I didn’t read the article, I don’t watch the news. I cannot handle all of the details of this week’s tragic local story about a mother, without childcare, losing her child. I’ve seen enough posts to know all that I need to. A mother lost her child, and instead of support, she’s receiving a torrential downpour of criticism and judgement.
If you are a mother, You have got to stop judging other mothers! I’ve said it before, in a cheeky sort of way. I even wrote a cute, lighthearted article called Judgy Wudgy Was A Bear. For today, though, I’m gonna pack the humor in my pocket, because we have ventured way beyond the shore of ridiculous!
Women need to stop. Men need to stop. Everyone needs to be held to a higher standard, but any mama shaming one of our own after losing her baby is beyond heartless. It’s completely unacceptable. Step out from behind your religion, or any false sense of decency you’ve fashioned for yourself, that make you feel like you’re a good person, or somehow better than this mother. Everyone wants to point the finger, but no one wants to help. If you don’t want to help cool. If you’re not ready, willing or able to join the village, fine. If you’re not a part of a mother’s village, though, you need to Shut all the way up with your comments and opinions!
A few months ago I pulled up to the library, and I noticed a couple white women circling, like nosy vultures, around a car that was parked right in front. My initial thought was that maybe their car broke down and they were trying to figure out what the problem was. Maybe their tire went flat, or the car overheated; I don’t know. I noticed, though, that not only were they looking at the car, but they were looking in the windows, and at the license plate. I still didn’t have enough information to understand what was going on, but I no longer thought the car belonged to either of them. I found a parking space, but opted to back in, because the scene had already drawn me in.
As soon as I turned my car off, I noticed a young black woman come out to the car. She completely ignored the two women, got in and drove off. It was at that point that I noticed a child was in the back seat, because one of the women tried to tell her that the seat belt wasn’t on properly. The door slammed shut, though, and I promise you the mother Neither heard nor cared about anything that woman was trying to say.
I sat and processed for a while. I asked myself, “If I came upon a car, with a young child alone inside, what could I have done differently than these two women?”
Any attempt, friendly or with accusation, would have to be handled with care if I wanted to actually engage with the mother. No matter who tried to talk to her, I’m sure she would have been on the defense, and the exchange may have easily been hostile. I 100% understand that. As mother’s, particularly black mothers, we’re often treated like criminals. We stay on “the ready”. People love to publicly, and verbally attack mother’s and tell us what we’re doing wrong. Now, was it, “right”, or the safest choice to leave the baby/toddler in the car alone? No. Was it a safe choice to leave the car right in front of the building vs in a parking space? No. Would it have been my right to judge any of that? Absolutely, not. As a fellow mama, and simply as a human being, it would have been my job to either Help, or Shut Up and mind my business.
Again, I can’t guarantee the response would have been amicable, but I would have just waited outside of the car, and kept an eye on the child. When the mom came out, I would have said something like, “I know how it is, I have 4 of my own. I just thought I’d wait with her, and keep an eye until you came out”. I would have tried to follow with, “I noticed her seatbelt wasn’t fastened all the way. Would you like me to help?”, but again all treading would have had to be light.
Mothers don’t need anyone to tell us we’re failing. The majority of us already feel like we are; every day. Personally, I like to set reasonable and tangible standards to measure how I’m doing as a mom. This way I always feel like I’m a rock star. For example, the faster the hand soap goes is a direct reflection of how I’m killin the mama game. Some of us, however, are literally holding our mama-steem together by a thread. I guarantee you, Every mother has made a questionable decision regarding her child! Especially her first child. If she hasn’t, that just means you should follow her proclamation with a “yet”, and sit back and wait. Each of us has at least one story of when we slipped up, and it could have gone terribly, if not fatally, wrong, but by the grace of God, it didn’t. Unless you have the most amazing support system behind you, meaning you have someone helping you every single minute of motherhood, you are gonna find yourself in a bind at one time or another. Some mamas find their back up against a wall Daily.
We know Nothing of the library mother’s story. Maybe the child had just gotten to sleep after a fierce tantrum, mom needed to print out her resume for a job, but couldn’t risk waking the baby. We know Nothing of the restaurant mama’s story either. Maybe her sitter, the only person she could trust her child with, just moved to Milwaukee, and that job was the only thing keeping food on the table. Who knows why the baby was in the car alone. Who knows how a child ended up losing his life during his mother’s shift at a restaurant. All we can know for sure, was that Neither of these mothers had anyone to help them. So, again, either be that help, give resources and assist in finding that help, or Mind your fucking business!
