I’m not a bad mum. I’m NOT a bad mum (rinse and repeat.)
Today was not a good day. Today, my 2, nearly 3 year old made me cry. In public. I have honestly never felt so humiliated and angry in all my life.
I read a post in a parenting group the other week from a mum who was “tempted to say something” when she saw and disagreed with another mum’s parenting techniques. She made a judgement based on 5 minutes of witnessing a mother and child’s behaviour in a public forum. She formed an opinion, a negative one at that, and felt that it would have been appropriate to comment. Thankfully she decided against it. For me, it touched a nerve, and today of all days, proved why.
Whilst most of us, including myself, would love to think we are a good mum the majority of the time, we all have bad days – all of us – even if we won’t dare to admit it! If someone had made a flash judgement about my parenting technique by the five minutes of activity they had seen today, well, to put it mildly, neither I, nor my daughter would’ve come across well.
I consider myself lucky that the majority of the time I have a great relationship with my daughter. She is what many people call “spirited” or full of life, and as such, she can be a handful at times, forever running and playing, singing and talking loudly and never sitting still, but she is generally a well behaved and well mannered little girl, saying please and thank you and apologising if the accidently hurts someone. She shares her toys, asks before the leaves the table, and can play independently and use her imagination. Today however, someone appears to have swapped my child for the devil, pushing my 5 month pregnant body and mind to the limit.
It started over lunch, we went out to Pizza express, (a personal favourite for both of us for lunch). It started well, she sat nicely with me in a booth, and started colouring contently and sticking silly face stickers on to the leaflet they provided. Then, it was like something switched, she started drawing on the table with crayons, refusing to sit down, climbing all over the back of the chair, and not listening to me when I asked her to sit still. She refused to eat, started lolloping all over the chairs and flicked pepper all over the table. After making a half hearted attempt at eating my dinner without raising my voice to a level that would disturb other diners, I gave up and asked for the bill, taking the majority of my lunch home in a goodybag.
I thought I might encourage better behaviour by suggesting we walk to the park, and get a “man man” (gingerbread man) on the way. That’s when it happened. We were in the queue in Greggs when she started to wonder off. I called her and asked her to come back. She ignored me. Then she legged it. And by legged it, I mean ran with a combined speed of Linford Christie, Mo Farah, and Paula Radcliffe. She was gone. I attempted to run after her, gathering the food I’d just paid for and running out the shop. I lost my shoe in the middle of a crowded shopping centre, I couldn’t see her anywhere. I swore. Loudly. I felt like everyone and I mean everyone was staring at me.
Any mum who has lost sight of their child for any thing longer than a few seconds will know that feeling in the pit of your stomach – the panic, the helplessness, but being knackered and hormonal and with only one shoe certainly didn’t help! I eventually tracked her down- she had ran into Asda, and pulled her out by the arm. I stood her in front of me and shouted at her. I was so angry and upset. I said “don’t EVER run away like that again”. Her response? She blew me a raspberry and slapped me round the face. That’s right, my two year old slapped me around the face!!!!
I heard a few sniggers from workmen in high vis jackets in the background, saw a few shocked looking mums with their angel looking children in pushchairs, and I felt my eyes begin to well up. I was mortified. I felt rage bubbling up inside of me and I couldn’t even bare to look up and see these strangers form opinions on my parenting. Instead, I drag walked Erin back to the car, where I locked the doors and sobbed.
So the moral of the story? People need to remember that every mum (or at least the strong majority!) are just doing their best every day. Their best might be a well behaved child playing nicely with their friends. Their best might be a pretty photo of their child on the swing in the park. Their best might be a messy house with a happy and healthy child. But some days? Well some days their best might be not even getting dressed or showered, not having the energy to move, or dealing with the most challenging of toddler tantrums known to man. Mums need to stick together, and instead of judging or being self righteous we should at least try and be supportive. The next time you tut or snigger at a mum having a bad day, remember that this person is simply trying to do their best. Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow that bad day could be yours!