Friday, January 27, 2006

Sisters are doing it for themselves?

YOU WILL perhaps forgive me if the first few lines of this week's column are dedicated to giving a sound telling off to the not-so-lovely lady who gave me the filthiest look imaginable last Sunday in Tesco.

Life, you see, is hard enough for us women. We work hard, run our homes, raise our children and endure waxing of sensitive areas on a frequent basis. So when one of our own, one of the sisterhood bound together by these uniquely female life experiences, lets the side down by being an unsupportive harridan, it upsets me greatly.
Last Sunday, shortly before 1pm, my child decided he wanted to throw a tantrum- but not just any tantrum- this was the mother of all tantrums. There was screaming, crying, desperate attempts to clamber out of the trolley and a few incidents involving my shopping being used as missiles with which to assault other Sunday shoppers.
There were two reasons for said tantrum- the first being that he has an obsession with the "Nanas in Jamas" (Bananas in Pyjamas) ride-along-thingy in the Lisnagelvin Mall and would happily live there given the choice. My decision that three goes was more than enough was clearly to his displeasure.
The second, and most important reason, is that he is nearly two. He is a child, learning, experiencing, pushing the boundaries and yes, admittedly at times, being a wee brat (and that is the polite way of putting it).
As a fairly modern mammy, I pride myself on being fairly up on the parenting advice of the day which includes giving a stroppy child as little attention as humanly possible so that he gets the message quick smart that I'm not impressed with hysterics (despite being slightly prone to them myself).
To try and keep your cool when your child is 'breaking you to the bone' as we would say in Derry, is not easy. I prayed the ground would open up and swallow me, I hoped my child would be distracted by all the shiny things they sell in Tesco- but alas neither happened and instead I was faced with the disparaging looks of a woman who I swear followed us around each aisle with the sole purpose of looking down her nose at me and my squealing child.
Now I for one am the first to admit that screaming children aren't pleasant. When you are stressed, shopping and trying to beat the queues on a Sunday lunch-time the last thing you want to be 'entertained' with are the squeals of a child shouting: "No! No! No! Ah wan Nanas in Jammmmaaaaassss!"
I understand this can be annoying. I understand that it have a negative effect on your shopping experience, but what niggles at me most about the whole experience is that said woman was there with a child herself (Admittedly a much older child).
You see from what I can tell from talking to any of my friends or colleagues with children, all little darlings go through phases when they will take a tantrum at the drop of a hat.
All mothers will at some stage be faced with crowds of people shaking their head, looking embarrassed and hurrying past the scene of the impending nuclear meltdown. So you would think women, especially those who have children themselves, would be a little bit more understanding, a little bit more sympathetic and a little less judgmental.

More equal than others?
I feel at the heart of the matter is the fact that we women, as much as proclaim our membership to the sisterhood, as much as we burned our bras and fought for equality, still somehow believe that some are more equal than others.
If you can manage to get out the door on a Sunday with your make up perfect and hair brushed you are more equal than the stressed out mammy in the tracksuit bottoms with her hair scraped back (guess which one I was). If your child clings to your side with perfect manners and social skills usually only achieved after a year in a finishing school then you are more equal than the lady struggling to gain control of an unruly toddler who wants to play instead of shop.
This is something evident not only in Tesco on a Sunday afternoon but in almost every aspect of our lives. I would like to be a super-organised person, a mother who falls into the 'yummy mummy' category who bakes organic breads, has a designer buggy and clothes her child in clothes spun by blind monks in some fair trade factory in Outer Mongolia.
I would like to be the uber efficient employee who never skirts too close to deadline or forgets to make a phone-call at the appropriate time- but I'm not like that I'm afraid.
Like so many of us out there I am simply human. I'm doing my best and trying to do better. I am, as my (fallen) idol Marian Keyes would say "too busy doing it all to have it all" and I very much doubt I'm alone in feeling like that.
We women live in a fast-paced society whereby we are constantly battling to keep on top of all our responsibilities. We would love to be glamorous and cool-headed like Gabrielle in Desperate Housewives, but the truth is the majority of us are more like Lynette.
So next time you see a mother struggling with a screaming child, take a deep breath, avoid the urge to roll your eyes to heaven and remind yourself that there but for the grace of God go you.

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