The Mom Club

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I vividly remember an incident at the grocery store, pre-baby, that I think about often, wishing I would have acted differently. A mother with a young child, maybe two years old was ahead of me in the checkout line. It was clear that the boy's patience was wearing thin, but his mother had let him play with her credit card to tide him over while she tossed her items onto the counter as quickly as possible. All the while she fielded groans of "Mommy, I'm hungry. Mommmmyyyy, let's goooo." 

It was clear the child was on the verge of a meltdown, his patience on this particular outing with his mother wearing thin. I inwardly groaned, willing the woman to offer to let me go ahead of her. It was, I thought at the time, the courteous thing to do, seeing as I only had two items to pay for and no children in tow. I would pay and be out of their way before she finished unloading her cart and wrangling her toddler. 

No such offer was made. Instead, I waited in line while the woman had to chase her child no less than three times to stop him from wandering off. I sighed too loudly, pulling out my phone several times throughout the ordeal to check the time. I was already late meeting my husband at a downtown restaurant for dinner, and this certainly wasn't going to get me there any faster. I sent my husband a quick text reading, Toddler on the loose at the grocery store. Be there soon.

When I looked up, I was pleased to see that the woman had all of her groceries unloaded and her child was still in her line of sight. But the boy still had her credit card grasped tightly in his hand. It was clear what would happen next. 

"Mason," said the woman tentatively. "Mommy needs her card please." 

The boy deliberately put his hands behind his back, removing the card from her line of view. I sighed again, tapping my foot. The cashier smiled politely as she discreetly eyed the lineup that was forming. 

"Mason," his mother said again, her voice becoming increasingly exasperated. "Give Mommy the card." 

Mason still didn't comply, so his mother pried the card from his grasp. 

"Noooo, Mommy," the boy shrieked. "Mason want, Mason want." 

"Honey, Mommy needs her card to pay. You can have it back in a moment." But Mason didn't hear her, or he didn't care. He was now on the floor, crying loudly. 

Mason's mother, clearly embarrassed, scooped him up. "Mason, that's enough. You need to listen to Mommy." Mason clearly wasn't listening. 

His mother tried again. "Here, let Mommy get you a treat. What would you like?" At this, Mason perked up, delightedly choosing Reese's peanut butter cups from the selection of candy bars. By this time, the woman's first order had already been completed. The cashier continued to smile politely as she rang the boy's treat through separately. 

Mason's mother plopped him into the cart as he happily devoured his candy bar, chocolate covering his face. His mother looked relieved as she wheeled him out of the store.

I scoffed, telling myself that my own children would never behave like this in public. I'd be the boss, I imagined. I'd have a gentle yet non-negotiable authority so that my children would never dream of throwing temper tantrums of this nature. And, I certainly would never appease that sort of behaviour with candy!

****

Now, I know better. You see, I'm now part of what I like to call the Mom Club. No matter where we live or how drastically our parenting views differ, we all share one commonality: we're all mothers. We all love our babies hard, but we also know that parenting is far from an easy job. In fact, it's all-consuming and, some days, downright draining.

I've only held membership to the Mom Club for 8 months, but it didn't take long for me to realize that there is a drastic difference between the kind of mother I thought I would be and the kind of mother I am. Babies have a funny way of changing everything, of keeping you on your toes. I've never known a love so strong or knew so firmly that I was meant to be a mother - but I'm also learning as I go. I make mistakes. What works for me and my baby may not work for another family, and that's OK. I'm ashamed that I put my impatience on display that day at the grocery store, and I feel guilty for making another mother feel less than adequate. 

Instead of judging a mother for giving in to her toddler's demands, I now see a mother who was at her wits' end. She was drained from a long day of parenting, I imagined. She certainly didn't want to drag her small child to the grocery store, but she needed to feed her family a healthy meal for dinner and this was the only way. Before she had her son, she probably didn't imagine herself bribing him with treats either, but she now knows that some battles are not worth the fight. You do whatever it takes to keep your overtired child content so you can get through 'til bedtime. Besides, a small treat now and then doesn't hurt. 

Instead of seeing a poorly behaved child, I see a child who was probably hungry and tired, who - as a two year old - knew no other way to express his emotions. I see a sweet child who was probably having a bad day.

You see, I'm part of the mom club now. I look at fellow mothers with a silent recognition, a nod of encouragement. I see a mother who was doing her best.

Brittany Van Den Brink is a PhD Candidate and freelance writer living in small-town Ontario with her husband, baby son, and their Golden Retriever, Chevy. She founded Motherhood Her Way to collaborate with other moms as they go through the ups and downs of motherhood. Say hi on Instagram @brittanyvandenbrink.