Parenting. It’s a funny old thing. Sometimes we’re celebrated as mothers, told we’re doing an amazing job, there’s even a whole day dedicated to mothers and fathers.
Then there are the tutters. The ones with the opinion they’re not afraid to share with you, whether you want it or not!
Most parents will have come across them. Sometimes you just perceive them, feel their aura, you know they are there. I have a feeling they are also the same people who park in Parent/Child spaces but I have no evidence to back this up!
There are those that share their opinions and then there are the ‘tutters’. Tutters are people who just ‘tut’. They tut about your kids and they tut generally, I find. They can mostly be found in restaurants and in the supermarket.
The tutters in the restaurants just want a quiet meal, I get it, so do I. I don’t want a child throwing food either.
The tutters in the supermarket just want to get round their shopping without the interruption of a screaming child. I get it, I just want to do my shopping too.
Since we all want the same thing can we get on the same page please? I see you too and I don’t like what I see either, I ‘see’ you and I raise you one tantrum.
I saw a Mum in the supermarket with her kids today. One in the travel system/car seat so must have been very little. The older child I’d guess was about 3 so still a toddler, still learning boundaries. The 3 years old was screaming her head off. I have so been there. To her absolute credit the Mum stayed calm, she got down to the child’s level and talked in soothing tones, she made it through checkout and still managed to push her baby and deal with a screaming child at the same time. Isn’t she fantastic?! I thought she was awesome and she handled it like a pro. She certainly didn’t need my help, she certainly didn’t need my eyes on her while her child was in meltdown.
That’s why I kept my head firmly on the task at hand, putting my items through the self-service at Tesco. Yes, I could have run over and helped, but to be honest she was handling it so well, I took in the situation and I’m not convinced it would have been appreciated or even needed, to start a conversation with a stranger whilst dealing with all of that.
I weighed up the situation and actually ‘saw’ the real deal, I don’t believe that she wanted me throwing glances her way, I don’t think she wanted my sympathy or indeed my help.
Us mums and dads are incredible, we can cope with a lot. We cope with alot from our kids every day, day in/day out. There are tantrums handled with a minimum of fuss behind closed doors. What we can’t always cope with is the seemingly hundreds of eyes on us, watching our every move during such an episode in public. ‘Ooh I wonder how they’ll handle that situation’. You can hear the thoughts sometimes I tell you!
As a self proclaimed introvert I don’t want the tutters to ‘see me’ when I’m ‘failing’ with my kids and to be honest I don’t think I’m alone. I think I did that mum a favour. She handled it amazingly, although if she’s anything like me she might have been abit more flushed on leaving than when she arrived. I put ‘failing’ in inverted comma’s because is a tantrum really a fail? Or is the child just learning how to deal with emotions? Are tantrums just opportunities to teach our children how to handle how they’re feeling? These might be good questions for another post.
There are people ‘seeing’ all the time aren’t there? Sometimes the seeing is good and helpful, other times it’s just judgemental and worse, assuming. That’s the bit I despise.
‘I see you in the park looking knackered’… but I still made it to the park!
‘I see you in the supermarket with your screaming child’… but I made it to the supermarket today, go me!
‘I see you in the park on your phone….’ ….yeah? I’m multi-tasking!
All I hear is judgement, all I hear is ‘I see you ‘failing”. All I hear is ‘you’re not doing a good job”. All I hear is ‘oh I wouldn’t have done it like that, tut tut’.
‘I see you with your tired eyes, you’re doing great Mama’ Sometimes I love hearing that validation. I really do and I bet other parents do too. We need to hear it.
When I was in that really knackered stage and in those really dark days which are exhausting beyond words, where I felt my identity had all but disappeared, those are the days when all that got me through was spending some precious moments on my phone to feel part of the outside world. But if that’s the only bit that the tutters have seen of my day of course they will judge. Because when they only see a snapshot of the day they don’t really see anything at all. They see what they want to see I suppose.
Who needs either approving or disapproving eyes on them? When did we think it was ok to validate or not validate? Am I the only one who just wants to be able to look after my children, my way, without feeling at all that I am being judged? That the only validation I need comes from my family?
That’s why I love the ‘I see you Mama’ posts that conclude with ‘you’re doing a great job’ because we are you know, doing the very best we can.
The other week I was in the supermarket getting a few bits, both the kids were being really loud and SH in particular just wasn’t listening to me at all, no tantrums but it was flipping hard work I’ll be honest. I was precariously carrying a watermelon on the hood of the pushchair which fell off and it was the last straw in a very long day. Looking back it wasn’t the best way to carry a watermelon, but tired parents make mistakes sometimes and I’m not perfect.
An older couple looked me and tutted. I said as brightly as I could muster ‘whatever you do, don’t bring young children to the supermarket with you’. They said ‘we don’t have small children, thank God’.
I laughed and they laughed, it was all very well intended and they went on to tell me about their grandchildren who they could give back at the end of the day. I still went away from that exchange with a slightly strained grin, because I was tired and my failures had been seen. They saw the unsuccessful mother than I am sometimes. It’s a vulnerable thing, parenthood, showing the world what we can and can’t do, for everyone to judge.
I’ve come through those really hard, dark, exhausting days – for the most part anyway. But not so far through them that I’ve forgotten and I’ll never forget the judgement and assumptions. Most parents who are with their kids all the time will go through really exhausting days, every now and again I have one too. If someone you know is a stay at home mum or dad, you need to know that exhaustion features in there somewhere.
So what do I think now? Now I know what it’s like to be a stay at home mum with two littles for 5 years, now that the bags under my eyes aren’t as baggy or my sanity hanging in the balance?
I think that for the most part the people who are looking and being encouraging are great at edifying us parents, thank you! Thank you for the encouraging words and encouraging posts. And to the tutters I just want to give some advice and I hope you’ll take it:
UNLESS YOU’RE GOING TO CARRY THE WATERMELON, LOOK THE OTHER WAY AND PRETEND YOU SAW NOTHING
Tutters, the time of having really young kids who tantrum and cry and make a fuss is short. You have an opportunity to make that short time easier or harder. You have an opportunity to smile, and encourage and edify. The parents will get through those hard days and so do the kids. By the time they get to school they are well adjusted, happy, nurtured children who know their boundaries, they learnt in the supermarkets up and down the backbone of Britain.
They come through those days either encouraged or beaten down.
The parents come through the tutting stage too, of being judged and their actions scrutinised by strangers. They come through it stronger, more resilient and what’s more they vow never to tut another parent with a child who is screaming in the supermarket. Sometimes they come through it a little battered and bruised too, after one tut too many. That’s a real shame isn’t it?
That’s when the tables turn I guess, when the parents scrutinise the tutters? Because you could have chosen not to tut, you could have chosen to edify, you could have chosen to encourage, and if the situation is right you could have chosen not to ‘see’. If you are going to see please make sure you end it with ‘you’re doing great Mama’.
Because I ‘see you’ too you know, and I raise you one tantrum.
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