To quote the film "Network," "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
I had a particularly Hellish day recently. It wasn't Michelle's fault. I can deal with a screaming infant. It's stressful but manageable. I love her which makes anything she does bearable. Besides, she's a baby, she doesn't know any better. What I can't deal with is an IMBECILE, a thoughtless stranger, a stupid, condescending, judgmental busybody who offered her misguided, unsolicited advice while in line at the grocery store while Michelle was having a meltdown. That I can't deal with. Please people, for the love of God, if you ever see a woman with a screaming baby, who is clearly already stressed to the MAX and rushing to bag her items as quickly as humanly possible, keep your idiotic comments to yourself!
Let me walk you through my little nightmare...
Michelle just turned 4 months. Some people have said it gets "easier" at 4 months. They lied. Don't get me wrong. Some days she is an angel -- well-rested, in good spirits, smiling, playing gleefully, sleeping peacefully, making adorable cooing noises. She's even started to giggle occasionally. But there are other days when she hasn't slept, won't sleep, screams and complains, isn't content to do anything for more than 2 minutes, won't let me put her down, won't give me a moment's peace. And God forbid if I try to go anywhere. I do try to avoid going out as much as possible but unfortunately I do have to eat. So once in a while a trip to the grocery store is a must.
Michelle is extremely demanding but I do my best to meet her demands. Breastfeeding every two hours or less. Changing her diaper 12 times a day or more. Not letting her cry for more than a few seconds before I attempt to comfort her somehow (usually by picking her up.) Entertaining her is a full-time job. Reading to her, singing to her, dancing with her, playing with her. It's gotten to the point where I not only meet her needs, I anticipate them. I'm changing her before she even has a chance to complain that she's wet or dirty (so far any time I've checked her diaper, it's needed changing. Once every hour or two at least. She is a non-stop pee and poop-making machine!) She doesn't need to cry to be fed anymore. She just makes a little "Uh uh" sound and I race to feed her. I cuddle and kiss her all day long. I sing silly songs and make funny voices. I couldn't be a more devoted Mom.
Most people wouldn't have the time to indulge their baby's every whim. Most people would have a partner, other children, a job, many other things that require their time and energy. Michelle owns me completely right now. She has my undivided attention. It's just her and me. I am literally at her beck and call 24-7. Because I don't have a partner, I don't get a break. Ever. Even if I'm sick as a dog and on no sleep and so weak it feels I'm going to collapse, my legs buckling under me. Once in a while when I'm visiting someone offers to hold her. That's the only break I get. Luckily now she will play for a few minutes on her play gym, in the jolly jumper, swing or jumperoo and she enjoys tummy time. So that buys me about half an hour a day to give my arms a rest.
Going shopping with Michelle has always been tricky. Very rarely I get lucky and she sleeps. The rest of the time, she cries. Sometimes she cries the entire time I'm shopping. Other times not until I'm checking out but it's almost every time. The problem is timing. It's nearly impossible to time it right because there is such a small window (about 15 minutes) where she isn't hungry and doesn't need to be changed. She eats every 2 hours or less and messes her diaper almost constantly. If you go out immediately after a feeding, she may poop. If you wait for her to poop then you're getting dangerously close to her next feeding. Either way is a recipe for disaster. It is a nightmare trying to change her in a public washroom and I worry about the germs. It just seems filthy and she puts her hands everywhere now and then puts her hands in her mouth. She wiggles around and rolls over so much it's hard to keep her on the tables they have in restrooms, if they even have them. Frankly it's more trouble than it's worth. It's easier to just wait to change her at home. As far as feeding goes I would never breastfeed her in public (especially not in a grocery store!) and I don't want to have to pump and bring a bottle every time I go shopping. So again it's just easier to feed her when I get home. If I run through a store at warp speed and manage to get through it in under 15 minutes, she's usually OK. Unfortunately there are always things beyond my control -- products that can't be found, people getting in the way and of course the nightmarish line-up at the register. Michelle can tolerate being in her carseat in a cart as long as the cart is in perpetual motion. If you stop, the protest begins. And so long lineups at the cashier are horrendous. What I've started doing is taking her out of the seat if it's taking too long. As soon as she's in my arms she stops crying. So I hold her while I'm unloading my groceries onto the belt. It is much more awkward with only one arm but at least she isn't screaming. In fact she usually even smiles and coos at other people in line.
