Dear Man at the crossing,
You probably don’t remember me, just another mother with another pushchair who you made a passing comment to as we both waited for the lights to change so we could cross the road. But let me remind you – as we walked towards each other, approaching the crossing from opposite directions you saw a mum, pushing a buggy with one hand and a mobile phone in the other. I imagine you thought I was texting my pals, or checking Facebook or maybe even taking a selfie like you’ve heard people do these days.
After a minute or two you saw me finish whatever I was doing and put my phone back in my pocket. As we neared the crossing you said ‘Glad to see you put that phone away, you should be enjoying your baby’. In my shock the only response I could come up with was one of those upwards nods of the head and a ‘yeah’.
But as we crossed the road and headed off again in opposite directions I thought ‘how dare you!’ ‘How dare you tell me what I should or shouldn’t be doing. How dare you imply that I was somehow neglecting my son’.
Because let me tell you a bit about what had happened that morning, about this baby I should be ‘enjoying’. This baby is poorly. He’s only got a cold but he’s had it for about six weeks now. Oh, and he’s also teething. He’s currently cutting his sixth tooth in as many weeks. So last night he woke roughly every hour after going to bed. And it had taken over an hour to get him to sleep in the first place which meant I didn’t get to put my other son to bed, or to kiss him good night like I usually do. Then, the baby woke crying every hour and I had to settle him back to sleep. That carried on until about 2 am when he ramped it up to every half hour. And when it got to 5:30 and I couldn’t get him to go back to sleep any more my husband got up with him and took him downstairs so I could get a few hours sleep. Normally he wouldn’t be able to do that because he leaves for work at 6:30 but today he’s at home because he’s ill too. Oh I didn’t mention that part yet? As well as the baby being ill my husband and I are too. We’ve got some weird flu virus thing that’s left us exhausted, with temperatures and glands so swollen we can barely swallow. By rights we should both be tucked up in bed with a Lemsip but who would look after the kids then?
So anyway, the baby had been up since 5:30, the toddler got up a couple of hours later and was being mercifully well behaved. We managed to give everyone some breakfast and most of us were wearing clothes that weren’t pyjamas.
It was then time for the baby’s nap – he’d been up for over four hours and crying for most of them after all. I took him upstairs but instead of going to sleep he decided that screaming in my ear and trying to grab fistfuls of my painfully swollen neck is a much more appealing idea. So I brought him out for a walk.
I left the toddler at home with his dad, which I could only do because he’s off work sick and I wrangled a crying baby into the pushchair. I left the house to the sounds of my two and a half year old saying ‘don’t go, I want to go with mummy’.
I have a wonderful little boy who entertains himself while I deal with the baby, a little boy who has watched far too much TV in the last seven months because sometimes I can barely function enough to get him fed and dressed after a few hours sleep so there’s no way I’m going to worry if he watches a bit too much CBeebies if that’s what we need to do to get through the day.
So anyway, my lovely, sweet little boy has been asking to go swimming every day for a week now. He hasn’t been in a swimming pool for over a year so I don’t know where he’s got the idea from but that’s what he wants to do. But he hasn’t got anything to wear to go swimming so as I was walking down the road, pushing the buggy with one hand I was using the other to order my older boy some swimming things so we can take him next week, that is assuming everyone is well again and the baby hasn’t kept us up all night. And when I’d finished my order I put my phone away.
Just in time for your comment that I should be enjoying my baby. My baby who cries for probably half the time he’s awake. My baby who I have to prioritise over my toddler nearly every day. My baby who makes me cry almost every day because I don’t know what’s wrong with him or how I can help him.
My baby who was fast asleep in his buggy and couldn’t give a shit whether I was on my phone or not.
So next time you feel the need to pass judgement on someone’s parenting, sir, I urge you to think about the rest of the story that you can’t see from a two minute encounter in the street.
The knackered-looking mum pushing a buggy with one hand and a phone in the other.