Voices: The mum ‘snack shamed’ by her child’s nursery did nothing wrong – we’re all just trying to survive, here

A mum has pulled her son out of nursery after being “snack shamed” by staff for giving her little boy Pringles in his lunchbox.

Megan Peavey aired her grievances in a series of TikToks, showing off the scribbled message she’d received from staff on her son’s empty small treat-sized cup of crisps, that read: “Please help us make healthy choices”.

Who wants to get that at school pick-up, along with all the dirty P.E clothes and rucksacks full of water bottles and odd socks?

Some of what goes into kids’ packed lunches might have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, but how many working mums can rustle up a green juice or bake a gluten-free, almond flour muffin with goji berries, before dropping the kids off at school?

I often whack a pain au chocolat into my six-year-old daughter Lola’s school bag as a snack – sue me.

Peavey says she had no idea Pringles were on the nursery’s off-limits list, and considered unhealthy snacks to be things more like “Doritos and Milky Way bars”. Yet when she went into the nursery to confront the head, she was told she was being passive-aggressive – because she’d continued “sending him in with Pringles”.

And while I’m sure the nursery were only trying to do their best by the children in their care, this whole fiasco made me think one thing and one thing only: give mums a break!

Stop snack shaming us – we are all just trying to survive here. Parenting is hard enough! We’ve all seen (and glared at) those seemingly perfect mums who send their kids in with sushi, or swap out Pom-Bears for a neat slither of apple or a handful of organic blueberries – perhaps even a Bear fruit Yoyo with no added sugar, if the kids are really lucky.

But what happens if you have a fussy eater like I do? And how many quick snacks are there out there that children can eat – ones that you can grab and stuff in their mouths while making breakfast, getting the kids dressed and answering work emails? I won’t be packing a tasteless plain yoghurt for my child, because the truth is: she won’t eat it.

Often, the self-proclaimed snack police (be they childminders or casual acquaintances) swoop in out of the blue and expect parents to have the mindset of a chef working in the kitchen of a holistic retreat. All it does is make me question myself.

The truth is: no one should be publicly (or privately) shamed – especially at the nursery or school gate. With child obesity on the rise, it’s good that childcare settings care what our children eat, but there are ways of dealing with it – and this isn’t one of them. It just feels thoughtless.

And I know how it feels to be branded a bad parent: yesterday, when I dropped my kids off 10 minutes late, I felt so terrible after receiving some disapproving looks that I was up at 6am this morning to make sure I was on top of the lunch box snacks and arriving on time.

This kind of experience has a serious side, for being shamed can bring up some very uncomfortable feelings – of feeling small, worthless, and just not good enough. Being told off by teachers (even as adults) can trigger up our own time at school and our relationship to authority figures. We may be all grown up, but we still want our teachers to be pleased with us.

So, let’s get things in proportion. We could all do better, but this mum was not sending her child to school with one of those long tubes of Pringles – she also included “a granola bar, yoghurt, fruit, all that sort of stuff”.

While healthy eating is, of course, important – a snack like this is simply not the end of the world. Let’s stop moralising to parents who are only trying to do their best.