Dear Other Mum at the supermarket…
…You smiled weakly at me as you passed me leaving the bathroom pushing your pram. Your face painted a thousand words. Exhausted and ready to give up the fight. I looked down at a small child, tugging your hand and leading you towards something he so desperately wanted. With a small sigh, you followed.
On passing you again, I noticed you at Customer Service as you quietly tried to explain the problem to the Customer Service Assistant. Your little boy, on the other hand, did not want to deal with the problem quietly.
I watched as your little boy threw himself to the ground, screaming at the top of his voice about a toy that he wanted and would not accept wasn’t available. I watched as you desperately tried to deal with his behaviour whilst gathering judgemental stares from others around. Then, I watched as the Customer Service Assistant looked at you impatiently, rolling her eyes to the person beside her. And I watched as your voice began to shake and I could see that you were at breaking point.
If only I could say that I spoke up when others were so judgemental of the situation you found yourself in and asked them if they had ever been in your shoes. I wish I could say that I told you that I understood how you were feeling and offered some kind of comfort – told you that we’ve all been the Other Mum. I want to say that I gently picked up your little boy, calmed him down and gave you some respite. But I didn’t do any of that.
I feel ashamed to say that all I did was watch.
Other Mum, I need you to know that I was afraid that you would think I was judging you; that you might think I was questioning your ability to parent. I have to tell you that I went home that evening, embarrassed that I did nothing and unable to sleep for wondering how you were.
What’s sad is that one day I will be the Other Mum. Tiredness will overcome me and my sweet little baby will have his moments. Those judgemental eyes will turn to me and at that moment, I’ll hope that somebody will be there to give me a nod of approval that I am being the best parent I can be.
So I’m here to tell you that today I promise to make a change. Rather than being a spectator, I’ll be a cheerleader. I’ll speak up against judgement and criticism, and offer the support that is needed, even if it’s just a reassuring smile. Because after all, one day we’ll be standing in your shoes as the Other Mum.