Before I had Bailey I always thought of motherhood as some sort of club. Women all seemed to be divided into two camps to me – those with, and those without, children – and everywhere I turned I seemed to see those in the mummy camp. They were in the street, cooing at their adorable babies in their prams as they ran errands. They were on social media gushing about their wonderful offspring. They were slowly overtaking my very own social circle as more and more of my closest friends became parents. It felt so painfully apparent to me that I wasn’t the same as them, and it hurt. Every chubby faced little darling I spied seemed to mock me, a constant reminder that I was lacking the one thing I was so certain I wanted from life. Motherhood was a club I so desperately wanted to be a part of.
And then I fell pregnant, and I thought it was finally my turn to be inducted! I fully believed I was now ‘one of them’ and would be welcomed with open arms. But I quickly realised all was not quite as it seemed….
Motherhood really is like a club, my feelings on that haven’t changed. Though it’s not the club I was expecting, and to be honest it’s no longer a club I want to be in. That isn’t to say I regret becoming a mum – hell no. Bailey is hands down the most awesome thing ever to happen to me and I wouldn’t change that for the world. That club I so wanted to join though? It turns out it is more like a girl gang, the type that swans around the school hallways looking for other girls to tear down, and to be frank, I want nothing to do with it.
Not all mums are like this, of course – some of the most amazing women I know are mothers and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have them in my life to support me and help guide me through this crazy journey. But ever since the day I saw that little line appear on a pregnancy test I’ve been alarmed at how common it is for other mothers to want to attack and criticize each other, over sometimes the most silly of things.
Take a quick look at social media and I almost guarantee you will spot a celebrity mum getting lambasted for the way they have chosen to raise their child. In just the last couple of weeks alone we’ve seen Stacey Solomon called a ‘nightmare’ because she struggled with her hormones and her relationship with her partner after giving birth. Megan Markle has been publicly slated for the way she carried baby Archie in his carrier. Twitter had a pop at Chrissy Teigan because she dared to dress her child in designer pyjamas, and mums everywhere piled in to reprimand Peter Andre’s wife Emily for stating she found it difficult to leave her little one on his first day of nursery. And it isn’t just celebrities who suffer the mum-wrath. Recently a hospital was accused of shaming new mums by putting up posters demanding they look at their babies rather than their phones while feeding. An Australian mother unexpectedly found herself subjected to a deluge of criticism when she posted her children’s packed lunches on Facebook. Instagrammers everywhere will be able to tell you about that time they unwittingly posted something that sent the mean mummy brigade into overdrive. And have you ever been on Mumsnet?? I need say no more…. It seems whoever you are, your parenting choices are fair game, and anyone and everyone feels they have the right not only to judge you for them, but to openly suggest you are a vile and terrible human being for making them. ESPECIALLY other mums.
If I thought for a second that any of these mums meant well by throwing their unsolicited ‘advice’ into the ring I’d maybe cut them some slack, but they clearly do not. They don’t give a toss about helping a fellow mother on a tough day with one of the millions of challenges they face. No – their sole motive appears to be to show everyone how superior their knowledge is, to boast about how they would NEVER DREAM of doing such an awful thing, and make sure everyone who cares to listen knows what a perfect parent they are. And most importantly, to make sure that poor mum hates herself for whatever cardinal sin it is she is supposed to have committed – as though we don’t already have enough things to feel guilty about. And why? For 5 minutes of feeling better about themselves? Because they had a tough time raising their kids so think it’s only fair others share the misery? Because they are bitter than some people have been dealt an easier hand than them? Who knows. But I know it isn’t an activity you will ever catch me joining in on. Do I always agree with the other mums I come across? No, of course not. But I choose to keep my opinions to myself, because I am far less than perfect myself.
Here’s the thing. Parenting is HARD. Even if you have an ‘easy’ child, you will undoubtedly have times when you are sleep deprived, ridden with anxiety and 100% clueless about what the right thing to do is. For every challenge you come across there are about 50 different recommended methods for tackling them, and for each of those methods there are as many studies promoting them as there are damning them. And no two babies are the same – what worked for your first child could be completely ineffective for your second. So the truth is, NO ONE really knows what the ‘right’ way to raise a child is. NO ONE. Not the experts. Not your own Mum. Certainly not Sandra from Facebook who raised 7 perfect nippers on her own while doing 3 jobs and gaining a degree, all without the use of dummies! You have to do your own thing, and sometimes that thing is accepting a less than ideal solution just so you can survive another day with your sanity intact. And we have ALL been there, so really none of us have the right to belittle anyone over their choices.
And I think that is the worst thing about all of this. That we have all been there. That we have all frantically searched the Internet, desperate for answers at 3am. That we have all wept into our luke warm coffee after another night of no sleep, feeling like we’ve failed because everyone else’s baby can self soothe and sleep through the night. That we have all felt that sting of shame when we’ve caught a raised eyebrow on someone’s face when we’ve admitted to something contentious. So you would think we’d have a little compassion and empathy in our hearts. Yet instead of reaching out a hand of support when we see another mum struggling – or even just going about her daily business – we pick at her. We tell her she is wrong, that she’s a bad mother, or – my least favourite of all – that she should stop moaning and just get on with it. And little by little that wears her down, and she’ll stop sharing her experiences or asking for help. She will slap on a smile and tell everyone all is fine. She will struggle in silence, too afraid to admit that sometimes she doesn’t love every second of her new life, or that she feels like most of the time she’s just winging it. Then new mums like me find themselves asking, ‘WHY DON’T WE TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF MORE?!’
Well, I hereby promise I will talk about this stuff more. I won’t sugar coat my experiences, even if that does mean I attract the disapproval of the Insta-mums. But most importantly I will not judge my fellow mums. I won’t join in any of the whispered gossip or bitchy comments when someone does something different to me. I don’t want to be in your girl gang, thanks. If anyone wants me they’ll find me happily sitting in the corner on my own. Care to join?