Parent shaming, enough now!

London is a lovely place to travel, with a family the tube can be a tad difficult at times with limited lifts and plenty of stairs but if you are travelling with another adult it certainly can be managed. Im all about hitting the streets, walking and travelling by public transport as much as possible when I’m in a foreign country to help me learn more about the city. A few weeks ago whilst travelling on the tube in London I for the most part had an enjoyable experience but was in one instance reminded of how public transport can be a confined forum for people to air their opinions to others and there be little escape for anyone.
On the tube
Here’s a picture of me whilst wearing my baby on the tube. My baby carrier, Baby Bjorn has been an excellent form of transport for my second child who suffers colic and needs to spend more time upright and panics less from reflux and wind when she is being held by me, so it was the perfect answer to travelling in Europe. On a day not dissimilar to this picture I had Lucia dressed in layers, a winter puffy jacket, beanie and extra leggings, she was hot at times as London was experiencing an unseasonably warm winters day of minimum 9 maximum 16 but I felt comfortable that she was dressed to suit the weather.

Sitting on a seat whilst my husband held the pram and chatted to a friend in the doorway of the train I could hear two women chatting before one of them asked me a question. What appeared to be an older mother and daughter both wanted to know how old Lucia was, I answered ‘nearly 4 months’. Normally that answer is followed by some goo’s and gaa’s and reminiscing of having young babies and how precious they are, instead to my surprise began an an onslaught that started something like this; ‘that’s disgusting, you’re carrying your baby like a sack of potatoes’, ‘look at how you’ve dressed your child, you’re a horrible mother, she will freeze’, ‘your baby should be at home, why would you bring her out?’ and ‘you shouldn’t be a mother’!

Initially I was in shock, not expecting a negative response I was taken aback. I looked straight ahead at the lady sitting opposite me, she was nervously smiling and shared her look of shock but seemed concerned things were about to get out of hand. I looked to my husband who, separated by a glass panel and chatting facing the other way wasn’t aware of what was going on. The abuse continued as the women started to raise the volume of their speech ‘what kind of mother are you?’ The youngest of the ladies yelled at me to which her (presumed) mother responded ‘not deserving, you should be ashamed’.
I felt myself beginning to heat up under pressure, I whispered to Lucia that I love her and she doesn’t need to hear such things. I turned to the ladies and stated loud enough to get them to pause ‘you’re entitled to your opinion but I think we’ve all heard enough’. That didn’t stop them, they layed back into me with further remarks on my parenting and by that stage I started to call to my husband to get some backup. A young gentleman sitting two seats away from me stood up and calmly told the women they had said enough, explaining that yelling at me on a train wasn’t doing me or anyone any good. The older woman started to tell him ‘what would he know about being a parent’ (appearing in his early 20’s they assumed he was too young to be a parent). The guy confidently responded ‘my mother carried me the exact same way as a baby and I turned out OK, plus what do you expect babies to do during winter?! Never leave the house?! How about you take your opinion and take a walk off this carriage, this girl has heard enough’. (Silent applause for this guy).

By that stage my husband had heard what was going on and got stuck into the women about keeping their opinion to themselves. I sunk back in my seat, held my daughters hand and just whispered to her how much I loved her. To be honest I wasn’t in a state of mind to respond to the comments and disapproval, after a few days of transit and two jet lagged babies to care for I was warn out but so happy to be in London and enjoying my time as a tourist with my family. I only expected positive comments about my daughter and never thought my parenting would be questioned in such a public light and with no escape, I was feeling vulnerable that day and it took me a while to shake off the opinions of those two strangers. If I had my time again there are things I would like to say to that mother and daughter, the fact that some days it’s hard enough to get your family out the door but you do your best to feed and dress them to keep them warm, happy and safe, that fellow mothers should understand the scrutiny we receive on a daily basis and belittling me in public does nothing for my confidence as a mother. Or perhaps I could simply ask whether the daughter who so confidently got stuck into me at the top of her voice would have liked to see her own mother abused in a public forum as they did to me.
Mothers shouldn’t shame fellow mothers, period! I’m done with parenting bashing, if you’ve got nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all!


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