On this one particular day, a horrible day from the start, Michelle was cranky on too little sleep and I was rather irritable on next to no sleep myself. I made the mistake of trying to buy groceries. I didn't want to go out. I had been avoiding it for a while but I was completely out of most things including things I simply can't live without so I had no choice. I headed to the store with Michelle and she seemed to be OK. She had her soother. She wasn't crying. Perfect. I managed to find a cart that the carseat actually clips onto. (Another triumph. Unfortunately many of the stores have redesigned their carts with two metal bars going across the front instead of one so that the carseat doesn't clip onto it. Obviously they don't give a rat's ass about single moms like me who have to take their babies shopping.) So far so good. I had my list in hand and began racing through the store grabbing items and putting them in my cart as quickly as possible. Many of the sale items on the list were missing in action which figures but I let it go. Unfortunately green garbage bags (for compost) were at the top of my list. I couldn't live without them. I went to the section. The shelf was bare. Just a hole where the bags I needed were supposed to be. My heart sank. "You've got to be kidding me." The thought of dragging Michelle through another store made me shudder. Usually when something is missing on the shelves I ask a young male employee if there are any in the back and he promptly returns with a case full. On this day unfortunately there were no young men to be found and the only employee on the floor was a sour faced older woman. She looked annoyed before I even asked her about the bags and her reply was "If it's not on the shelf, we don't have it." "Are you sure? Usually the guys get things from the back." She rolled her eyes at me and said she'd check. Meanwhile, Michelle had lost patience and was starting to cry. "Oh God." I thought, "here we go." The woman took an eternity. I don't think she cared one straw that I was waiting with a fussy baby. She finally emerges from the back room and shakes her head. I wanted to throw up. Now I had to not only get through the line-up with a screaming baby, I had to go to another store to get the damn bags.
Of course there were only three cashiers working and long line-ups at each one. I picked what appeared to be the shortest line, but as you can imagine, Murphy's Law never fails and it was the worst one of all. The cashier took off to wander the store checking a price or something. We were going to be here a while. I took Michelle out of the carseat and held her in my arms. She stopped crying instantly. Now she was even smiling at the woman ahead of me in line. The woman smiled and commented on how cute Michelle was, asked how old she was, said it must be exciting to have her first Christmas coming up. She mentioned something about Mommy and Daddy but I forgave her. She couldn't know there was no Daddy. I didn't think it was worth mentioning. Finally it was my turn. The cashier had asked everyone else how they were. He didn't ask me. He probably took one look at my face and knew. I was stressed, exhausted and sweating (since I tend to have hot flashes, especially when holding a 14 lb baby while wearing a winter coat in a store.) I kept holding Michelle throughout the transaction, even while I put my credit card into the machine but when it was time to bag the groceries (which is close to impossible with one hand and especially when you're in the way with people waiting behind you) I put her back into her carseat. So of course she screamed bloody murder. There was no consoling her. She wouldn't take her soother. "Hang on lovebug. We're nearly done."
I was throwing the items in bags and throwing them into the cart as fast as I could, bruising fruit and denting boxes in the meantime. Suddenly, the brain-dead troll behind me, undoubtedly perturbed by the wailing has the nerve to bark at me accusingly "Talk to your baby!" Quite possibly the dumbest sentence ever uttered by a human in line at the grocery store. My first instinct was I wanted to punch the woman in the face. But I was in a hurry and didn't want to be arrested for assault. She wasn't worth the time or the breath that it would take to explain that I do talk to my baby all the time. I started when she was still in utero. If she was implying that I don't comfort my baby, the stunned see-you-next-tuesday had no idea what she was talking about. I couldn't be more devoted to Michelle. I know what she needs. She didn't need conversation at that moment. She wanted to be out of that seat, she was smiling moments before when in my arms. Unfortunately the law requires that I have her securely fastened into a child restraint seat while travelling in a vehicle. Michelle didn't want talking. She wanted to go home, be changed and nursed and cuddled, not waiting at a grocery store checkout. If I stood there trying to entertain her (an exercise in futility when Michelle is that angry) it would have just been a longer wait until we'd be safely back home, not to mention a longer wait for those waiting in line behind me. If you don't bag your groceries fast enough then there is no room for the next person's items to continue along the conveyor belt. That woman obviously thought I was a bad Mom for seemingly ignoring my baby while I threw groceries into the cart. But moving as fast as I could to get the hell out of there was being a good Mom. I have been with my baby every single minute of every day for the past four months, I think I have a better understanding of her needs than some lunatic who just glanced at her for one minute in a store.