I’ve been in those very same shoes, where I didn’t have childcare, but had to work. I’ve been in those shoes several times. I was in those shoes just the other day when I needed to do a little Uber hustling, but my child had a breakdown and I had to call 211 instead. I’ve been Fired because I had no childcare. I worked for a fancy schmancy place called Shear Ego when my oldest was about 18 months old. I had a full time position, but that came with mandatory weekend hours. They were also looking to hire a part-time esthetician to handle the clientele demand. I asked if I could take the part time position instead, because I knew weekend childcare was going to be difficult to find. I was a single mother. I had no one to help me on the weekends. Despite my proactive, professional approach, though, I was told no. I was the only person of color in the entire salon. I don’t think I was a very valued employee. I didn’t exactly expect a yes, but I was sure a no would jeopardize the security of my job. Sure enough, a Saturday came when I couldn’t scrounge up a sitter. I had a full schedule of services, but had to call in. I was fired the following Monday when I showed up for my shift. At the time I was living with my mom, though, so the financial hit was more of a bump than a devastation. If I were on my own, and that job meant rent and food, I can’t say my guy would not have spent the day in the laundry/break room, with whatever employee was between services.
Fast forward several years, and I was fired from Verizon because I had exhausted my family medical leave, but still didn’t have proper care for one of my children who was in the throws of a major mental health crisis. Well, I wasn’t fired, but I was told I could either report or forfeit my status as an employee.
I’ve had other jobs where I took my child, whichever one fit in my Boba Wrap, On the regular. I was blessed enough to have the flexibility of various private aid jobs over the years. Some of them permitted me to wear my baby. Some of them did not. For jobs that didn’t allow me, I would sneak my babies in for night shifts. All of my younger three were with me during at least one overnight. When they were only months old, still breastfed, and did not sleep through the night which made it harder to find coverage. I kept them close, because they were super teeny infants, but I’ve also had to bring my children with me as toddlers; rarely with permission. I would have them sit quietly in another room. I would turn on Dora. I would give them snacks, check on them constantly, and for the most part they handled my impromptu day care set ups like champs. Toddlers get into mischief, though. No matter where they are. There may be some places that are a lot less appropriate for a child to be, but please understand, no one is above a freak accident! Please don’t seal for yourself a horrible fate, by believing you are. Thinking you are better than either of these mothers is not calling the best ju-ju on yourself. Karma is not kind, it is karma. It is not partial to any creed, color, or class.
Mothers are the one of the most Valuable resources in the world. We raise the next generation that’s gonna step in and take over. I won’t deny that there are instances of gross neglect, but for the most part we are all doing Our best, given our current set of circumstances. We love our children. This mother who lost her son, loved her son. Just as you love your children. Anyone who feels compelled to offer any words, other than those coming from a loving, supportive, and empathetic place, need to shut up; Seriously!
Mother’s are baraded when they leave their children in someone’s care and something happens. “We should have known not to trust that person”. We are ripped and bullied when we bring our children with us. “We should be responsible enough to have childcare”. I don’t know the author to give credit to these words but, “We are expected to work like we don’t have children, and raise our children like we don’t have to work!” Unless it ends in a cute photo op, like the professor who wore a baby so the mom could focus in class, we can’t win either way. We can’t win because we actually have kids to take care of while outsiders continuously assure us there’s a way to do it all “correctly”. We can’t see the end of the story or situation when we’re making the choice. We’re just doing the best we can in that moment.
Show me a perfect mother, and I’ll either show you a mama who has a boat load of help, or I’ll show you a mama who hits her nightly stash of trash television, “special” brownies, valium, or a good red. Maybe she goes for the combo meal, who knows.
No mom is perfect! Momming is super fucking hard! It includes endless decisions that need to be made, and we’re expected to have all the right answers without an ounce of training. Often times without an ounce of help. There’s a reason for the whole, “takes a village” saying. It really does take a village. So many moms don’t have one, though.
If you want to involve yourself in the future of our world and the upbringing of our children, join a village. Join 2 or 3 villages. You can mentor, teach, supervise, volunteer, coach. Provide shelter and food, or donate clothing if you can. Educate yourself and be a resource hub. There are many ways to help, and there are many people who can point you in the direction of needs that aren’t being met. I don’t have all the answers, but if you come to me wanting to help, I bet you I’ll go find you something. It’s super easy to sit behind a social media account judging and spewing hate. It takes compassion, a sense of humanity and courage to take your concerns into the real world and actually apply solutions.
Be Active. Be Supportive. Be the Village. If you cannot be any of these things. If you do not want to be any of these. You need to Be Quiet!