I heard an infuriating story the other day: my friend was shamed right out of a popular baby boutique in our hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.
My friend walked into this store with her weeks-old daughter and her under-two son. She was exhausted and recovering from giving birth. She was barely holding it together. It took all her energy and will power to go to this store that day. She was looking for help with a baby carrier that was sold in the store but wasn’t purchased at this location.
Before she could even make her request, a woman who worked there – at a store that sells itself as moms helping other moms – asked her rudely if she purchased the wrap there. When my friend confirmed that she had not, the clerk said they’d charge a ‘consulting’ fee to show her how to use it. They also took this opportunity to tell her, condescendingly of course, that she was in fact using it wrong and her baby was in danger because of it.
Let’s be clear: that baby was never in danger. This was a scare tactic to get my sleep deprived and emotional friend to cough up the dough because if the baby was in danger and they had a soul, they wouldn’t have asked for the money first.
My friend was flabbergasted. She asked to speak to a manager. The manager entered the fray and noticed that there was an older child in the picture. She asked if she used the wrap with him – she did not. The store ladies started to clutch their pearls. When it was revealed that her son was sleep trained, they were horrified. And they let my friend know they were horrified with her decision. In my mind, it went something like this: ‘How could a mother be so cruel as to not hold her child 24 hours a day 7 days a week? Away with you she-devil!’
That’s not exactly how it went down but the truth of the matter is, my friend left that store in tears feeling an undeserved guilt and unsupported.
No woman should be made to feel alone like that.
There’s no arguing that we got the short end of the stick in biological terms. I’m not sure what we did to deserve periods AND child birth but they suck. Not to mention the fact that when/if we decide to have children, it seems the responsibility for raising kind, socially responsible children falls largely to women. Now this isn’t the deal in our little family but up until a few decades ago, this was the norm.
When it came to structuring society back in olden times, we must’ve been PMSing that day because we couldn’t pull our shit together enough to avert the patriarchal set-up we’re still forced to contend with. It’s mind boggling to consider the fact that a man with comparable education and experience to me, working the same job as me would be considered more valuable, but that’s a thing! I’ve been in professional situations where my ideas don’t gain traction – even among women – until they are supported by a man.
And to top it all off, even though we’re all women and we all, to some degree, endure these things there exists an attitude of division among us.
This past year, I became a mother (to a human – I’ve been a fur mom for almost 14 years). In this context, I have come to see just how divided we really are.
I equate walking into a room full of moms and their children to walking into the high school cafeteria: I am very self conscious and worried about fitting in. There are definitely mom cliques in these situations and it can definitely feel like a popularity contest. In this contest, though, your parenting style is being judged and other women are always going to be your harshest critic.
Even among childless women, there is a whisper of judgment lurking in their eyes every time my daughter screams in inappropriate places or has boogers running down her face.
Hey, I get it. I’m certainly no saint in this arena. I am in no way immune to making my own judgments about other women. I’d like to think I’m getting better at readjusting my expectations of others as I get older and ‘wiser,’ but this past year has put me on the defensive and I find myself slipping back into old habits.
But the image of my dear friend, with her two babies, walking away from that store in shame forced me to give my head a shake. I’ve been no better than those women who shamed her for not being like them. And in all this, I can’t help but think if the proprietor of that business was a man, it wouldn’t have gone down like that. Isn’t that a super shitty way to feel about members of my sisterhood?
When it comes to momming, there is no tried and true method. If there was, we’d all be doing that. The truth is, we’re all trying to do what’s best for our kids and our families. As women, because it’s fallen to us for centuries, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep all running like a well-oiled machine. It’s so easy to start comparing yourself to other moms trying to do the same job and when they look like they’re ‘better’ at it, the doubt starts to creep in.
I’m thinking it’s time we let go of that picture of the perfect family life; the perfect child; the perfect home; the perfect career; the perfect woman. Perfect is impossible.
We all have different priorities that determine the choices we make and the lives we lead. We need to celebrate our differences and embrace the shared experience of being a woman. Like it or not, this is a sisterhood and we’re far more productive and better off when we have each others’ back .