The pressure on parents is undeniable.
The constant questions; am I doing the right thing? Should I be doing this? Why is my child not doing that? Am I a good parent? Is it acceptable that my child ate a mouthful of soil from my plant pot?
I would say these are not on a monthly basis, not on a weekly basis and actually not even daily, I would say hourly (except the soil question, I do not let him do that hourly, but it has happened more times then I care to admit).
I would love to say I have complete faith in my own parenting skills, but of course I don’t. I actually believe that in certain situations, what ever they may be, all parents do what they believe is genuinely right at that moment – it’s hindsight that makes you question your decisions.
A mother once told me that her son tried to grab the steering wheel of her car and she smacked his hand away. She had felt so awful, she pulled the car over and tried to explain to her sobbing son that Mummy did this BECAUSE she loved him not because she was a mean lady. In my opinion, this is a completely natural reaction, but taken out of context, smacking is frowned upon so heavily, that this Mother was bound to feel unnecessary guilt.
Once, I was tried to explain to my one year old that the tap was hot and he could not put his hand under it. He persisted so much that in that moment I just let him try it. He immediately flinched and looked at his hand with a look of, ‘Mummy, that wasn’t nice water.’ I thought about that decision for weeks after and was so worried that others would judge me; I didn’t tell anyone about my awful parenting. He has not done it since, however, which is why I feel confident to share it now.
What worries me more than my own anxiety regarding parenting, is what others are perceiving. I’m not talking about all the time, but the times (and I talk from experience) when baby screams and will not have his nappy changed in public (yes the whole restaurant was staring when I came out of the toilet), when he will not eat his lunch in front of others (and their baby is eating all their greens beautifully) or when he screams when I take something away and instead of a scene, I’d rather just give it back.
I question myself when I give my toddler chicken nuggets, when he cries when he finishes his mini milk so I let him have mine, when I leave him at night to get himself to sleep, when I see him eat a handful of sand, let him pull my DVDs out of the cupboard when I am too exhausted to stop him or when I whatsapp too much when I am having a quality bonding day with him.
What I do not need is someone telling me the obvious, ‘You are getting him in bad habits, giving in like that.’ I know this, but each of us have had days that are completely exhausting and you are just seeing a snippet.
Mothers are viewed as a united front; a group of people who can truly say they understand the relentlessness of parenting. We are a tribe of people who can give each other a knowing nod, a sympathetic smile and ask a loaded, ‘How are you doing?’ which has a hundred other questions between the lines. And most of the time this unspoken agreement and support helps Mothers pull through each tantrum filled, food throwing, bad day that will inevitably happen at least once a week – or definitely more than that.
I took my toddler out to the farm one day and I witnessed a simple, beautiful moment that has stuck with me.
I was waiting to change my little boy’s nappy and there was a lady in the toilet in front of me and by the sounds of it she was having one of those days. Myself and the long queue that was growing behind me could hear irritated shouts of,
“YOU WILL SIT STILL WHILST I CHANGE YOUR BROTHER’S NAPPY.”
“WILL YOU STOP STANDING UP, I NEED TO CHANGE YOU.”
“THAT’S IT WE ARE NEVER COMING AGAIN.”
“I CAN’T GET YOUR TROUSERS ON.”
“WASH YOUR HANDS.”
“.. I SAID WASH YOUR HANDS”
This went on for a while, until a tired, fed up Mummy dragged a small child and toddler out, carrying enough bags to weigh a horse down.
The long line said nothing and the poor lady was clearly embarrassed as she must have assumed no one was listening. My heart went out to her. A voice within the line suddenly piped up,
“I’ve been looking at you all lunchtime, that dress you are wearing is lovely, it really suits you. Can I still get it now?”
That is all it took, one simple, flattering compliment for the lady to smile and respond. What she said I cannot quite remember, but that is irrelevant. You just know that is the moment she will take home with her, a silver lining, a comment that was not child based or judgmental, just that small comment that took away the embarrassment, but instead, drew attention to how nice she looked.
From that moment I swore to myself that this is what I will do when Mummy’s are in need of an obvious lift.
I was at the receiving end of a simple, kind gesture when I struggled into Tesco one morning. I stupidly decided to leave the buggy in the car thinking (wrongly) I could carry my heavy toddler. I got to the till, sweating and carrying way more shopping I had popped in for and obviously struggling. The lady at the self serve till kindly and quietly offered to hold my child. Yes! That would help massively! No, it is not intrusive. Thank you!
I hate that we live in a society now that somebody kind or willing to help is in the minority because of all the creepy stories on the news!
Team Mummy out there, or even team Daddy, or actually anyone, trust me when I say that you should hold back judgment when you catch a two minute moment in a Mother’s day. I can nearly guarantee that whatever you see: a grab of a coat, a shout, a snatch, a sharp word or an angry look, that Mother will feel bloody awful. Personally, before I was a parent, I was so quick to turn to my husband say exclaim,
“We will not be bringing our child up like that!”
What the hell did I know?
The Mother may even cry when she gets home (because I have), she will snuggle that child at night and love him because it is not her fault!
IT IS LIFE.