I received a very disapproving look from a lady stood next to me in the queue in Zara this weekend. You see, I had just handed my smartphone to my 17 month old son in a desperate attempt to stop him whining and crying in his pram. It was a bid to calm him so maybe, just maybe, I could browse some stores for 20 minutes (something I have not dared to do in a long while due to my adorable but equally wild child's temperament).
With her gaze upon me, I felt disgusted in myself at that moment. I never wanted to be the Mum who relied on technology to shut her child up, but I've increasingly been doing it.
The morning had started well, with good intentions that we go out for a 'Mummy & Son breakfast date' since my husband was heading out on his dirt bike. The plan was followed by a casual saunter around some stores to look for a new dress for a rare date night with my husband in the evening. Not too much to ask, hey?
In my idyllic imagined breakfast, my son sat like an angel while we happily shared a cheese and mushroom omelet with a side of avocado, while baby-babbling and smiling at each other. In reality a waiter had to come over and help get a protesting toddler into his highchair, where he then proceeded to throw avocado and spoons and omelet before declaring he was bored by shouting and moaning. I did manage to get him to eat a little of his omelet and avocado...by pretty much force-feeding it to him on a spoon.
During the breakfast date I felt really disappointed in myself. As an advocate of baby-led weaning, I had never wanted to be the Mum who has to manually feed her child. I just so desperately wanted him to fill his little tummy in the hope he would calm down.
Having paid and visited the toilets, we set out on our shopping adventure. But with my toddler as usual point blank refusing to go in his pram in a violent protest plank, I decided to try and let him walk alongside me like a 'big boy'. We got a few meters and I congratulated myself, thinking this might be the way forward during future excursions. It was premature, as he suddenly veered off to a nearing restaurant to make a grab for the plates and cutlery presented welcomingly on the tables. Sigh...
Picking him up to much protest, we fought our way to the first store, where my son proceeded to pull all items of clothing within reach off the display units, touch the mannequins, and then leg it out the shop into a crowd of people (I had to abandon the pram and run after him into the busy Mall at this point). Upon returning I was stressed and starting to sweat with embarrassment as I retrieved and then again failed to contain him - he is so damn strong. I grabbed the pram and declared to him that "Mummy is sorry, but she is getting tough and you are going into the pram!" We went back to the toilets where an absolute battle to end all pram-resisting battles ensued. He was screaming, I was crying. I felt awful, but I eventually got him clipped in.
Re-entering the Mall and heading to Zara, my son was crying loudly and I could feel peoples' eyes upon me. I felt like a horrible person and a horrible Mummy. I had never wanted to be the Mummy that ignored her child while they sat in the pram in obvious distress.
It was at that point that I handed him my smartphone to help calm him down. But after being made to feel bad by the lady in the queue next to me, I just thought to myself, "you know what, sod it, I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. There will always be someone judging me!"
But then it also dawned on me that before having a child of my own, I was just as judgmental.
Indeed, much of the disappointment in myself stems from the fact that I never wanted to be the Mum who spoon feeds her child...its just I never understood how important it is to the routine of the day that these little beings have something in their tummy! I never wanted to be the Mum that let her child cry in distress in the pram...but then I never considered the fact that this Mum perhaps needed to contain them for their own safety. And I most certainly never wanted to be the Mum that substituted parenting for smartphones...but then I never appreciated that this Mum might be nearing the end of her tether, and that if giving a smartphone means preventing a tantrum induced vomit, then that is her better judgment.
The bottom line? Don't judge any Mum until you've walked a mile in her shoes. Perhaps a mile around a Mall with an unrelenting toddler, to be more precise. She is probably doing her absolute best to keep it together, and you just don't know what is going on behind the scenes.
I guess we're all perfect parents in our heads. Indeed, I was the absolute best! But then I had my son, and my old ideas of what's best do not always work for us. He is a beautiful, adorable little boy. But he is a demanding toddler, and he can drive me up the effing wall! So yes, I've become the Mum that I never wanted to be. But I've also come to realise that the Mum I never wanted to be is actually pretty amazing. She has the good of her family at the front of centre of everything, and that's what's important. Do I care that I might sometimes use my smartphone to keep my son entertained? Not anymore. It's needed.
So next time you're out shopping and you pass a Mummy who looks like she might be having a tough time, why not offer a friendly smile of encouragement? It may well just make her realise that she is doing a good job after all.