Attachment Parenting, Motherhood

The World Needs a Band of Mothers

21 Comments 16 November 2010

I near-constantly sit in awe of the natural birth and attachment parenting community.

I have never met more open, caring women as home birthing/natural birthing, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, bed-sharing, intactivist (just say no to genital mutilation), non-vaccing moms.

We write blog posts about how to stand up for ourselves (and our children).

Whether it be to women choosing to birth how and where they want or any of the above topics mentioned, the natural mothers I am associated with are top dogs at providing top notch information to thinking women.

There are pregnancy blogs, birthing blogs, postpartum blogs, cesarean section blogs and many more.

But there is one type of blog I haven’t yet seen.

And I think it’s a vitally important piece that is missing from the scene.

Where is the blog that teaches parents how to be better parents?

I know you might be thinking this is a fine line to cross.

Because what is a better parent?

Let me back up and tell you a little story.

The story has to do with the title of this blog post. It explains why we (our society – the world!) needs a Band of Mothers.

I was in Meijer with my grandmother and my daughter Ella.

First of all, I can’t stand Meijer.

Or Target, or Walmart or the mall or any other super market kind of store. Too big. Too crowded. Too cheap.

Anyway so, I was counting down the minutes until we could leave. At the register, I paused to notice I didn’t see any plumber bum, didn’t hear any children crying at the top of their lungs.

Oh but I spoke too soon. I was almost in the clear when…

We were about to walk out the door when in walk big mama with her blue eyeliner applied too think up to her eyebrows in hot pink shorts and a tank top that fit her 10 years ago.

Daughter to her left side, meek and wearing glasses.

I’m unaware of what the little girl, (I’m guessing 7?) had done to deserve the hard spank I watched her receive from her mother.

She started to cry.

“Dry it up!” her mother shrieked, forcefully grabbing her little girl’s arm.

Did that really just happen? Right in front of me? In public? Dry it up??

I stared in disbelief.

As we walked back to the car I told my grandmother that is why I hate going to Meijer, and why I will never go again.

It’s not the first time I have witnessed this kind of barbaric and abusive parenting and it wasn’t the last.

It’s impossible to escape completely, as hard as I try.

Which lead to the thought I had while nursing Ella Rose down to bed last night. We need to find a way to protect these children. To educate their parents. We need a band of mothers (unfortunately the URL is already taken).

We need to speak up against the public humiliation of children.

::sigh::

I say this and it seems like such an upward battle, and one we will most often fight alone, not with a band of super hero moms at our side.

These kind of things really get to me. I thought about that event for days afterward, feeling sad for that little girl…and powerless to do anything about it.

***

How do you cope? What do you do? What can we do?

Your Comments

21 Comments so far

  1. stephanie says:

    oh, i know JUST what you felt. i had this experience too recently.

    at the laundry mat with DH and DD, a little girl, 5 or 6?, was drawing pictures in the corner. she sitting near me at the folding table, and was yelling to her mom that she wanted to draw a picture for guiliana. so she feverishly drew and drew and drew.

    she finished. she yelled (i say yelled…but it was that 5 year old i don’t have control of my volume when i’m excited thing) “mom! how do you spell guiliana?”

    mom irritatedly starts spelling “G U I”

    little girl “wait! G…U…” starts writing…but makes a ‘J’ by mistake. backwards i might add <3

    (mom still spelling…seems annoyed)

    little girl realizes her mistake. starts yelling "mom, i made a J!"

    mom "i TOLD you G! it's G U I…."

    little girl "but i made a J!"

    mom (at the top of her voice "HOW MANY F-ING TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU. IT IS G. STOP TALKING TO ME"

    little girl cowers. devastated. starts to tear up. VERY clearly (to me) just trying to communicate to her mom that she made a mistake on her drawing.

    i intervened. i couldn't help it. the mom glared at me (or so i perceived), but i interrupted (in my most non threatening non judgmental voice) and said "it's ok! look! you can fix it. if you finish the j to make a circle, and draw a hook it turns into a lowercase G."

    little girl realizes her drawing is not lost. smiles. happy. finishes drawing. takes it to her mom who doesn't give it a second glance.

    i was heartbroken. it was such a small, simple exchange…not violent. but felt SO significant. :( :( :(

    we see SO SO many children on the subway who are just ABUSED. and frankly, most of the time i am SCARED myself of the moms (and it is most often moms).

    i am so with you on this, k.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      I commend you Stephanie. What you did was hard and brave, and worth it. You helped that little girl, and maybe she will remember that for a while (I sure hope so). Good job mama.

