Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Mummy Monster

I have only just discovered that there is real competitiveness and judgment amongst mums, about what your baby’s name is, how your baby sleeps, eats, crawls, walks, poos, looks, interacts etc. I have spent the last 6 months in a blissful little bubble of naïveté. Ever since this bubble burst, and I have realised that everything I say about Betty, there are often judgments or comparisons being made, I have become hyper-sensitive to it, and haven’t been able to relax when talking to other parents I have never met before. I have been too scared to engage in any kind of conversation which is even remotely baby-related, for fear of appearing smug, or defensive.

This fear started after a liaison I had with another mother at the village hall playgroup last Wednesday, which almost pushed me over the edge and made me want to runs for the hills…

Betty and I enter the village hall at 9.15am. Betty is wearing her little khaki combat trousers and a red and white striped top. We go and sit next to a lady who introduces herself as Sandra, and her eight-month-old baby Jade. First off, Sandra asks me what my baby is called. I tell her that her name is Betty. ‘BETTY’ she bellows in total shock. She then thinks for a few seconds (she obviously can’t bring herself to lie and say that she likes the name) and says: ‘Well as long as YOU like the name that’s all that matters.’ I feel like telling her that Trevor (worst driver in the world) almost got clobbered by my husband a few weeks ago for handing him an article from the Daily Mail showing the top 20 baby names of 2006 and said: ‘Here is some idea of what you SHOULD have called your daughter’. My husband was extremely offended, not only because he can’t stand the Daily Mail, but also because surely a name in the top 20 baby names of 2006 is a reason NOT to name your baby one of them. Instead I tell Sandra that Jade is now a very ‘popular’ name and that she won’t have any problems finding door plaques, mugs, pens, toothbrushes etc with her name on them. She looks chuffed about this and then gives Betty a sympathetic look, as if to say ‘poor little you’.

Sandra then goes on to ask me if I’d considered the bullying and picking-on that Betty will endure when she starts school because of her ‘unusual’ name, and have I prepared myself for the fact that Betty will end up hating me for giving her this name. To which I just smile, and tell her that I certainly hoped that Betty wouldn’t get picked on at school (by Jade probably), and that if she hates her name that much she could change it. I feel like telling her that we hoped to raise Betty in such a way that she will become a very creative, open-minded, and imaginative little girl who will hopefully love us for giving her an interesting and pretty name. But I keep my mouth shut.

Sandra then starts eyeing Betty’s outfit. She asks me why ‘my baby’ (she can’t even bring herself to say ‘Betty’) isn’t wearing any shoes. I tell her that I don’t see the point as she is only 6 months old and can’t walk yet. I notice that Jade’s little podgy feet have been squeezed into some really uncomfortable-looking shiny red shoes and lacey pink socks. ‘They’re pretty little socks,’ I say to Jade. I am lying. Sandra then asks me why I have dressed Betty like a boy. I tell her that I didn’t realise I had. She says: ‘My advice is: always go for pink, then there is no mistaking that she is a girl’. I tell her that I would bear this in mind. I feel like telling her that if I’d wanted her advice I would have asked for it, and that I wouldn’t take advice off someone who dresses their baby like a bloody doll anyway. The conversation about baby clothes goes on and on. Sandra is appalled that I buy some of Betty’s clothes from supermarkets and car boot sales, and that they don’t all come from Mothercare. For my own amusement I ask her when she is getting Jade’s ears pierced. To which she proudly lifts up the pink furry flaps of Jade’s hat to reveal two little gold studs.

It is now 9.30am. I have just had 15 minutes of torture. In this time Sandra has also managed to fit in remarks about how Betty is not able to sit on her own yet, how Betty doesn’t smile much (Betty smiles all the time, just not at idiotic women), and how it would be better to start giving her formula instead of breastfeeding her now that she is six months. I am desperately trying to work out a polite way to get the hell out of there. Thinking on my feet (which I’m not very good at) I tell her that I am actually feeling quite tired (tired with her), and that I am going to go home. Sandra gives me a sympathetic look and says: ‘Ahh, the little ‘un not sleeping through the night yet?’

At this point I am worried that I am about to have a massive freak-out in the middle of the hall. I feel like saying: ‘Yes, Betty does sleep through the night actually, and has done for months, and no I don’t put holes into my baby’s ears and cause her unnecessary pain, and I would never buy one of those awful cheap plastic personalised door plaques (even if the name ‘Betty’ was on every single god damn one), and pink fluff… yuk yuk yuk, and plonking your 8 month old baby in front of those weird teletubbie characters for hours on end wrong wrong wrong, and yes I do still breastfeed my baby instead of giving her some disgusting artificial animal milk - surely HUMAN milk is best for a HUMAN baby, and Sainsbury do some very cute little baby clothes, without those ridiculous glittery slogans plastered all over them and that in fact most of Betty’s clothes come from Gap and H&M, and no Betty can’t sit up completely on her own yet, but she can feed herself with a spoon, which in my book is pretty advanced... BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH…’

But I just smile, and as calmly as I can, walk out of the hall, with my nervous waddling walk. Later, fuming, I realise that Sandra not only made me snap, but she has turned me into the most evil, judgmental and competitive mother EVER!


Anonymous said...

You were trying to stay polite? You have tons more patience than I do! I'd have snapped at "Sandra" bigtime. And kudos to you for not treating your little girl as a doll.

jenny said...

The Sandras of the world can make life pretty miserable for moms like us. I would have been like you, politely excused myself but then fume the rest of the way home.

