Defined by our offspring

The gap filler of news reporting is the reference to a subject’s status vis a vis their number of children. “Mr Jones, father of two, was protesting about the price of Anzac biscuits outside a supermarket in Upper Woop Woop today.” We may well care about the price of Anzac biscuits – at least that is the story – but who cares about the number of offspring that this bloke has sired?

“Mrs Merryweather, mother of five, is distressed about the treatment of wild camels in Australia” Great, but do her 5 kids care as well?

Perhaps children are relevant to the story if the story was about childcare, education, potentially dangerous toys or the effect of fast food on children’s waistlines. Otherwise the information is as irrelevant as commenting on the car that the interviewee drives.

“Father of twins, Errol Twiddle, who has 1204 unpaid parking fines, appeared in court yesterday to explain his conscientious objection to council parking policies.” Were the kids dragged before the magistrate as well? Are they preparing for a show and tell segment at school? Is there some interesting study about the effect of court fronting parents on twins? Who cares?

How does the budding journalist describe the childless, when the story has nothing to do with child bearing, fertility or lifestyle? “Miss Snorkel, childless and slightly distressed to be so, is pictured showing her prize dahlias at the Lower Great Wumpet Flower Show last weekend.”

Is this the last frontier of discrimination and public embarrassment, being named childless and somewhat desperate? As a childless fellow, I have a mind to take this careless reporting to the UN and have it banned. Or should childless people be content with the fluffy epithet “Aunty or Uncle of all, parent of none.”?

The journalist is driven by the mantra of “Who, what, where, when, and how.” Opinion writers even delve into “why”. While aspects of a person’s identity such as name, age, occupation and location may have some relevance to a story, the presence or absence of offspring rarely adds anything to a story. In telling the story, the mention of offspring is most often merely a vocal pause, a place marker before the real information is delivered. If we need such a pause I would just as soon have “umm…ahh”. Wait on…let’s get the kids in, ask them what they think.

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One Response to “Defined by our offspring”

  1. sandy Says:

    Although I agree it is somewhat irrelevant to always define folk featured in media reports by their offspring, regardless of the subject of the report, it occurs to me that those of us who do have the good fortune to become parents forever after will define ourselves as mother/father of our offspring. Once parent to a child there is no going back, no way to deny the connection or responsibility to a human being you have created, nurtured and hold dear above anyone else. We can change jobs, hobbies, clothes, homes but once a parent always a parent! As our children grow up and move from infant to toddler, preschooler, primary schooler, high schooler and finally adult many of us have the expectation that eventually, although we love them dearly, they will be off our hands at last thus freeing us of a huge and sometimes frightening responsibility. But as all parents will ultimately discover, no matter how old your children become,they will eternally remain your child; they may one day be off your hands but will never leave your heart. And how ever irrelevant to the context I will always be happy to be defined as mother of three!

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