Despite generally being a grumpy and sceptical so-and-so, I couldn’t help having my heart slightly warmed by a story I read this week.
If you have a moral objection to the Daily Mail, don’t click this link and I’ll summarise instead.
In short, a young couple from the UK had a baby. They’d saved up, so during the mother’s maternity leave they could go backpacking – with the baby – around Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Good for them, right?
Nope, apparently not! Here’s a selection of some of the reader comments on the article:
“What a selfish woman…..enjoying her holidays while I work hard to pay for it through NI and tax contributions. Maternity leave should be spent looking after the child not roaming around the world.”
“Ludicrous. Utterly irresponsible parenting. Poor child!”
“Very stupid to take a tiny baby all over the place before she’s had all her innoculations (which would be around 3 months).”
“…And why no life jacket when on a boat or a safety helmet when on a bike?. What a thoroughly irresponsible couple.”
“Well exposing an infant to all manor of exotic viruses will certainly boost her immune system. I hope they have good travel insurance in case they have an issue somewhere.”
My first thought was: wow, it can’t be a lot of fun to be inside those people’s heads. But it also raised a question: what’s the reason why they seem so determined to find fault?
It could be that they genuinely think the parents in the article are “doing it wrong”, because they’re certain that their way is right and they can’t conceive of any alternative.
But I think the opposite is more likely: they feel threatened by the realisation that the “default” they accepted might not have been the best way. They’re afraid that they missed out by not having the idea or the courage themselves – and rather than confronting that fact, they rationalise by leaping to sometimes bizarre reasons (“OMG tropical viruses!”) why it was a bad idea after all.
Of course, backpacking with a baby isn’t for everyone. There’s a big difference, though, between saying “good for them – it’s not for me, but they seem to be happy” and immediately lashing out and criticising.
It’s easy to make fun of this reaction with regard to travel, because it’s something we have some experience with. But can we be sure that we don’t sometimes react in the same way? It’s worth monitoring how we respond to new ideas – and if we spot ourselves rushing to judge, maybe there’s an insecurity in ourselves that we should be exploring.