I was about as mentally prepared for becoming a mother as I possible could be. We had talked in length about becoming parents and it was a decision we had made together. We had tried and succeeded in becoming pregnant. The cot was bought and assembled, baby clothes laid out in neat rows on the shelf and the 'Fit for Birth’ classes completed. I knew labour was going to hurt, but I was prepared for that because I couldn't wait to become somebody's Mummy. What I wasn't prepared for was opinions.
Not in one single 'baby manual' did it say, 'beware the opinions' and above all, above the breastfeeding pain, the sleepless nights, the sheer exhaustion, it's the thing I found hardest about motherhood. I noticed it even before little S arrived. I was told why I should breastfeed, not by the professionals informing me of the health benefits, but by little old ladies waiting for the bus. I was asked about my birthing plan by complete strangers, because, obviously, being able to see my bump meant they were entitled to the discussion. When she arrived everyone, and I mean pretty much everyone, had an opinion on our sleeping arrangements, ‘have you tried this?’ ‘Oh, you shouldn't do that.’ Just stop.
In the early days I put down these opinions as well-meaning comments from people wishing to help. As my children have become older, and myself, wiser, I fear that, perhaps many opinions are just driven by the need to feel superior and that those spouting them are, simply put, arseholes.
Perhaps you are catching me on the wrong day, but this post was instigated by the smallest remark thrown at me by a passer-by. 'Isn't she too old to be in a buggy?' It is an area that I am highly sensitive off. I would have liked to tell said individual to mind their own, but I didn't. I spent the last stretch of our walk staring at the top of my daughter's head and over analysing. Yes, maybe she a bit big to be in the buggy, shall I kick her out? I shouldn't have to justify myself, but I'm going to. I didn't kick her out of it. I, instead, struggled to push her up the steep incline and cursed repeatedly under my breath. If that man knew anything of our situation he would know that I don't currently have a car. We don't live in town and therefore we walk a long way into town to get to school every day. The three-year-old he had seen in the buggy walks to school (without the buggy) to drop my eldest off with me every morning and then all the way home again, she then walks it later to get to nursery in the afternoon. By the time the man commented she had already walked 10km not including all the running and climbing and jumping she does in her play. I had bought the buggy with me on our final journey home because it was the end of long week, she was tired and any parent of a three-year-old will know trying to get them to walk all the way home again when they are that tired would result in a meltdown. I would like to note bringing her scooter or balance bike usually results in me carrying it and I already had all the school bags so yes, I was feeling 'lazy'.
The thing here is if I had picked her up from nursery and stuck her in her car seat and driven home he wouldn't have battered an eyelid. The fact remains that, yes, she may be being pushed home, but she is out in the fresh air, strolling down country roads with the sun shining down on her, what's wrong with that? But as I said before, I shouldn't feel the need to justify myself.
When parenting is concerned there are just too many areas where people feel they have a right to stick their noses in. The breastfeeding 'debate' being one that makes my blood boil. It is none of your business where a mother feeds her baby, how she feeds her baby, or how long she feeds her baby just like it isn't anyone's business if a child 'still' has a dummy or 'still' sucks their thumb or is 'still' in nappies. None of us know anything about the ins and outs of each other's lives, we don't know if a child has an incontinence problem, if they are autistic, if the home life is in tatters or if, above all, the parents just need a little break.
From now on can I see people make a pledge to be a little more accepting of the world around them, even if you mean well, it's not always what the other person wants to hear. Instead of 'why don't you do this' why not replace it with, 'what can I do to help?' Instead of 'aren't they too big/old/small' just try a friendly ‘hi,’ some days a hi from a stranger is all it takes to make an exhausted mum feel human again. In future, just think, you may feel like a parenting pro, but to some if us, you are just coming across as a bit of an arsehole.