Last week Lane Cove Mum Emily Patterson was sitting at her favourite café with her young son James taking time out for a cup of tea. James is tired and clingy. The mother discreetly breastfeeds him, gives him a cuddle, and lays him quietly in his pram to settle himself to sleep. He cries a little. Two women at the next table tutt-tutt loudly and make some hurtful comments about her lack of mothering capabilities so the mother can hear. The noisy babe has interrupted their business meeting. The young mother ponders is the sisterhood dying? Why can you not feel comfortable in your local coffee shop? What happened next … read on in the mother’s own words
“You will enter the world with your new baby in tow. You feel elated that you have such an adorable baby. You’re sure every passer-by notices how gorgeous your baby is and how capable you are as a mother. You’re now part of the mothers group department of the sisterhood. It’s smiles all round. Until one day that is all taken away from you by a fellow sister who passes judgment and comment on you. You now feel anxious the whole time you are parenting in public. You now may not feel well enough equipped to leave the house with your babe. If you do, you risk being judged negatively.
You see reason and, taking a deep breath, you realise that that it’s not all bad, the sun still shines, and there are decent people in this world. Most of all, you’re not the only new mum.
You will find some kindred spirits in other mothers of young babies, form friendships and in essence raise your children together. The fathers may become friends also. A new cycle of brotherhood and sisterhood is formed. All in all you now feel as though you have left the days of little confidence and high anxiety behind you. Booya, you’ve got this!
Then it happens again. There you are, trying your darnedest, exuding your new mothering confidence, enjoying a hot cuppa (something you vaguely remember from a past life). In one fell swoop it is taken away from you with a few comments about your mothering made by a complete stranger. A stranger that says she’s a mother too, and knows how to do it. A mother who tells you that you do not care for your distressed child. A fellow member of the sisterhood.
Hello old friend anxiety, it’s been a while.
You find yourself questioning your capabilities as a mother, you question the care you give to your baby – is he distressed? Is this distress scaring him for life? Am I unable to read his signs? Did I really put a cup of tea before my baby’s needs? Who’s looking? Who’s listening? Who else in this small cafe, that now feels like a world stage, heard her comments and agrees? They probably all agree. I don’t deserve to be a mother. My son deserves a better, more capable, more caring mother. One that doesn’t even drink tea for goodness sake!
Rush home. Hide.
There goes the sisterhood.
Unless something astounding happens, which it did. The café owners (members of the brotherhood) stepped in and righted the wrong. The brotherhood openly defended me. When the sisterhood let me down so horrifically, the brotherhood was there to pick up the pieces.
So now we’ve got a very interesting situation that has come out of a terrible wrongdoing and lack of support. My sisters let me down. They made hurtful comments, formed incorrect opinions and judged me in my role as a mother. How could one sister do that to a fellow sister? Isn’t that against the rules? Yes, it most certainly is. It is also against the notion of community. So, gals, it’s a double whammy. You broke the rule of community and the rule of the sisterhood. Shame on you for that.
Then the community decides to put its two cents worth forward. My golly gosh, the support is from a local community facebook page www.facebook.com/inthecove. This page was contacted by a bystander who reported the incident and thanked the cafe owners for their support. Words of support are offered, it’s a social media storm. Someone even called a radio station. The place is swarming with high-fives and fist pumps – the brotherhood saved the day! The community also teaches me that the sisterhood is having a comeback. There, hiding in the wings, are literally hundreds of sisters prepared to show their support to poor anxious and stressed little me. Amen, we’re back.
But what made it ok for one sister at a different life stage to pass comment and judgement on another sister? Girl, it’s not ok. Did she do it better than everyone? Did she make no mistakes and get it completely right every.single.day? Was her baby happy and content (read: silent) every.single.day? Not likely. Not even probable. Because they’re not. They are little beings learning their way in a new environment. Their only way of communicating is via vocalising – crying, grizzling, babbling, laughing, cooing, goo-goo/gaa-gaa. And that’s a very beautiful thing.
I’m off to the park tomorrow. A brother, a sister, two kids and two scooters. No inequality, no judgement, no lack of support. Unity. Let’s ride this parenting wave together one step at a time.”
Image: Starshaped Press
So next time you see a mum with a baby crying, smile at her, acknowledge it is tough and that you feel for her. A little support goes a long long way. It really does take everyone in the village to raise a child and to provide some support.
Have you ever had an experience like that?