  2. Trish Christean-Myers says:

    Right ON! I’m in.

  3. Heather says:

    I’ve seen stories like these as well. Sometimes I intervene, sometimes I don’t. Depends entirely on the circumstances. But I think this is a reflection of another problem. Stephanie mentioned that it’s usually the moms, and I was trying to figure out why. I think I know why. It doesn’t make it right, but I think understanding part of the root of the problem might help.

    These women were victims first. I don’t necessarily mean by their parents, though that may be so. I mean by their birth experiences. I read somewhere that one in three women reports experiencing a traumatic birth (which is almost always caused or made worse by an abusive care provider). I’m one of those women, and while I’ve never actually taken it out on my children, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve come very, very close. I think the only reason I haven’t is that I’m aware of my limit and take myself out of the situation just before I reach that limit.

    It’s hard though, especially when you have no help, and no validation. Your family and friends all think you’re just whining to get attention, when in fact you need HELP. And you spend every hour of every day taking care of everyone else’s needs except your own. It makes you resentful at times, and it makes you angry, impatient, anxious, and at times even violent. I’d never defend child abuse, physical or otherwise, but these women need help as much as their children. We’re discovering now with cases like the ones described that “all that matters is a healthy baby” isn’t a true statement. If Mom isn’t cared for and treated with respect and dignity while she gives birth, she’s not in any condition to care for her “healthy” children.

    Thanks for the post.

    /rant

  4. Marija says:

    There is nothing harder than witnessing a child be abused/mistreated… a

    There are two groups that I am a member of that I think you would like and be a welcome addition to: The Holistic Moms Network and Attachment Parenting International.
    Both have lots of resources for learning to parent more compassionately.

    A couple of blogs I like:
    http://www.phdinparenting.com/
    http://marvelouskiddo.blogspot.com/

    Not a blog but a daily email as well as parenting coaching:
    http://www.enjoyparenting.com

  5. Anna says:

    My mom is a teacher (Well, an administrator for the district now, but she was a teacher for a really long time). She worked at a school in a really bad neighborhood so she could get her loans from grad school forgiven, and then just stayed there because they needed her. I remember it because I was about 8 or 9 years old when she started that job. So basically, my mom has a lot of experience working with very poor, or as she calls them “at risk”, families. They’re the ones you see in the store doing that stuff. Those are my mom’s students getting slapped around, sometimes they’re her former students doing the slapping. As you may imagine, this does not go over well.

    When she sees stuff like that, she goes up to the offender, takes them aside, and asks them what the matter is. She talks to them, tries to calm them down, and usually manages to. She always has a bunch of stuff on hand with resources in the community… respite childcare, free family counseling services, her business card, etc, and she hands this stuff out to them. Sometimes they call, sometimes they don’t, but they always calm down, at least for the time being. She gets away with it because everyone in town knows her because she’s been with the schools for so long, and has made a life of helping people who are disadvantaged. Some of the offenders, she taught when they were in Kindergarten, and that’s sad, but those are the ones who respond the best to being corrected by her. The others, it’s hit or miss, but like I said, it always solves the problem for the time being, and sometimes that’s all we’ve got.

