Friday, November 10, 2006

"Neighbours" implies mothers should not trust their instincts

The following is a letter to Grundy Television that I'm posting today. If you saw the episode and are also concerned about the portrayal of this issue, I urge you to write to them. The contact details are only for post, not email.

And of course, I signed my real name.


To Whom It May Concern,

I refer to the episode of Neighbours screening on Tuesday 7th of November, 2006.

I am livid at the decision of the writers and producers of Neighbours to address the issue of infant sleep problems with such blatant disregard for the instincts, knowledge and experience of the mother of the child. My problem with the program is not that it featured controlled crying, as many people have tried this technique whether as a last resort or otherwise, but the way the issue was incorporated into the storyline.

In this episode, Steph was badgered into using controlled crying (which she clearly did not want to do) by two men who had no biological, hormonal or emotional attachment to her son: Toadie and Karl. Karl recommended the particular form of controlled crying to be used be one that starts with leaving the infant to cry for five minutes and increase the increment by five minutes each time, which happens to be the most strict and outdated application of the method. Karl also went as far to denigrate people that had a different opinion regarding the use of this method, using very condescending tone of voice and body language when warning her of the things others may say to her to dissuade her from using it. Later in the episode, Lynn (the baby's grandmother) arrived with other methods to assist sleep and when she said the exact things (as a genuinely concerned family member) that Karl had earlier in his mocking tone, she was all but laughed at and kicked out of the house.

Of course, the CC experiment "worked" within one night, which, in reality, does not happen. I understand that Neighbours is a soap and not reality, however infant sleep problems are a genuine cause of physical and mental anguish for all family members and to intimate that the problems can be solved this easily is irresponsible. Additionally, having such an easily achieved solution that was touted by the people least entitled to give advice perpetuates the behaviour of giving unwarranted advice in society and makes mothers feel inadequate.

The portrayal of this issue concerns me greatly because firstly, the mother of the child is effectively being told that her instincts about and knowledge of her own child are nothing compared to the sketchy research of a friend on the net late at night; secondly because the opinions of an experienced mother of five were invalidated as soft-hearted claptrap; and thirdly because everyone with "all the answers" in this episode were men with no connection to the child!

I feel you would have been better off not even broaching this topic, as its inclusion in the episode was unnecessarily harmful to the perception of parenthood and parenting 'experts'. I implore you to find a balance, whether with further development of this storyline down the track or with a storyline involving Sky's baby and refer you to two books that advocate methods other than controlled crying: The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and Sleeping Like a Baby by Pinky McKay.

I eagerly await your correspondence regarding this matter.

Yours sincerely,

The Mumma


Anonymous said...

I can understand your concerns, Mumma, but aren't you over-reacting just a huge bit??? Neighbours is tacky soap - storylines are written for effect, not reality. It's not real life!! It's FAKE. Heavens, Mumma, go have a cup of tea and a lie down. This is a battle you don't need to fight. Hugs xox

The Mumma said...

I know it's a soap. I even said as much in the letter. Tell you what, though, once I posted the letter, I felt much better.

And I would love to have a cuppa and a lie down, but I have a clingy baby with sleep issues so that's pretty much impossible right now!