Last week, Emily Patterson was at NSW cafe with her eight-month-old baby, who was getting a bit grizzly and noisy – as all babies do. Two ladies at a nearby table ‘tut-tutted’ and made some nasty comments about her mothering skills. This is Emily’s response.
No. I haven’t made my point yet.
A primary school boy is kicking a football around. A businessman walks past him and says ‘pass it here’. The kid kicks it over to the man who kicks it back. This exchange lasts for a few passes. They don’t appear to know each other and that doesn’t bother either of them. It’s World Cup time, and he’s got a football.
The brotherhood is well and truly alive.
A mother of a young infant is taking time out for a cup of tea at a cafe. The baby boy is tired and clingy. She 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 tut-tut 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 sisterhood is well and truly dying.
This is my story.
You will enter the world with your new baby in tow.
You feel elated that you have such an adorable baby. You’re sure that everyone around you 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 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.
Then the community decides to put its two cents worth forward. My golly gosh, the support is inundating. There are treats offered, words of support, 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 okay 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.
Now I’ve made my point.
This post originally appeared on the North Shore Mums website here and has been republished with full permission.
Emily is a North Shore girl born and bred. She spent a short time in other regions and is now raising her children in her own childhood neighbourhood. A Registered Nurse, mum to 2 kids and also a step-mum, Emily has always had a passion for writing and is enjoying exploring new topic areas.
Do you agree that the sisterhood - at least, between mothers of new babies - is well and truly dying?