Heidi Scrimgeour says she won’t apologise for the existence of her children anymore and nor should you. Here’s why…
It’s one thing to make an apology on behalf of your kids if they’re unruly or disruptive around others and are – crucially – of an age where they should know better. But it’s quite another thing to routinely offer reparation on account of your children simply taking up space on the planet.
And yet I found myself doing this instinctively until a recent lightbulb moment, during which I realised that apologising for the mere presence of my kids was doing them – and me – a disservice. I’m biased, of course, but I happen to think my kids are three of the most glorious people I have ever met, and to mutter unwarranted apologies whenever their presence might displease or inconvenience someone is just plain wrong.
Want to stop apologising for your kids? Start by refusing to say sorry in these scenarios.
1. When boarding a plane
I was catching a flight home from visiting relatives with my kids at Christmas when a mother clutching a fretful baby sidled up behind me and muttered "I bet the entire plane is praying not to be seated next to me."
As she hovered near us, clearly hoping that no-one would notice her bawling newborn in the midst of my noisy gaggle, I found myself admonishing her for acting apologetic about bringing a baby on board a plane. Her squawking bundle of joy had as much right as any other passenger to be present on that plane, and the idea that kids should somehow be silenced (if not tranquillised) at 35,000 feet is creating a culture that makes travelling with kids more stressful than it needs to be.
No more. Does the oaf in the seat beside you apologise for hogging the arm rest for the duration of the flight? Does he heck. If he’s not sorry, why should you be?
2. At a place of worship
Unless you’re at one of those weddings where babies are contraband then there’s no need to act like bringing your infant to a place of worship is a cardinal sin. Come to think of it, Jesus told his disciples off for shooing kids away from him, and even remarked that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children. If Jesus is down with kids being kids, I really don’t think we need to apologise for their presence at church or any other place of worship.
3. In a restaurant
There are two types of restaurant in the world: kid-friendly ones, and ones we actually enjoy eating at. Make no apology for taking your kids to the latter. As long as they don’t run relay races round the tables or play lightsabers with the breadsticks, any eating establishment worth its salt will make your little darlings welcome. If they don’t, well, they’re not worthy of your custom.
Good grief, I’ve even issued a grovelling apology for the mess left beneath my baby’s highchair after a family meal out. Remember that you’ve paid for the pleasure of being there, and someone’s being paid to clear up once you’ve left, after all.
4. At work
I’m self employed and work from home, fitting my work hours around my children’s manic schedules. As is the case for every working mum I know, that makes for a pretty, shall we say, ‘pacy’ way of life, with more than a touch of chaos and pressure thrown in. But I know I’m really starting to lose perspective when I start apologising at work for the very existence of my kids.
I’ve done it via email when I can’t interview someone at the time of their choice because it clashes with the school run. I’ve done it on the phone when answering an urgent call at the same time that my potty-training daughter decided to answer an urgent call of nature. I’ve even done it in person when an unforeseen childcare emergency led to me bringing one of my beloved brood with me to a work meeting.
(In contrast, the time my eldest accompanied on This Morning and watched from the studio floor while I made my telly debut was one of the coolest moments of both our lives. Did I say sorry for bringing him with me? Nope, and rather than cramp my style he pretty owned the Green Room, and even ended up teaching celebs how to play Pokemen Go. Not sorry.)
I’m the first to say that professionalism matters when you’re running your own business, and I’ll concede that blurring the boundary between ‘work mode’ and ‘mum mode’ can dilute one’s air of professionalism. But there’s a gulf of difference between doing that, and simply being unapologetic about the fact that your work fits around your family life. If an editor doesn’t want to commission me to write a feature because she knows I only work during my daughter’s nursery hours and after her bedtime, well she’s welcome to find someone else with more time on their hands. I can live with that. (But they won’t do half as good a job: it’s amazing how productive perpetual pressure can make you.)
5. To your partner
Perhaps my greatest annoyance at myself for saying sorry for my kids occurs when I catch myself apologising to my husband for asking him to look after our three children. It doesn’t matter whether he’s holding the fort while I work or skive off for a spa day – the notion that I should feel compelled to say sorry for leaving our kids in his care is about as absurd as this whole thing gets. Because doesn’t that rather imply that our kids are somehow *really* my responsibility despite my status as an equal breadwinner in our house? Fortunately husband doesn’t see it that way. He is the very definition of hands-on fatherhood and I don’t know of a man better equipped for the task. But when I catch myself instinctively saying sorry to my husband for asking him to play his part in our family life so that I can play mine in the wider world? Well, that’s a truly sorry state of affairs.