MILS (Mothers I’d like to Slap)

Last updated 14:53 14/09/2012
PERFECT BABY: If only they behaved like that all the time.

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Soon after I had my baby I discovered that motherhood is a sisterhood. Other women wanted to know if I'd had a boy or a girl, how old she was, and what her name was.

OPINION: But it wasn't long before I noticed that lurking in the motherhood-sisterhood is a strange being called the MILS.

You've heard of the MILF - Mother I'd Like to F@#%? Well, the MILS is kind of the same, except they're the Mothers I'd Like to Slap.

I discovered my first MILS when I told another mother about my epidural followed by emergency C-section delivery.

"I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't use any drugs," she replied smugly.

A week later I was feeding my daughter in a cafe and overheard a woman say to her friend, "That baby's a little young for a bottle don't you think?"

And then yet another mother asked me if I was embarrassed that my daughter was so chubby.

She also enquired if I too found it "interesting that your daughter is about two months behind in her development than all the other babies around her age."

MILS are everywhere. She's the mother who insists that motherhood is 100 per cent total joy; that she's never once felt isolated, overwhelmed or bored; and that all those endless sleep-deprived nights of comforting a screaming baby are a privilege.

If mothering is so easy then why, I want to scream at her and her perfectly accessorised Bugaboo pram, do I sometimes find it so hard!?

But by far the most devastating revelation that I made about MILS is the fact that I am one. I can turn into a Mum I'd Like to Slap at any moment.

In the supermarket the other day, I saw a toddler throwing a tantrum that went off the charts. The poor mother looked completely ragged and like she was about to burst into tears. She grabbed a bag of lollies from the shelf and handed it to her kid to shut him up.

And before you could say "Smug Mother", I'd judged her. I thought about all the theories of discipline and rewarding a tantrum with lollies is not recommended in any of them.

How dare I judge the poor woman? I had no idea what her situation was. And I know from my own experiences that some days mothers, despite their best intentions, have to do whatever they can just to survive.

Why do we do it? In her book on female competitiveness, Catfight, Leora Tanenbaum writes that when women become mothers their whole identity becomes an extension of their child's.

Women are defined by their parenting skills in a way that men are not. A mother's self-worth is based on how beautiful, how clever or how well behaved her child is compared with other children.

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If you have a good child, then by extension, you're a good mother, which is synonymous with being a good person.

But if your child is a screamer, then, no matter what you might have previously accomplished in your life, you are deemed a failure.

If we mothers could take the pressure off ourselves and accept that we are all doing the best we can in often difficult circumstances, then perhaps we'd all be a little less insecure and therefore a little less judgmental of each other.

And then just maybe the sisterhood of mothers could give each other a pat on the back instead of a knife.

- Daily Life


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