It kills me. "Talk to your baby!" What an insane thing to say! As if it's that easy! Michelle is four months old. I'm pretty sure that children don't develop the ability to reason until, say, after the age of THREE so at four months trying to explain to her that Mommy needs to buy groceries and if you just wait one minute we'll be out of here is probably a waste of breath (though I did keep telling Michelle "Mommy's moving as fast as she can!") I wanted to lash out at the woman to mind her own business because she has NO CLUE about my baby or me. No right to pass judgment. Unless you are a single Mom in line with a screaming baby yourself then you can't possibly understand. I don't know whether that witch had no children of her own, or was too old to remember what it was like when her kids were babies -- or perhaps she had one of those zombie babies that sits there catatonic and doesn't cry or laugh (I've seen a baby like that and frankly, it's creepy.) Even if someone had a baby, they didn't have MY baby so they can't understand my experience. Besides, there are colicky babies who cry for five hours solid and can not be consoled. How did the B-Itch know my baby wasn't one of those? (Thankfully though Michelle cries, she can be comforted. You just have to figure out what's wrong and fix it ASAP!)
No one can understand how tough it is being a single Mom unless they've lived the experience themselves. Most people with fussy babies would avoid dragging their little ones to the grocery store if it was avoidable. Logically if there is a father in the picture, unless he is incredibly selfish, clueless and a useless lump of testosterone, either he would be doing the shopping and leave his wife home with the baby, or he'd stay home with the baby while she shopped, or they would brave the store together (it's much easier with an extra pair of arms -- from carrying the baby to carrying the groceries.) When you have no one to help it means bringing baby everywhere, including to the dreaded supermarket every time. The offensive woman who had to stick her nose in my business likely had no idea what I have to deal with. She's obviously never been through it herself. All the more reason why you should keep your mouth shut if you don't have something nice to say. Making a snap judgment about someone you see for a minute is unfair and if you voice your harsh views, can be hurtful and cruel.
I almost wish I'd told the woman to "Get a life" (she obviously needs one of her own so she's not so interested in the lives of total strangers) or "Go to Hell" (which she no doubt will. I think there's a special section in Hell for people that insult single Moms) or just "Go f%&^ yourself!" I was trying to be a mature, responsible adult by just ignoring her, not even dignifying her with a reply. But there's no emotional satisfaction in that.
I don't know why I let it get to me so much. It could have been worse. A friend of mine many years ago was accosted by a racist woman in the grocery store who rudely said "Why don't you go back to your own country?" Which doesn't even make sense. Canada is her country. Canada is a cultural mosaic. Unless you're Aboriginal, you (or your ancestors) came here from somewhere -- Europe, Africa, anywhere around the globe. The fact is that there are some rude, cruel, ignorant, arrogant people out there. They think they know everything and feel that it's their right to criticize others and tell them what to do. I can't let it get to me. Most people are nice. Most people understand the rule "If you can't say something nice, say nothing." No one has a right to judge a stranger and even worse to pass that judgment on and insult them. You don't know their story. You don't know whether they may be a single Mom that can barely make ends meet, that hasn't slept in two days, hasn't showered in five, that is just trying to buy groceries and get home with her baby.
If I ever saw that stupid woman again I'd give her a piece of my mind, but at the time I was too angry to even look at her face. I just ignored her and refused to acknowledge her ridiculous comment whatsoever.
