The Sorority of Expert Mothers

When we are young and we have no idea about marriage, raising children or life in general; there are so many things about which we have preconceived notions. Ways that we will do things, methods to handling certain situations, all of which are good in theory but often become ineffective in the practice of real life. Our intentions are good, our goal honourable, and yet in our youthful arrogance we look at the world around us with impatience and barely supressed smugness.For example, we know exactly what kind of wife/husband we will be, and who we want to marry. We know exactly the best time to have children and how many years to leave between the birth of each child. We know the best way to feed our baby, our children will “never” be picky eaters, nor will meal time ever be a battle. We are pretty sure that we know how to calm a crying baby, although it is unlikely we will need this skill because of course, “our baby” will NEVER be difficult. And the most definitive opinion that most people have before they become parents; is regarding discipline and punishment, we know EXACTLY how children should behave and have a pretty good plan for how to achieve the elusive “well-behaved child”. In public places the words “MY child will NEVER behave like THAT!!” can oft be heard on our lips as we make a mental note to nip that in the bud before our child has even begun breathing on his own.


So if we all have this perfect plan, and we all know the RIGHT way to handle every situation, what happens? Why do we find ourselves on the receiving end of a flying shoe or cringing at the sound of spiteful words like “you’re the WORST Mother EVER!!”?? Where did we go wrong? What happened to all our wisdom and certainty?
The answer is…children. The Children happened. No matter how many books we read and no matter how many times we dissect the public temper tantrum of “someone else’s child, we can never really know how to handle a situation like that until we are face to face with the screaming “I-want-a-treat”-monster!!

I often find myself in a store trying to stop the bickering between children or quell the constant whining for this treat or that toy, and just when I’m reaching my breaking point (you know the place, when you don’t even care who hears you…) I look over and there is inevitably a woman staring at me. She’s usually trying to stay focussed on her task, but she is having difficulty keeping her eyes to herself.

In that moment I wonder, is she looking at me because she has been in my shoes and she feels badly for me? Or is she the kind of woman who raised “perfect” children, did everything “right”, you know this woman…the one who has fogotten that her children whined too? Usually I never find out. I am doomed to wondering if this stranger that I will likely never see again, looked on me with compassion or contempt. That is frustrating.

With my personality, I instinctively react to every frustrating situation with a change in my behaviour at some level. And so I have developed a habit that drives my husband crazy, causing him to beg me to stop talking to people in public. Every time we are out and about, at the mall, amusement park or dollar store, and we come across another mother battling with her child or trying to put a temper tantrum to rest; I go out of my way to lean over and tell the frazzled mother-on-the-verge that she is doing a great job. I can see my husband visibly shrink back into the woodwork when he sees this impending exchange, nonetheless I feel very strongly that it is important for mothers to show solidarity in the midst of difficult parenting moments.

After all, haven’t we all been in a situation where we felt less than capable in our role as authority figure to our children, at the mercy of those passing us by with pity or compassion-filled looks. And how much better it would have been if someone (anyone) had given us a thumbs up and encouraged us, how much easier would it have been to stand our ground and not buckle under the pressure? So I plan to continue to give my fellow mother’s a thumbs up in their time of need, a gentle voice of solidarity any time I see someone giving their screaming dragon-child a “stop right now or we are going home” warning.

And please, if you see me stuck in a mire of public humiliation, just give me a little thumbs up, because despite all my preparation and pre-child “expertise”, I have no idea what I’m doing and I could use the encouragement!


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