It was 9 am and I was blubbering – big, uncontrollable, ugly tears. Slumped on the floor of my kitchen, draped in a sweat stained t-shirt I’d worn to bed the night before. I was tired, I was fed up, I was angry and just now, I was suddenly aware of how grubby my tiles were.
“I’m sorry, mummy,” said a small voice from not too far away. Louis was standing, fridge open, his little feet pooled in an expanding puddle of milk. He had tried to lift the 3L bottle out himself and had dropped it. The seemingly loose lid popped off, and took with it my sanity.
I was crying over spilt milk. Literally.
This was not an unusual occurrence for me. Lately, I was crying over ‘spilt milk’ on an almost daily basis. Along with a multitude of other emotions; twenty minutes earlier I was laughing, twenty minutes before that I was sweating. This was a regular morning, on a regular day for me… since having children.
“Today sucks,” I text my friend.
“I know, I’m struggling big time over here,” she wrote back.
And, with that simple exchange, I felt able to drag my sorry arse out of the trenches; clean up the milk catastrophe that had left me so wounded, and pull myself together – so I could find another moment in the not too distant future, to laugh about.
Ten years earlier, as a particularly smug uni student I had a much different perspective about that woman on the kitchen floor.
“Oh God. The mum squad is here,” I called back to my friend in the kitchen. We had a mutual dislike of the ‘mothers’ group’ that frequented the cafe where we worked. He, because their children made a horrible mess to clean up – but for me, it was much more personal.
Each week I’d watch them invade our territory; unified by their comfortable-yet-practical mummy attire. They’d be loaded to the eye balls with their baby plus artillery. I’d hear them rant endlessly about ‘mum issues’ like sleep deprivation, breast feeding and unsupportive husbands. I’d listen to their boring conversations comparing nappy brands, “Comfy Bots have great absorption” and parenting tips – “Give him a time out – works for my Elijah.”
I’d peer at them from behind the coffee machine and cringe.
As much as I wanted children, I didn’t want to be like them. They seemed like one big beige squadron, talking the same derivative language that I had no interest in learning.
We’d complain about how annoying they were and imitate them with exaggerated mockery “My Eliijjaahh’s a bratty little shit, who spills his milkshake all over the floor!”
Ten years later, I was packing my own ‘baby plus artillery’, when I received a text message from my friend.
“I don’t know if we can come. He’s being really difficult this morning…”
Our plan was to meet at the local pool for a swim. But at that time, her son had been particularly difficult to manage and social situations were often fraught with problems.
“Just come, and If it’s too hard, we’ll grab a coffee,” I insisted.
She reluctantly agreed to meet me there. But within minutes of being in the pool, her little boy had pushed over a toddler and she wanted out.
“Righ, we’re going!” she said, dragging him crying from the water. “I can’t take it today, sorry babe.”
“Let’s just grab a coffee then?” I called out to her from the pool.
Coffee would fix everything.
We trudged in; both heavily pregnant, piled to the eye balls with two hyperactive toddlers at our feet. We found refuge at the nearest available table. But before we had a chance to order, our boys began to go to war. A trifecta of screaming, hitting and crying ensued.
“Oh my god!” a woman exclaimed from a nearby table. “Shut that kid up!” she laughed.
They all did.
They were sitting a couple of metres away; a group of four who looked in their early twenties. They were wearing active wear and sipping smoothies.
Within seconds my friend had scooped up her little soldier and stormed out of the cafe. Outside, I caught up.
“Fucking bitches,” she said, trying to restrain her tears. “I just wanted to have a bloody coffee and chat with my friend.”
Who do they think they are!?” I said in disbelief.
I was angry.
Angry at those women for making us feel so terrible. But perhaps more angry at my twenty year old self for being such a judgmental cow.
I wanted to say something…
I wanted to march in there and tell them to shut their pretty little faces. Let them know that we’re not ‘boring and beige’, we’re just in the midst of a whole new, incredibly difficult thing – this parenting gig. And we don’t know what the fuck we are doing. And some days we feel like failures, and that our parenting decisions might just result in our children becoming serial killers. But we’re doing our best to keep our shit together. And if we interrupt your cafe experience, I’m really very sorry, but maybe cut us some slack?
And then as a final dramatic gesture, I wanted to knock their hideously healthy smoothies to the floor.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I walked in – toddler on hip, and stood at their table.
‘That was really not a nice thing to say…”
They stared at me dumbfounded.
“My friend has had a bad day and just wanted to sit down and have a coffee with her friend, but instead she has to listen to you making comments about her son. Perhaps you should think about the people that you’re offending before you open your mouth.”
Before they had a chance to respond, I strode off, feeling like I’d won a little bit back for the misunderstood ‘mum squads’ of the world.
I had finally got it…
Mums didn’t hang out in ‘squads’ because they were exclusive bores with nothing else to talk about. They did it because they really, truly needed one another…
Someone to listen to them obsess about their parenting concerns.
Someone to reassure them that their child is ‘just enthusiastic’, not a maniac.
Someone to stand up for them when they feel judged.
And someone to entice them off the bloody kitchen floor….
So they can clean up that ‘spilt milk’…
And carry on.
By Brooke Klaassen