It shouldn't bother me that a moronic stranger thinks I need to be told how to parent my child. The people that matter, that know me, all say that I'm doing a great job. My Mom just told me the other day how very proud she is of me, at what an amazing Mom I am. She was surprised at how committed I am to Michelle and to doing all the right things for her. She was impressed, considering that I never planned to have children, that I have risen to the challenge and am doing well, on my own. As many have remarked, Michelle is a happy, healthy, bright and alert baby so I must be doing something right. Seeing her screaming for two minutes at the checkout a stranger wouldn't know that she smiles 90% of the time. That she giggles at me now. That she reaches up to touch my face. That she is the sweetest baby in the world. She just doesn't like shopping, doesn't like being strapped in her seat, doesn't like staying still. She gets bored. She likes being in Mommy's arms. Nothing wrong with that.
While I'm getting things off my chest I might as well spout off about someone else who said something rather insensitive to me. To make matters worse it wasn't a stranger. It was someone I know. I wouldn't go so far as to call her a friend. More of an acquaintance. I've only seen her once I think in the past year or so and it wasn't by choice. She didn't even congratulate me on the baby and when she saw Michelle all she had to say was "The baby looks exactly like Mike!" (The baby's father. Apparently she had met him with me once last Christmas and from that one meeting remembered him enough to recognize a resemblance to the baby. I didn't even remember that she'd met him and then I realized that yes she had. In fact she even made a point of telling him off for dropping an F bomb, which he did often. I usually just save it for special occasions. Like when I'm LIVID!) I found it extremely rude of her to say the baby was just like Mike. Most people say that Michelle looks like me. She does look a lot like my family. She looks a lot like I did as a baby and looks IDENTICAL to my nephew Dan as a baby. Of course I do see Mike in her as well, I certainly don't need it pointed out to me in such a cruel way. Anyone with half a brain stem could figure out that a mother DOESN'T want to hear how much her baby resembles the heartless coward of a father that abandoned them while she was four months pregnant, but some people lack any tact. I'm not sure if she was just clueless or cruel (given other things she's said and done, my money's on cruel) but she should have kept the comment to herself. Again, if you can't say something nice, SHUT YOUR CAKE HOLE!
Ok. Deep cleansing breaths. I have to find my Zen again! I'm sorry for posting such a negative piece but sometimes I really just need to vent. This blog is like my diary and of course I'm going to have good days and bad days. I'm human. I'm not perfect. I'm doing my best. I do feel better getting this out rather than having it eat away at me. I have to learn to let things roll off my back more. With all these breastfeeding hormones (not to mention sleep deprivation) I have definitely been more sensitive. It's like pregnancy, the sequel.
After leaving the supermarket from Hell, I popped over quickly to another one to get the green garbage bags. I took Michelle out of the seat and just ran through the store with her in my arms. It was easier that way. I was just getting one item after all. Thankfully God was merciful after my ordeal and when I went to the cashier there was NO ONE IN LINE! The cashier commented about how cute Michelle was. I explained why I was carrying her rather than having her in a carseat. "Spoiled little girl," the woman said. "Anything to keep her happy!" I said. As soon as I put her back into the seat in the car she started screaming again. At least it wasn't far to go home. I couldn't wait. Of course I hit every. single. red. light.
Once Michelle and I got back home from the store I fed her and she was content. As I watched the snow fall outside I thought how good it was to be home. I really wish we could just hibernate and not go out for the rest of the winter! Unfortunately I didn't realize I was almost out of mustard. My sandwiches will just have to go without for a while. I won't be going out grocery shopping again any time soon. I'm going to put it off as long as I can.
Michelle is the light of my life. She may be a monster sometimes but she's still my little angel. She doesn't have to be perfect. Sure she screams sometimes. She's a baby, she has a right to! And the times when she smiles and laughs at me more than make up for the tantrums. I may not be a perfect Mom but I couldn't possibly love her more. I don't pretend to be June Cleaver and honestly, who knows what she'd have been like if she'd been a single Mom. I bet she wouldn't be so calm, with perfect hair and wearing dresses and pearls every day if she had to manage on her own! Maybe she'd be wearing sweatpants or pjs with greasy hair hastily tied back into a ponytail, like me.
I would like to end on a positive note at least. I can't let one or two mean women out there get me down. The truth is that most people are kind and when they see a frazzled single Mom at the checkout with a screaming baby, they usually say nothing, some just smile knowingly, or say "Hang in there, it gets easier" and some even offer to help. Most people know that if you can't say something nice, say nothing. Most people with kids understand that being a parent is the toughest job in the world and none of us are perfect.