I recently had lunch with a long lost friend, a first time mother of a relatively newborn baby, only three months of age. Despite her best attempts to emphasize the fact that she was in great health and spirits, her exhausted eyes were clearly glossy and her hair was fashioned into the most minimally time consuming type of bun possible. I asked her simply what was wrong, as she seemed ‘off’. Having mustered the most diplomatic tone, she proceeded to express the fakest smile coupled with a meagre response aimed at convincing me she was absolutely fine.
After spending half an hour reassuring this newly minted mother that I don’t judge and that it always helps to share stories, she proceeded to break down into a stream of tears for the remainder of our meeting. Having recently experienced several cases of ‘new mothers on the verge of tears’, I thought it was about time that one of their own stood up in their defence.
How many times have you heard fellow mothers make bold claims such as: ‘My two-year-old son has slept through the night since he was three months old!’ or ‘my eight-month baby is perfectly weaned’? You may have even heard my favourite line: ‘Did I mention that my two toddlers are getting along like best friends already?’
Honestly, why is it that parents insist on expounding these unbelievable stories of near angelic babies and toddlers? Granted, we all hold unshakeable convictions in the perfection of our children, yet mothers must also realize that they aren’t the only mums around; that other ladies have also had their hands deep into diaper doodoo! With this in mind, why is it that fellow mums harp on about stories we know full well are unbelievable?
Honestly spoken, if you are one of the lucky few to truly experience minimal fuss in raising your babies, allow me to confirm what you already know – you are the exception and not the rule, which is why there is
no need to continually talk about your children!
Why is it so difficult to declare exhaustion and admit frustration? Why is it we have to put on a clown smile and pretend that raising children is simply as easy as following the instructions detailed a best-selling book? I say that indeed we ought to admit to our struggles and let the world know that raising children is indeed the toughest test imaginable. Who knows, perhaps it would bring us closer to reality and, ideally, boost our collective morale.
With this being said, I ask all ladies to lose the judgmental look. Let us come together as the empowered women we are and avoid shaking our heads in unison when a child inevitably throws a tantrum outside of Peekaboo in MOE simply because his mother chose not to give him a second bite of chocolate. Instead, maybe we ought to ‘pay it forward’, instead emphasizing our solidarity with the motherly victim of the tantrum?
I was at Pottery Barn Kids a few months ago buying my two-year-old son his first bed – actually sleeping in it is a story of its own. When it was time to ‘go bye bye’, he initiated a prototypical tantrum. I put on a smile and embarrassingly carried him whilst he persisted to turn red and kick his legs. I then lost all control of him, only to find his recently grown rows of razor teeth biting down onto my cheek. Yes, in one fell swoop my own child tried to take a bite out of his own mother’s face. I was literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown as my sweet angel of a boy abused me in public, all the while faces of judgment would fade in and out as I heard faint whispers surround me. Out of nowhere, a complete stranger came up to us with the warmest smile and asked us whether she could give my son a sticker as luckily she had a pack in her purse for her own toddler. It was as if this good Samaritan was positioned in-store to reassure me that I am not a loser. My son calmed down eventually, apologizing profusely for ‘biting mama’. Ultimately, what this event actually taught me is not only to avoid judging other mothers, but to add fun cartoon stickers to my already massive list of random things to keep in my handbag...
Mum of two Farah is founder of Soul Communications, and is also the kitchen goddess behind the Cooking with a Manicure blog, www.cookingwithamanicure.com