My Nana used to say that parenting is ‘very levelling’, meaning that once you’ve had kids the big differences that separate families become irrelevant. You’re all in the same boat. She became a mother in an era where children were seen and not heard, laundry took an entire day and hot meals were expected on the table morning noon and night.
Motherhood has evolved considerably since those days. Typically fathers are more hands-on. Technology has sprung forward, delivering quick solutions to all our household needs. And when it comes to our offspring we’re more child-centric than ever before.
So is parenting still ‘very levelling’? Not from where I’m standing. In fact, sometimes it seems like the opposite is true and we’ve all become rather judgemental. What I am struggling with the most is the speed at which we are willing to condemn one another as ‘bad mothers’.
“Just witnessed a really upsetting scene in a shopping centre”, a friend announced on Facebook. “Poor toddler lay screaming on the floor while his mother shouted at him”.
The comments came thick and fast. Awful woman. Poor child. Some people don’t deserve to be parents.
I know these women. They are kind, and compassionate. We are friends… Would they condemn me so quickly?
I could have been that mother in the shopping centre. In fact I frequently am. Just this week my 2 year old threw a tantrum that turned every head within a 500m radius. I was tired, stressed and felt the weight of every pair of eyes in the store upon me.
In that moment I didn’t look like a good mother. Someone even tutted. But they didn’t see me get up in the night to hold her hand when she couldn’t sleep. Or sing her favourite song all day, or carry her home from the park when she was too tired to walk.
Motherhood is not a single moment in time; it is a tapestry of moments. Some are like golden threads, shining out for the world to see. But some are darker. Sometimes there are tantrums, and harsh words uttered in despair. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes they are mine. That is life.
It is easy to pass judgement when you witness a dark moment. It is human nature to fill in the blanks - we are programmed to assess. But as humans we also have the unique ability to empathise.
Before you condemn ‘a bad mother’ take the time to look past that moment. Because in the vast majority of cases that is a good mother, just doing her level best to get through the dark.