*This article is written from my own experience, and is not the view of a professional psychologist or behaviourist, so take it as an opinion from 20 years of training women*
Today I sat in my office next door to the gym, and listened to a child scream for 30min. At the time I was feeling sorry for the child’s mum, because there’s nothing that raises anxiety in a woman like their own child’s distress. However at the same time I thought of a conversation with a hostile neighbour a few years ago now.
That story goes like this:
I went next door to talk to my neighbour about a text message she had sent to my husband, complaining about noise. She said that a woman was in our gym boxing, and her child was screaming and distressed, and the women “couldn’t be bothered” picking up her child because all she wanted to do was box…. I think my mouth fell open right there, but i persevered. I asked if she went down to the gym to talk to the trainer and her client (she hadn’t), i asked how she knew she was boxing (she said she heard it), i asked how she came to the conclusion that the mother was neglecting her child (she said it was the only possible explanation).
You GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
Just because YOU are good at parenting, or YOUR child never screamed (lie), doesn’t mean you can stand and judge another woman’s experience. Perhaps not all mothers everywhere value their children, but right here on Collaroy Plateau, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, you’ve got to assume that every mother loves her children, and every mother is doing their best, because not all of us are born for this job. For some of us, it was an accident, for others, our personalities don’t suit the task of mothering – but it’s not like we have a choice once the child exists. We have to mother. We can love our kids, do anything for them, and not be suited to mothering, all at the same time! In fact, isn’t completing a job you’re not suited to 24/7 the ultimate sacrifice for your children? Isn’t trying your hardest in the face of feeling like a complete and utter failure demonstrating true courage, each and every minute of every day?
There are people out there who think we are born to do this.
By “we” I mean mothers, and by “this” I mean coping with screaming children.
I acknowledge that plenty of women are what I like to call “earth mothers”; where motherhood comes naturally and they enjoy the job. But I also argue that there are plenty that struggle with the contradiction of parenting NOT coming naturally but feeling like it SHOULD. And this is not just me telling you, there are several articles like this one who agree that a mother’s expectation weighs heavily on their mental health state. It’s a very isolating experience; having a child that is misbehaving (or “expressing themselves”) and feeling like you “should” be dealing with it but being at a loss about what to do.
I also want to know, is ANYONE out there BORN to be screamed at by the people they hold most dear? Are any of us perfectly able to cope with this?
The day to day tasks of mothering are repetitive, but even a women for whom mothering doesn’t come naturally can complete them with relative ease (if not a touch of resentment). Remember that we are talking about the JOB of parenting, not the love of a mother, they are two distinctly different things. However, the screaming child that will break us every time. A screaming child will trigger irritation in most spectators, but child’s mother will be experiencing the most gut-wrenching, nauseating anxiety imaginable. Even if their exterior is calm, in the “not so natural” mothers among us, there’s paralysing indecision on how to handle it, and embarrassment because we “should” be able to, but we don’t know how. The idea that we are all “born to do this” is ridiculous, for many of us, it’s a learned skill which can be extremely stressful. I know because I am one of them, and so many many others, you can read another woman’s story here. While being one of these mother’s doesn’t make me an expert, it does make me a witness to this phenomenon, who can provide first hand experience on what it was like for me.
If you are one of the lucky ones, that is, an “earth mother”, perhaps you can help a situation by understanding. We don’t need other women, husbands, family and friends judging us by how we handle the pinnacle of “stress on the job”; a screaming child. We need them to understand that it is a JOB, that for some of us it doesn’t come “naturally”, and that all of us are trying the best that we can. Understand that we can love our children unconditionally, and still despise the job sometimes.
And take it from me, who has seen hundreds of kids grow up under hundred of parenting styles in my business of training women over 20 years; these kids will all turn out okay in the end.