There are many things that I find hard about being a parent. The exhaustion, the guilt, the never-ending worry and trying to juggle ten things at once. But the thing that I perhaps find the hardest to deal with is the constant feeling that, as parents, we are all being judged.
It starts before they are even born. The comments on your bump, “Aren’t you measuring a little small?”, the out-spoken opinions on your name choices, “Well that’s an interesting choice of name!”, the judgement on your birthing plans, “Hospital birth? You wouldn’t catch me giving birth strapped to a bed!!”….
And it gets worse when they are born, “You’re not breast-feeding? Did you even try?”, “You’ve introduced solids at five months? Are you not worried that’s too early?”, “He’s not crawling/walking/talking? Aren’t you concerned that there’s something wrong?”.
And those judgemental implications fuel your worry, guilt and panic and, as a first time mum especially, you do find that you start to question yourself and your choices.
And it’s not always the spoken word. More often than not it’s just a look, a quick glance in your direction that tells you in no un-certain terms, I’ve clocked you, I see what you’re doing.
Like the times when Megan is having another one of her meltdowns in the supermarket, kicking and screaming and headbutting the trolley. Or the times in the park when she is lay face down in the grass, her little legs pounding the floor as she screams herself hoarse.
Like the times at playgroup when it’s time for snack and my children tuck into ten thousand biscuits and a gallon of juice whilst the other children happily munch on an apple and a cup of water.
Like the times when I realise half way to nursery that the children are wearing odd socks, their T shirts on inside out and they have dried Weetabix smeared across their little faces.
Like the times in a restaurant when the children have spilled their drinks, tipped over plates full of food and flung their meal across the table. When they have screamed so loudly that other diners have actually asked to move tables, when you can feel the daggers as you eat your meal as fast as possible whilst swearing to only ever eat in fast food restaurants for the next eighteen years.
Like the time when I lost Eva and even random strangers asked me, “Were you not watching her?”. Or the time when Meggy ended up in A&E with a gash to her forehead and I was interrogated by the doctor and asked, “How did you allow this to happen?”.
Like the time I forgot non-uniform day at school and Lewis sat there, the only one in his red school sweat shirt in a sea of blue denim.
Like the time when I got the term dates wrong and the children were a day late back to school or the time, or admittedly, times when we overslept and made the school bell by the skin of our teeth.
Like the time when I announced that I was pregnant again.
And it’s just those split second glances, those brief looks of disdain in your direction which say it all. Can’t you control your child? Why don’t you teach your children to behave properly? Don’t you know that sugar causes tooth decay? Haven’t you heard of contraception???
And as someone who has felt judged my entire life, it has been very hard at times to be the parent that I want to be as opposed to the parent that I feel I should be. I think in all honesty, it has taken me until now to realise that these are my children and I will raise them the best I can. Maybe they wont always look pristine and freshly scrubbed, maybe they wont reach all of their milestones as quickly as others or behave as perfectly as I would like them to. But they are still my children.
I think that we all have to find our own paths, our own ways to cope with the stress of motherhood, making sacrifices and compromise to simply make it through each day. But instead of judging eachother, how about we Mums stick together? How about, instead of tutting when my child lays down and screams blue murder on the frozen food aisle in Tesco, one of you flashes me a smile, a sympathetic face that tells me Its okay, we’ve all been there.
For none of us are perfect. We are simply doing the very best that we can.