    All this leads me to believe it’s a lack of mentoring that causes these problems. If a teacher can walk up to somebody and totally diffuse a child abuse situation at least for that moment, then that says it all. Teachers are mentors if nothing else, so of course people respond to them. They’re used to that. The key is to expand that mentoring beyond the rare inner-city teacher who considers her job to be a 24/7 commitment, and make it the whole community’s responsibility to guide people who need it, not just cast them aside because they’re poor or whatnot, then it would be a different story. The difficult part is getting there in the first place. We’re talking cultural sea change here.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      Wow. Thanks for sharing this story of your mother. It’s endless, and I’m sure mostly thankless work. My fiance was a teacher for 9 years, the last of which 8th grade at an inner city school. It definitely isn’t easy. I commend your mother for trying to make a difference when it was be much easier not to do the hard work to make a difference in someone’s life.

  6. Kateisfun says:

    Sigh… I agree with everything you say… I don’t know what the answer is either, but leading by action is always powerful. Here’s a blog I am loving by the very intentional parent, Mrs.H: http://fltngmoments.wordpress.com/
    I have dreams of talking with local high school girls about how to birth/parent, but I’m not exactly sure what the “in” is to taht sector…

  7. Rebecca says:

    Hello,

    I agree with the general theme of your post. It is hard to watch these public display of harshness. And yes, it is a fine line to cross but kids need someone to stand up for them. THey do deserve respect and it is time that the old notion of “I am the adult and therefore all powerful” dies out.

    However I also find this post a bit judgemental. For example I don’t think what the woman was wearing or her makeup application skills are relevant. She could dress like that and be the most caring mom ever who co-sleeps, etc.

    And maybe she usually is a patient, caring mom. Maybe the day you saw her, her mom died, her elctricity got cut off or she lost her job and she lost it with her kid. It doesn’t make it right what she did but it might be more productive to offer her a kind word that sympathises with her frustration without condoning her use pf physical force against her child.

    Fwiw, ap parents can be great. Just like non ap parents. They can also be very high and mighty when it comes to accepting others who do things differently. Just like non ap parents can think ap’ers are nutballs =P.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      Rebecca, I have to say, you’re totally right. I was being judgmental about the way the mother looked. I was angry with her. While I agree that she *could* have been the sweetest co-sleeping parent, as a long time resident of my city aware of the role that social & economic situations that often play a role on parenting, I highly doubt it. I realize she may not be a bad parent, and I do not make the entire assumption that she mothers the way I witnessed 24/7. But she did it then, which is what this post is about. That kind of physical abuse and public humiliation is never warranted; never right or acceptable, even if her mother died that day.

  8. Merideth says:

    I too am saddened when I hear thoughtless words spoken to the little ones. Just yesterday I heard a young mother say “I can’t stand them, and wish I could just trade them in.” (Speaking within earshot of her two and three year old daughters.) I spoke up and said I didn’t feel that was a healthy thing to have her children hear her say and she just replied. “I just don’t care anymore.”
    It’s one thing to be having a bad day. Or to have missed your anti-anxiety meds for a few days but quite another to take it out on the little ones. Words mean something, and they can’t be undone!

  9. Jen says:

    I think where we need to start in our society is to let young women and men know that birth is HARD, and raising the child who comes after is even harder. Access to quality reproductive education is the first step. It feels like many people are romanced into the idea of raising a child (it’s all that’s on tv and in the gossip mags, it seems…), without knowing truly how much effort it takes.

    I’m suffering from PPD, and it’s a battle every day. As much as I hate to admit it, I can relate to that woman in Meijer. I used to be the person who’d glare at “bad” mothers and whisper (loudly) under my breath that they aren’t fit to parent. But I know if some people saw and heard the things I said or thought on one of my darkest days, they would say the exact same thing to me. It would mean so much to me if just one person would come up to me in the store when I look like I’ve had enough and ask me if I was ok, or if I needed anything. Some days, it feels like that imaginary person could save my life.

    We do need to stick together. It seems like we’re the only society that doesn’t praise women raising their children, and help them with open arms and minds.

    The week before I gave birth, I was the beautiful pregnant woman being helped out to her car with groceries. The next week, I was the exhausted mother with the screaming newborn being glared at by the same workers who had helped me graciously just days before. This is the attitude that needs to change.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      You are absolutely right! I remember that same shift in how I was treated and missed being pregnant because of the kind and polite ways people acted towards me. New mothers (and all mothers alike) need help!

