Confession: Before I became a parent I was one of those people who give nasty looks to mothers when their kids kick airplane seats or scream their larynxes off in theatres. I was one of those people who mutter under their breaths about how unruly kids should be banned from public spaces. I cringed when I saw tiny babies sprawled like stars on the floors in malls or supermarkets, obviously in the midst of a terrible temper tantrum. I kept telling myself I would never become one of those mamas. Yes, I am truly ashamed to admit this BUT in my defense, my meanness stemmed from absolute and utter ignorance.
I had no idea what it takes to be a parent! I had no idea the kind of effort it takes to survive each day without a major mishap. I didn’t know that things like showering, getting out of puke and porridge-stained tops and wearing anything fancier than PJs actually deserved a few major rounds of applause. I hadn’t yet experienced the mind-numbing exhaustion that possesses your body and soul like the ghost in Shutter once you cross over and walk into your latest permanent address: parenthood.
Okay, it doesn’t justify things totally. I was still a meanie. But I understand this now because I have have crossed over and become a mama. Which is why it boggles my mind to see SO many motherhood veterans out there who are meaner than I ever was during my blissfully ignorant days. I have been a mother for only nine months and I have already met dozens of such momzillas who spare no opportunity to look down on you, condescension writ all over their faces in block capitals, who are always around to dispense unsolicited wisdom and wisecracks in your weakest moments when all you want is an understanding glance because believe it or not, ALL mothers are doing their personal bests!
Picture this. Three months had passed since the birth. The grandparents had all come and left. Daddy’s hours at work were more regular. Life was getting on. One day, I was happily wandering around in my neighborhood mall with Gini fast asleep in her pram. I was feeling rather proud of myself for managing to come shopping alone with baby. I had a diaper bag packed and slung from the handles. Content, wearing a smile that came from the heart, I was browsing the aisles of the drugstore when an in-shop staff announcement blared and woke baby up. At first she just blinked at all the bright lights and for a moment, I thought she might go back to sleep. So I held her hand and shushed. But then came another loud announcement.
Gini went from zero to 60 in less than a second. A full meltdown ensued right in the middle of Dis-Chem. I still had a few things clutched in my hand so I was looking to put them on a shelf carefully so as not to break them before I got down to sorting out whatever was bothering baby. In walked a momzilla muttering something like, pick up the baby woman. I breathed in deep and began pushing her pram outside. I desperately wanted to stay calm and not be rattled by that stray comment. I can do this, I told myself. I will sit on the bench outside and soothe baby, check if she needs a change or a feed and tackle it accordingly, I thought. But right when I was exiting the store, another momzilla attacked me. She ‘awww-ed’ at baby and said, “You poor thing! Mummy should be feeding you. Look at you. She shouldn’t be making you cry. Awww!”
What followed is anybody’s guess. I panicked. I fumbled. I picked baby up and instead of checking if she has a wet diaper or giving her a feed, I fished out the phone from my bag, called my husband in a state and asked him to come to us and take us home. Thankfully, his office is in the vicinity so he could rush to us but I had given the man a fright, making him drive those few blocks with the worst possible things on his mind.
Of course, I did sort out baby’s issues. She had been startled and needed to be picked and held. Would I have figured it out on my own had the ladies not intervened? Of course! I did that and more everyday at home! Would it have taken less time and thus, less crying had those ‘well-meaning’ mummies not chipped in with their two cents? You bet!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not belittling their kind intentions (I am willing to think that that’s what they had in their hearts). All I am saying is that there is a time and place for everything. Snide remarks and funny stares are VERY untimely and inappropriate when you see a woman with a crying child. Unless one has a very, very good reason to suspect neglect on the mother’s part, shouldn’t they just give the mother and child the time to communicate to each other?
That was the day I decided I never want to become that kind of mummy. I will try my hardest to remember that just because I have been there and done that, I do NOT have the right to judge how other mommas are soothing their kids at any given moment. I will try my hardest not to glare with disapproval when a mummy is trying to juggle an infant, a jam jar and a toddler stuck to her legs in Pick N’ Pay. I will not mutter ‘never in my house’ when I see a baby pick a cheerio from the floor and put it in her mouth. I will never whisper ‘breast is best’ in the ears of a woman who is bottle feeding her infant.
Let’s all try our best so we are not that kind of mummy.