I had dressed my first girlie in red and blue when she was about 6 mos. and everyone assumed she was a boy. I thought it was the cutest outfit and in fact it was in the girl's section, but because of the colors.... I happen to not like ruffles and lace, and I dont dress my girls in them either. They have all grown into dress-loving little girls, so there is no mistaking them now. No matter how much I push shorts and tops on them, they snub their noses and go to the closet for a dress. sigh..

Your Betty is perfect and dont ley any Sandra tell you otherwise!

Sparx said...

OH. MY. GOD!!!! You have the patience of a saint. I HATE this sort of behaviour and it's totally rampant. I have an agreement with my Mum friends that we're all allowed to boast to each other without judgement but we can judge anyone else for boasting to us as much as we want.

And, I have to say that I love the name 'Betty' - I have a favourite Great Aunt called Betty. We were considering 'Elizabeth' if the Spud had been a girl as there are so many lovely contractions. We thought we were doing so well with 'Charlie' as a good solid old-fashioned name but it's in the top 20 and we're SO upset!

Anyway, this post made me seethe in sympathy for you. And laugh - I posted something similar when the spud was younger and also had a rant about frilly socks... loads of our clothes are hand-me-downs from friends (ooh, have you tried eBay for second-hand clothes? Dangerous.)

I reckon this hits a nerve among a lot of Mums...

jAMiE said...

Gosh Elsie, i think i'd have handled the situation the same were it me...but it would be that i wouldn't be strong enough to speak my mind... but she sure had it coming.

I bet Betty looked darling in her little outfit i love khaki combat pants...very cute and i love the name Betty...i think its a cute name and is also the name of one of my favourite Aunts.

Kudos to you for being so patient...Betty is a happy baby because you are so patient, don't let mothers like Sandra change you in any way.

DJ Kirkby said...

No baby should have anything more than socks on their feet until they start to cruise!

I felt so sorry for Saundra's little girl, why is our society seemingly so intent on encouraging age inappropriate dress? I have seen thongs on sale for 10 year olds, why would a 10 year old be worried about VPL? I worry that this is playing a part in the increasing numbers of young teenagers having babies of their own.

Betty is a really sweet name, I don't understand the problem with that, if children with names like Rain or Storm do not get bullied, why would Betty? It is children with low confidence levels that get bullied anyway and I think Betty is going to grow up strong, secure and confident as all get out!

I'm with Sparx on the second hand clothes (must be a Canadian thing), children grow out of them in 5 minutes. Why spend a fortune on whole new wardrobes when we could be indulging ourselves? Lol, that last bit WAS a joke, honest...but second hand clothes are great and number 3 son wears them happily and we buy him a few very trendy (Fat Face and the like) pieces to round out his clothes collection for each growth spurt.

Just read back over my rant and I do tend to go on a bit, sorry bout that. Keep up the good work, how on Earth did you manage not to shriek obsenities like a banshee at her?! I am sooo impressed with your reserve...

Stay at home dad said...

Lucky you didn't tell her your name!

She's creating a monster unfortunately... something that you're not doing. Sandra deserves sympathy. She is obviously wildly unconfident and insecure.

Anonymous said...

What a cow. And the ears were pierced. Horrendous.

My mum has a real thing for mounds and mounds of lace and frills on little girls - from the ribbons on their bald heads down to the socks they pull off when trying to put their feet in their mouths. I'm not such a fan myself.

Next time just be rude in a way which seems like you're being polite/ interested. That's the best way!

Jennifer said...

Amazing. My shock has already been expressed by the other comments, but... wow.

I agree with you on so many levels here. Amen to the top 10 names issue, as well. I grew up "Jennifer," and in the US it was the most popular name for around 4 years, so all my schoolmates were Jennifers and Jessicas. I would have LOVED to have a name that was unique. (I would have never named my daughter Victoria if it hadn't been in honor of her grandmother, I assure you. Even at that it was difficult.)

darth sardonic said...

elsie, quiet frankly, this kinda shite pisses me off! lol. i wanted to name my kids hillel and kiev, no shit, honest-to-god. they should thank their lucky stars they've got hte mom they do. and i dress them in thrift store clothes constantly (some of which are name brand that i saved a gaggle of money on) cause "hillel" and "kiev" are just gonna fuck them up anyhow. and my kids were breastfed until they weened themselves at 8 months. so sod her, i guess, is what i am saying. you're a perfectly cool mom and she is a twit. can "git" be used for females as well?

Unknown said...

hi everyone, thanks so much for all your support and kind words! glad it's not me going mad! i wonder if sandra will be there next time i go... will keep you posted! elsie

Livvy U. said...

Dear Elsie, it was a shock to me, too, realising that mothers - parents? - I'm not sure if it's only women or it dads do it too - divide into 2 camps: those who compete, and those who are desperate to bond and share with other mums and want to share the knowledge they have gained for helpful, not spiteful, purposes.

It took me some time to get the confidence to just... walk away when this happens. Or of course you can play the game, once you realise what's happening, but it does leave a nasty feeling in the mouth.

I wonder if you mentioned your surname... Betty Button is even more glorious in my book than Elsie Button!!

I love your different, refreshing, honest and loving take on the world. Don't change.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, is this for real? This is abuse. You could sue and get some compo.

Keep going! Don't let them grind you down!!

Cathy said...

Doesn't Jonathan Ross have a daughter called Betty Kitten or something? Perhaps pointing out that famous people have chosen the name might have given you more kudos with that silly woman!