Last week I was at a non-duopolistic supermarket near me, when I witnessed a roughly 2 year old human child exhibiting the spectacular seismic event often refereed to as ‘chucking a wobbly’. I tell you, it was like someone was running 240 volts through this kids body, it was a screaming convulsion, a nuclear bomb of preverbal anguish and body-wracking despair. But quite aside from the flinging of the many components of the Kinder Surprise toy across the aisleway, and the abject horror of the satanic thrashings and shriekings, what was TRULY excruciating was the tortured embarrassment and shame of his mother, who was desperately trying to cajole, blackmail, bribe and beg her son to please stop the public humiliation. But apparently he didn’t want that Kinder Surprise toy…. like he REALLY didn’t want that one.
Now, ‘The Books’ say that you are meant to remain calm, present and attentive and wait for the tantrum to resolve itself, which they assure you, it will. Which is great advice if you are a Cyborg, or if you aren’t being assaulted by eye rolling, glares, sneers, eyebrow raisings and the awful judgment of a hundred strangers. ‘You should smack that child’. ‘You shouldn’t have brought him out’. ‘Why are you letting your child behave like this?’ ‘Can’t you just drug the little fucker?’ ‘For fucks sake, give him another bloody Kinder Surprise!’ ‘Clearly you are a really crap mother’. ..etcetera etcetera ad infinitum…. Basically, any failures you experience in making sure your children behave in a completely unnatural fashion at all times when out in public are nothing short of your own moral failure.
Well guess what? Tantrums are a healthy, normal part of human development. And believe it or not, children are humans too. Contrary to popular belief, tantrums are NOT caused by bad mothers. Unfortunately, children, being only new to the planet, require at least 10-15 years to integrate and understand the culturally specific behavior codes known to us as ‘good manners’. A normal healthy child with an excellent mother can also be a messy, unpredictable, noisy, moody nightmare of needs and feelings. Heaven forbid that she inflict her normal child on society at large, god help her if she allows anything messy or noisy to happen outside the walls of her home.
The amount of judgment a woman receives when she is out in public with her children and/or pregnant and therefore declaring her motherhood, is really something. She will be judged for what she is wearing (too slutty, too casual, too formal, too revealing, too unfashionable, not fashionable enough)…she will be judged for what she has in her shopping trolley (oh my god, she is feeding her children white bread, can you believe she is buying cigarettes, look at all those frozen pizzas/fizzy drinks/icecreams)…she will be judged by how her children behave, whether they are quiet or screaming, sitting peacefully in the trolley or climbing around it like orangutans. Heaven forbid her child have a snotty nose, or be too chubby/ skinny/noisy/grotty/ thus proving her neglectful/lazy/selfish/slovenly mothering. And oh my god, she better make sure she stays on the right side of the ‘yummy mummy’ line…a little too sexy and she quickly goes from ‘totally hot MILF’ to ‘skanky ho who’s child is on the fast track to 14 year old crack whoredom’.
Mother Shaming is just as toxic, and as epidemic as Slut Shaming in our culture. There is a widely held belief that that your work as a mother isn’t work it is a ‘labour of love’ and its doing is its own reward. That your sacred mother love will magically create little cherubs who smile sweetly and never behave ‘badly’. Demonstrate anything other than this and you will immediately feel the wrathful judgment of a vile and misogynistic culture. Nevermind that you probably are struggling with loneliness, boredom, depression, isolation and financial disadvantage. And if you have, through your own stupidity, selfishness and/or baby bonus greediness ended up as a single mother, then you can multiply your disadvantage by several times. Being a mother in this culture is a tough gig. Really tough. Its about time we gave women who choose to have children the respect and support they deserve. Now there’s a radical feminist notion….