The other day I was in one of my favourite cafes, and discovered the ear-splitting screamer was back. On his second painful (quite literally, it hurt my ears) squeal, when I physically jumped in pain (and he was a good three or so metres away) I saw his mother had noticed my cringe. Since the first screech, I had been keeping a surreptitious eye on the mother and her friend. I noticed that the mother spent a lot of time chastising the child, pulling him onto her lap to tell him to stop screaming (you can just hear the child thinking “yes, it worked!”), and chasing after him. Her friend sat alone at the table, with her little boy of the same age chomping happily and quietly through a muffin. I’ve been that friend – not with a hungry little boy of course – but I’ve been that friend who sits trying not to look fed up, unable to have any adult conversation with the mother, wondering why I bothered. We all have.
As infertile women, we find this kind of situation intensely isolating. We’re reminded of what we don’t have, and we find it painful and isolating to spend the entire meeting talking about the child. Or we see a group of women with their kids out at a playground or a cafe (preferably one with a kids’ playground, or at least with toys and books) , and we feel completely left out of the club.
But recently, I realised that I’m not sure how deeply I have ever considered how it might feel to be one of the mothers in the club. Kait on Pictures & Print wrote an honest and thoughtful post about the isolating nature of parenthood. I found it fascinating to see this from the other side. That parents are just as frustrated with the lack of adult company, the fact that real connections – when there is a toddler in tow – are difficult to make, that their precious time with a friend seems to be squandered. We sit there judging ourselves harshly, feeling isolated, feeling less than. But so do the parents – or some of them at least - it seems. And so I’m going to try to be more understanding in the future. (Not that I’m likely to be around too many toddlers – well, not until the next generation starts reproducing.)