poor mums alike. Suffice to say that the following was agreed: there is a tyranny foisted upon the new mum. As soon as that blue/pink line confirms your up-the-duffness, be prepared for an onslaught of advice, which evokes fear, guilt, panic, and a sense of isolation and failure.
And the Annabel Karmels, Super Nannies, Baby Whisperers and Red Tent peddlars do not seem to be helping that much.
“Let’s all just agree that with childcare, there is no right or wrong”
What should be instinctive and joyous and a learning curve for mother and child seems to be surrounded by a Baby Rearing Advice Industry that pits mothers against each other in gladitatorial style battle: how many after school clubs can your child cram into
in one week? How organic is your organic bolognaise? Was your baby rice lovingly mixed in with freshly squeezed breast milk?
The earth mothers seem to crumble because it's all not as they planned it, or rather as the book planned it, and the corporate mums who have given up fabulous careers approach their child rearing with the same gritted focus as they did their six-figure salary.
Let's just give each other a break, can't we? Let's just all agree that there is no right or wrong.
One mum recently was aghast that I hadn't sent my very chatty, seemingly bright daughter to a tutor to help her get into a 'Good School'. "A tutor", I laughed. 'What can a two-and-a-half-year-old possibly learn at a tutor?"
"Well," she responded sniffily. "Does your daughter know what a rhomboid is?"
Never mind my daughter – I don't know what a rhomboid is!
Come on, Jewish mums – let's lead the way in doing what we do best. We love, nurture, feed, keep
a sense of perspective, laugh, push and morally guide. We don't make mannon more important than the spirtual. We have traditional values. Here's the joke I want to hear: how did broken Britain get back on its feet? It was led by the Jewish mothers.