On 28 September 2017, two police officers showed up at my weekly Concord Hospital market stall and told me that someone had filed a report about my Down syndrome child being with me at work.
This was not the first time some anonymous member of the public had lodged a complaint about Noah’s presence at my stall; two years previously, I hit the news when another anonymous campaigner launched a petition to remove him from another market where I had operated for 14 years. I subsequently quit my stall, which leaves me with Concord Hospital Market as the one last remaining weekly event where I earn an income from selling Malaysian food.
At Concord Hospital, around this time last year, a woman came up and yelled at me for “child abuse” and said that she was going to report me to the authorities. I filmed our interaction and ended up being invited on television to talk about it.
Every time I post about this on social media, the average person is perplexed about what the problem is. What’s wrong with a child staying with his mum at work? Why do people get so worked up about it? On what basis would they be lodging their complaint? Some people probably assume I’m doing something wrong to get this kind of attention.
In fact when the story came out on the front page of The Daily Mail two years ago, some of the commenters suggested this was a publicity stunt by me looking for my 15 minutes of fame. Others are indignant that I would think I’m entitled to bring my kid to work when they don’t have that privilege (this one always stumps me because it’s so obvious – the difference between my situation and theirs is that I’m my own boss).
The fact is, efforts to thwart my integration of my child with my business have been taking place in more subtle forms since way before these incidents. I understand from my fellow stallholders that people gripe to them about Noah’s presence at the markets. They wonder why I’m not home looking after him or why he’s not in childcare. As if he’s better off with strangers for eight hours than with his mum in an environment he absolutely loves.