  10. Amber says:

    Growing up with a mother like those witnessed in the grocery stores I can honestly say I truly feel for those children.

    My first recollections of life are being pinched on the back of the arm in the store with my mom saying, “Cry and I will take you in the bathroom and give you a reason to cry.” Or if we were acting up saying, “I only love you right now because you’re mine.” Heck, my oldest brother’s first sentence was, “I’m gonna beat your butt!”

    Bottom line, it’s verbal abuse on top of physical when you hit and humiliate children in public. I get frustrated with my husband because he argues that he was spanked and he turned out fine blah blah, but you know what? I didn’t turn out fine. I had to work at being fine on my lonesome. I had to give myself support because my parents didn’t. My dad never hit me but he never stood up for me. And I think it’s assinine to teach children that they “deserve” to be hit in any circumstance. Oh, you disobeyed you and now I’m going to strike you to teach you a lesson! I spanked my oldest daughter once and I felt so bad afterwards and cried for 15 minutes just telling her how sorry I was. I don’t understand how anyone can justify physically harming their own children. It’s my job in this world to protect them, not hurt them!

    Remember, these moments will stick in your child’s head forever. I don’t remember a lot of “happy times” from my young childhood. I remember hiding under the table when I was in trouble, or getting soap in my mouth, or getting smacked and sent to my room, and worst of all, hearing my mother say I was stupid for what I did or that “She only loved me because I belonged to her”. If you don’t think those memories will effect your children in the long-run, you’re sorely mistaken.

    /rant

  11. kay says:

    i must say, especially in the case Merdith spoke of that sometimes we need to help the mothers as much as the children. that mum may not have realised just what she was doing, yes you pointed out the kids could hear but maybe she was crying out for help. if we help the mums we are helping the children.
    after the birth of my 2nd son i had such bad depression i hated him. yes thats a strong word and some mums feel depressed but still love their baby but i didnt. i could barely control myself i actually thought i could become a danger to him and myself. i wanted to die. i started cutting myself. i thought daily of leaving my children out side a police station and just running away before i hurt one of them or myself. and i am so ashamed now to admit i smacked my older son who was just turning 2. i had always been patient with him before and i started losing it i would smack i would scream and shout and i would disolve into tears infront of him afterwards and he was always a sensitive child and would come to me and cuddle me. rolls should not be reversed like that at 2 years old! now let me point out that i was and still am with my 3rd son a breast feeding co-sleeping home birthing (natural birthing) mum.
    it would have been all very well to tell me how wrong i was but that wouldnt have changed anything i needed help. once i got that i was able to get a hold of myself and correct what i was doing, but while i was in that bad place i couldnt see what i was doing it was just too dark.
    i am now a proud mother of 3 boys who are 4years, 3years and 8 months old. i am in a happy light place, but on bad days its still easy to think you could be sucked back in and i still have to take a moment to stop, breath and think through what my actions could do and calm myself.

  12. Amber says:

    I’m a good parent. I don’t humiliate or beat my children, in public or in private. But I do shop at both Walmart and Target, we also shop at higher end department stores. My children sometimes scream at the top of their lungs in both types of stores. I read your whole post and thought most of it was great, but the thing that really stood out to me is how you are acting as though plumber butt men, overly made up women, noisy children and “that type of people” only shop at “cheap” stores. What kind of world do you live in? I’d prefer to take my sometimes noisy, imperfect children to Walmart because the people there are so much less judgemental. They are real. That’s what the world is made up of, mixed up different sorts and types of people. The real world is not inside Nordstroms, and it’s sad that you seem to think that those are the only type of decent parents.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      I’m sorry you took that part of the post that way Amber. I did not actually mean it literally. I am very well aware that those are no the only types of people who shop at Target, Walmart or other chain superstores, and although I do not frequently shop there, I have in the past. These days I try to spend my money on local and organic produce, not merchandise, which is why those stores aren’t for me.


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