‘…and there I stood clutching a plastic Minion, and sobbing’
To the old lady in the supermarket who positively shuddered at the sight of my daughter eating a Kinder Egg at 7:43am. This is for you.
You might not remember me.
In fact, I’m pretty darn sure you won’t. I’m irrelevant to you. However, you made a big impact on my life last Tuesday. Fancy that.
My husband had left for work at 6am and I found myself at home with a teething toddler, a newborn, and an empty fridge. Being an anxious person, I decided to get the food shop done as early as possible so that I didn’t spend my day with it lingering over my head.
Now I wish I hadn’t.
Winnie was cutting two teeth, and she didn’t sleep very well due to this. She hadn’t napped the day before, and she had fallen over and grazed her knees that day too. Overall she wasn’t in the best of spirits, and for me to lug her out of a lovely, cosy and toy-filled home was quite the traumatic experience for her.
It was also raining, and there were no children’s parking spaces free.
She was upset (and soggy). The baby was asleep, though I was growing increasingly aware that he had pooed on the way into the store and I had, of course, used the last nappy the day before and not had the chance to replenish the changing bag. ‘I’ll be super speedy and get this done so that we can go home, get back into our pyjamas, and forget this ever happened!’ I thought to myself.
I did well. I got all the things we needed (not forgetting something on the list was quite the achievement in itself).
But then Winnie got upset at being in the trolley and wanted to get down. She began to cry, and then she began to get angry and shout at me to get her out. She is only two years old.
So I did what I needed to do.
I sprinted to the chocolate aisle and picked up a Kinder Egg, and then I legged it to the checkouts.
Having successfully unpacked the shopping, I urged the cashier to check the egg through first so that I could pack the bags with Winnie happily distracted.
It all went smoothly.
That was, until, you arrived and began to unload your shopping onto the conveyor belt behind me.
That’s when I heard you.
I heard you tell your husband that you were making Shepherd’s pie for tea. I heard you say that you had hoped the doctor wasn’t running behind later causing you to wait a long time again.
and then I heard you ‘lower’ your voice and mutter…
“Oh gosh, look at that. If she eats that at this time of day then imagine what she gets at home! The poor child”.
The scene that I wish had followed, would be me turning around and unapologetically telling you that you ought to mind your own business. That my daughter was well fed, and that the chocolate was merely a safety net to make sure we got home without any further tears.
But i didn’t.
All that happened was that my heart sank deeper into my chest, my mind raced, and my palms became sweaty. I hurriedly paid for my goods and ran out to the car.
Where I broke down and cried.
I sat there for five minutes, and through bloodshot eyes, watched people coming and going. Wishing I had it all together like they seemed to.
Then I realised I was doing exactly what you had done to me, and that just because I was presuming their lives were full of positivity and light, rather than negativity and darkness, didn’t mean it was any better.
You see, you have only seen a snap shot of my morning, just like I was seeing in that car park.
And if I were to envisage your morning, I might have pictured you having a hearty bowl of porridge for breakfast, washed down with a lovely hot cup of tea. You may have had a nice leisurely shower, and picked out some freshly ironed clothes from your wardrobe. You may have travelled in your car to the supermarket, delicately discussing with your husband the wonderful night’s sleep you had had, and pulled up in your beautifully spotless car into the perfect parking space.
And then you saw me; a dishevelled mother. Wearing her husband’s tracksuit bottoms and a milk stained vest. With two young children and no wedding rings. And you tarred me with a certain brush.
Well, I’m sorry.
Not for what I did. Not for what you saw. No. I’m sorry that you couldn’t see beyond the vision that stood before of you.
Yes, it was very early. Yes, my daughter was eating chocolate and probably shouldn’t have been. But the bigger picture was worth so much more. The hectic morning. The stress of trying to juggle two young children. The tiredness. The constant worry and crippling anxiety at being in charge of two small humans. And then, the overwhelming love I felt for her when she exclaimed that she had found a Minion toy in her surprise egg, and the sight of her little face as it lit up with the most beautiful smile as she described how she was going to show her daddy when he got home that evening.
Perhaps if you would have known my story, rather than making your own decision at that checkout, you may have chosen more comforting words. Words of encouragement, perhaps?
The words that you chose to use that day were as sharp as knives, and they cut deeper than you could ever imagine. And you had no idea.
Shame on you for speaking them, yes. But shame on me for allowing them to affect me.
I’m not entirely sure why I am writing this. Perhaps I just need to get it out, to stop it circling my head 24 hours a day.
You see, deep down I know I’m a good mother. Yes, I may struggle some days, but that’s because I’m still learning. Aren’t we all?
My final words to you, my friend at the till, are that if you are so inclined as to pass judgement upon a struggling mother stood before you, laid bare and raw…
Well, that says a lot more about you, than it ever will about me.
Stay strong mama’s. We’re all in this together.