I have always been a woman’s woman, girly girl, one of the lasses – call it what you will, I have always felt most comfortable in female company and have forged (and clung on to) some amazing friendships with women from all walks of life. I have always been aware that women can be catty and a bit cliquey but until I had children I always imagined that when push came to shove, the basic instinct of a woman would be to support her fellow females. Sadly it seems I was wrong. Motherhood has taught me that no one is more judgemental that another mummy. I’ve felt the glaring eyes when one of my kids has thrown a (mercifully rare) wobbler in the supermarket and heard the tuts when I give them an ice cream despite them not eating all their lunch. I feel I have to justify why I didn’t breast feed my little ones for long and hide the fact that my nearly three year old is still in nappies. I know I am not alone in feeling judged and I just wish we could all be a bit kinder to each other.
One of my best friends little boys has ASD and during a recent trip to a museum he knocked a tower down another lad had built. He was rightly admonished and made to apologise but instead of gracefully accepting the apology, the other mother didn’t even raise her head. I accept this woman had no idea of the huge social problems my friend’s son faces every day but I still couldn’t excuse her reaction. Have her children never embarrassed her or done something naughty in public? However annoyed she was that her son’s tower was in pieces could she not have brought herself to make eye contact with my friend and her son?
Rather than making my friend feel like the world’s worst mum, all this other woman needed to do was smile and say “it’s ok” – a great lesson for her children in accepting apologises and the equivalent of an understanding squeeze for my friend. Instead my friend felt uncomfortable and cross and sadly had another person to add to her growing list of intolerant adults who can’t cope with her son’s behaviour. Another friend was 15 when her little brother was born. She was openly abused in the street by people who wrongly thought she was a gymslip mum. She ended up refusing to take her brother for walks because she couldn’t cope with the abuse and constantly having to justify the fact that the little bundle of joy was her sibling. What would it have mattered if it had been her son – surely a 15 year old mum needs more support than most?
Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint. I have raised my eyebrows at other children’s behaviour and muttered under my breath at choices other mums have made but I am now trying harder than ever not to judge others. Maybe it is human nature to judge others by our own experiences but can I make a plea for all of us to just be a little bit kinder to each other? The majority of us mums are struggling through, doing the best we can and on the whole I think we’re doing a pretty damn good job.
So when we see someone struggling can we make a pact to smile a bit more and judge a little less? Who knows how little sleep the mum shouting at her kids has had? A seemingly fussy child who refuses to eat may not be feeling well; and when it comes to a tantrum, can’t we all feel sympathy for the poor harangued mum and just be grateful that it’s not our child having a meltdown this time?!