I got mum-shamed last week.
A work commitment meant I was in a taxi early on a weekday morning. The driver and I were bantering about the World Cup, and I made a crack that maybe, when my son grew up, he’d be the next Tim Cahill. Unlikely. I was making conversation.
“How old’s your son?” the cabby asked.
I told him that my little boy is two. His ball skills leave a little to be desired.
“Where is he now? Who’s looking after him?” he asked.
The rest of the ride was, let’s say, a little chilly. Cue a long explanation about how he was home, with my partner, but then he’d be going to Family Day Care for the rest of the day.
I got a grilling about how long he spent there, how many days a week, finishing with the line, “Don’t you really think he’s a bit young to be in Daycare?”
I’d say that taxi driver mum-shamed me. He roundly judged my lifestyle and my choices. It irritated me, but it didn’t ruin my day.
He doesn’t know me or my children, my experiences are far from his, and he’s entitled to his own opinion, even if a better choice would have been to use his inside voice.
So mum-shaming is real. It happens. But do you know who has never mum-shamed me?
Today, headlines were made when Brisbane obstetrician and the former president of the Australian Medical Association Queensland Dr Gino Pecoraro called out ‘mum-shaming’ as ruining the experience of modern motherhood.
“I am all for removing the guilt from having babies. We seem hell bent on making women feel guilty about everything to do with having children, leaving it too late, how they conceive, how the baby comes out and then how you feed it, how much time you spend with it.
“It is the most natural thing in life, central to all of us, so why do we keep beating women up about what they do?’’
I could not agree more. But what I object to in the discussions around guilt is the assumption that it’s mothers judging each other. Because in my experience, it is not.
Grumpy taxi drivers, yes. Strangers in cafes who’ve forgotten or never experienced what it’s like to live a life dominated by the needs of a little person, yes. A tired and irritated medical professional, even, yes. But not other mothers.
My experience has been entirely the opposite. After I became a mum, I joined a group. And thank God I did. Because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and those women kept me sane through the early days of parenthood.
We were diverse. The first time we sat around and shared birth stories – sorry, non-parents, that does happen – there were tales of emergency c-sections, scheduled c-sections, women who had had ALL the drugs, women who had had none.
Women who had been in private hospitals, women who had been in the local public. Midwives, doulas, expensive obstetricians. Some mothers were breastfeeding, some bottle feeding, some struggling with either or both.