I was four weeks postpartum. My toddler was whining because I couldn’t open his fruit snacks fast enough and my newborn daughter was screaming in her car seat. She always screamed. The pediatrician said it was colic (whatever that is), and it would pass. I hadn’t slept in over 14 hours. My husband was out of town for work and all I needed was toilet paper and bottled water.
“A good mother would NEVER let her baby scream like that,” the lady loudly stated as I was trying to put on my baby carrier so I could soothe my child and continue my shopping trip.
“A good mother would hold her child,” she continued.
Her words stung like a bullet. I thought I was a good mother, but after 28 days of non-stop crying and very little sleep, I too had started to doubt myself. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a mother of two. Maybe we had made a mistake.
As I clumsy tried to get my daughter into her baby carrier, the woman watched me, huffing with disapproving glances. My son was still whining about his damn fruit snacks, and I snapped back at the woman.
“I’M DOING MY BEST, OK!”
The other people in the aisle stopped and stared. I swung my cart around and marched to the other side of the store. When we had reached the freezer section, the tears were running down my face.
A good mother would hold her child. The words sometimes play on repeat in my head. A good mother would never let her baby scream like that.
It’s been 5 months since that lady confronted me in the toilet paper aisle. The colic did pass, but sometimes when we are shopping and my daughter starts to get fussy, I cringe inside; terrified that if she has a meltdown, someone else will have something to say about how I handle the situation. However, now I can look back at that moment, and I’m thankful for that lady.
She taught me a lesson that day– to not only be gentler to myself, but to all mothers.
That woman didn’t know I hadn’t been to bed yet that day. She had no idea that I was desperately struggling to breastfeed my daughter, after an easy nursing experience with my first. She was clueless to the fact that my husband was in a different time zone. She knew nothing.
So now when I catch myself silently critiquing another mother (because, let’s be honest, we all have done it), I remind myself — I have no idea how many times that mom was up last night. I’m oblivious to the number of hours she has sat on the bathroom floor, waiting for her toddler to go potty in the potty. I don’t know if she’s parenting solo this week because business has taken her partner away for another trip. Or maybe she just simply hasn’t been able to shower without her children running in to ask a question. I simply do not know, because I’m not her. But I do know that she’s doing her best.
A good mother would hold her child. The words sometimes play on repeat in my head. A good mother would never let her child scream like that.
Well, good thing I’m a good mother.