Judgemental people. They’re everywhere, am I right?
As a mum, I’m constantly bracing myself for an avalanche of criticism. I’ve armed myself with information, justifications and straight-up excuses for my parenting decisions, so when the prudes, sanctimommies, child-haters, and unsolicited-advice-givers approach me in public, I’ll come at them with guns blazing. Take that, jerks, I’ll say, you should know better than to mess with this mum.
This preparedness has served me well. Picture this: I’m pushing my stroller across the Walmart parking lot, and some DudeBro rolls up in a lifted truck. I’m not exactly off to the side – I’m kind of in his way, actually – but I’m in a rush, there’s no sidewalk and pedestrians have the right of way anyway so he should really watch where he’s going. He roars past and turns to take a spot but just before he does, he stops and rolls down his window. He has something to say to me, I can tell. I’m ready with my retort about said right of way when he says:
“OHMYGOD you have the cutest tiniest baby EVER!”
I’ve been around long enough to know that public breastfeeding is nearly always a polarizing issue. I’m pretty firmly in the “whip ’em out anytime, any place” camp, but I know not everyone agrees with me. So when my daughter starts fussing at our local university’s annual apple festival, I find a spot, sit down, and bust out the boobie buffet. An elderly volunteer makes an immediate beeline for us, and I’m ready. Ready to tell her that it’s natural. That I shouldn’t have to nurse in the porta potties (gross), or cover up (awkward), and that if she doesn’t like it she can just look away because my legal right to breastfeed anywhere I want is enshrined in our human rights code, SO THERE. I can feel the blood rushing to my cheeks, and she says:
“I just had to come over and say ‘good for you!’ I was a midwife for many years and it’s wonderful to see you feeding your baby whenever and wherever she needs it.”
Breastfeeding issues aside, the appropriateness of even bringing babies into certain public places has been hotly debated in recent years. So when I bring my daughter along to my waxing/eyebrow-threading appointment, I know I’ll get a few sideways glances. I’m able to hold her during my Brazilian wax, which makes for a very interesting experience (ever had an infant stand on your stomach while your ankles are up by your ears? There’s really nothing like it.). When it’s time for my brows, though, I realize I can’t hold her while also holding my skin taut for the threader – and of course she’ll scream bloody murder if I put her down. As I weigh my options, another client approaches me. And I’m ready. Ready to tell her that I didn’t plan to bring the baby, but my friend who usually watches her had something else come up, and I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute because that would be rude and it’s a whole production trying to schedule appointments in the first place, so this was the best option and I know it’s not ideal but just give me a break, lady – I’m really trying here! So she sidles up to me, and says:
“Would you like me to hold her? It’s really no trouble – I love babies! I miss when mine were this age.”
I know I’m really in for it, though, when we take the baby on her first airplane trip to visit her grandparents. Nobody likes to be seated near a baby on a plane, myself included, but for some reason the flight attendants ignore my pleas and make me sit with her anyway. To make matters worse, the small one comes down with a cold on the day we’re scheduled to fly home. She’s congested, exhausted, and cranky as hell. We board the plane and take our seats next to a man with a laptop, who’s clearly hoping to get some work done. Oh, great – this guy will most certainly rip us a new one if she cries. Sure enough, when we take off, it’s meltdown time. And I’m ready. Ready to explain that I’m doing everything I can to calm her; that babies can’t be reasoned with; that we can’t be expected to just avoid flying, because she has family halfway across the country and she needs to get to know them; that unfortunately we’re stuck on this tin can hurtling through the air for the next two hours whether we like it or not, so let’s just be nice to each other okay? I make a half-hearted joke about how he’s won the seating assignment lottery, and he turns to me and says:
“Hey, don’t worry about it – I have grandkids so crying babies don’t bother me. Are you starting your trip or heading home?”
As it turns out, I’m still waiting for these judgemental people I keep hearing about to rear their ugly, judgy heads. Have I been lucky? Maybe. Oblivious? Perhaps. Could it be that most people are just kind-hearted and understanding? Perish the thought! One thing’s for sure, though: when someone finally does make a snide comment about my parenting, I’ll be ready.
Take that, jerks… wherever you are.