I see you. On the bus, on the train, in the grocery store. You are young. You are tired. And you are a mother. The sheer overwhelming aspects of being a young woman in this city are enough to drain the most competent woman. To be responsible for another person, all day, every day, can at times be enough to make you scream. But, scream at whom? Unfortunately, I saw you in the grocery store, yelling at her.
Her. Your precious baby girl. She is no more than 18 months old. And she is beautiful. And perhaps she was tired, or cold, or hungry, or all three. Her cries were telling you that she needed something, wanted something. Even if it was something as petty as the drink you took from her, it’s understandable because she’s a child. A child who is undeserving of the harsh “shut the fuck up” you gave her.
It came out of my mouth before I could stop it. “Really?” I said. You looked at me with an unbridled “mind your business.” I looked at her. I smiled. She stopped crying and smiled back. You looked down. Ashamed? Embarrassed? Apparently neither. Because when you looked back up you plucked her, saying “Start it up again and I won’t give it back.” I walked away before I could see her tears start again.
Later, as I got in the checkout line, I saw you again. She was still crying and you were fussing to a friend how bothersome her whining is, how you just want your life back. I get that. But. Somewhere in me is the ability to turn this feeling off, at least get out of the situation I’m in with whichever child I’m hurting. You see? It’s you hurting her, not the other way around. She isn’t hindering your life. You are making hers unhappy.
I am judging you based on one encounter, yes. For that I cannot apologize. Because it was the ease with which you spoke so harshly to her that told me this wasn’t the first time. But, you know what? I am guilty too. Sometimes I yell. I am unnecessarily mean. I wish I had some time to just be with myself. I’d like an uninterrupted nap. I’d like to not have to cut someone else’s food into small pieces. I’d like to not know what someone else ate by the smell of their poop.
Remarkably, at the same time, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything in the world. Nothing.
So, I do get it. I get you have needs. But, realize that once you chose motherhood, your needs became secondary. It won’t always be that way, but for now, when you can, you have to make sure her needs are met. Magazines are filled with articles about moms needing to take care of themselves because we get lost taking care of others and forget about us. Sure, you need the oxygen mask before her, but until you are on that descending plane, she is the priority. Woman up. Ask for help. Hell, maybe I should have offered to be the help you need.
I’ve thought about your baby a lot since our encounter. I wonder how her night went. Did she go to bed happy? Content? Full bellied? Bathed? Or was she yelled at, cursed at, even hit for just being there, being in your way? I think about you, too. Had you had a bad day? Were you tired? Had someone mistreated you earlier?
I’ll never know the answers to these things. And I refuse to let my imagination answer them for me. What I hope, though, is that you find someone who is able to help you, to lighten your load, lift the burden of being a full time parent. I hope that you will one day soon look at her sleeping and realize that she is precious, worth protecting, even if who she needs protection from is you. Find a way to be less frazzled, less hurried, less combative. Invest in yoga. Because it’s not her fault. None of what you are experiencing is her fault. She is beautiful. And deserving of nothing but kind words and love. Even as I type this I remind myself to be kinder to my own children when I, too, become disengaged or just plain tired and they bear the brunt of my work day.
All I hope is that you realize what you have, realize how many others would love to have her. This is not to say that even those people won’t have bad days where they fly off the handle at their children. We all do. As undeserving as our babies are of unkind words and actions, we all get frustrated. It is how you choose to deal with that frustration that is key — and what I hope is that you discover a different tactic very soon.