Who wants to sit around and talk about nappies and gripe water anyway?

Mini-mister is six months old. He can roll, squeal like a dolphin for 40 minutes at a time and blow raspberries, he has two teeth and a wonderfully silly sense of humour and he likes to play with his feet. In the time he has made these great strides in becoming a more fully functioning person, his mother has bombed out of two coffee groups.

I just can’t handle the competition, the back-handed compliments and the nastiness. You think you’re going to a cosy gathering of like-minded women to eat cupcakes and laugh about those people who throw themselves in front of you when you go to the Warehouse, trying to convince you take your baby to Pixie Photo. But there’s a hidden agenda at work, and you just end up feeling bad about yourself and wonder what the heck happened to sisterhood.

The straw that broke this mummy’s back: a conversation about bananas.

I hauled myself to the last coffee group meeting I will ever bother with after three nights in a row of sleeping hi-jinks. Mini-mister had been up five times the night before. And the night before that. And the night before that. And had performed the same trick several times in the preceding week. I was so tired that my eyeballs hurt and I couldn’t remember really basic stuff, like where I left the keys. I thought if anyone would understand my situation it would be other new mothers.

So when I turned up at the coffee thing 45 minutes late, I explained the sleeping debacle and waited for the comforting tide of sympathy to wash over me. Nothing. Then the woman seated next to me said, “And I thought my baby was bad.”

This is classic coffee group behaviour—the sneaky put down cloaked in commiseration. You don’t realise what it is until the moment has passed and it’s too late to respond. So you take a fortifying gulp of coffee and put your baby on the play mat in the middle of the room and wait for him to be judged.

And let me just say, Mini-mister is not bad, folks. He’s a baby.

Not to be bowed, and in a slightly desperate way, it must be said, I told a little story about how Mini-mister rolls from his back to his front and his front to his back but his father has never seen it and is starting to wonder if I’m just making it up, tee hee. Not an anecdote I could use on Letterman, but hey, I was tired and making an effort to be friendly and it had to be at least as interesting as the interrogation another mum was subjected to concerning where she got her baby’s non-branded nappies.

Turns out Mini-mister was the only roller in the group as well as the only possessor of teeth. Genius, I know. This seemed to have ticked one mum off who wanted to know how I was sure he could roll.

“Um, well, I’ve seen it,” I said, wondering what sort of evidence she required. Mini-mister was at that moment reaching for a teething ring and happily settled on his back.

She remained unconvinced, giving him a look that seemed to say, “You don’t look quite bright enough to roll, buddy.”

And then came the bananas bit.

Having the only baby with teeth, I was asked what he was eating. Solids once a day, I said. Apple, pear, carrot, pumpkin, kumara, mango, banana....

“Banana?” asked one mum. “You have to be careful with banana. You can’t give a baby a banana like you or I would eat, you have to give them a really ripe one, or they can get sick.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I said, “I give him banana from a jar. He doesn’t eat much, so I haven’t started pureeing food for him yet.”

She looked deeply unimpressed.

“That just seems like too much work right now,” I explained.

And she replied, “What, it’s too hard to mash a banana?”

Meeeoow. I know, right? This shit is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s, to quote Miss Gwen Stefani.

I laughed it off by half-pie admitting that, yes, I am so crap I can’t even manage to mash a banana. Ha ha. But I was actually really mad. What does it matter where his food is coming from as long as it’s nutritionally sound? And what business is it of hers whether I make my own food or buy endless jars of expensive goop from the supermarket? I mean, who cares?

When I take Mini-mister to see people whose opinion matters, like his doctor and the *Plunket nurse, they say he is flourishing. He is happy, healthy, and cute as a button mushroom.

I don’t understand why other mothers have to express a negative opinion about him, and about my mothering skills. My standard response to anyone else’s baby is, “Oh, isn’t he/she beautiful. Just beautiful.” I don’t think there is anything else you need to say.

I told my husband later and he provided the perfect comeback: “You should have told her you don’t puree food because you don’t love your baby as much as she loves her baby.”

* Speaking of dear old Plunket, they have just released a new fundraising CD, Merry Christmas Baby, featuring local musos like Jordan Luck and Hollie Smith. Nice option for when you can't bear to hear Bing's White Christmas again.

Comments (5)

by Bonnie Robinson on November 08, 2009
Bonnie Robinson

I also am a coffee group drop out. When I had my first child (13 years ago now), I was promised, by media, the women's mags I read at the dentists, and some kind of absorbed mothering mythology, that my days at home wold be rich with new friendships, forged through the shared bonds of supportive mothers groups... Instead I discovered the Olympic sport I called "Mother-up-ship".  The coffee groups were either deathly boring, even to the sleep deprived mind (I mean theres is only so much discussion of nappies one can take), or viciously compeitive "My child has been sleeping through the night since before he was born...".  After a while I realised everyone was lying through their teeth about the acheivements, especially the nocternal ones, of their little darlings. But that was it for me. I went back to my job in political lobbying - much more supportive,friendly and way less compteitive!!!

Of course it does not end with babies. Wait, there's more, especially if you live in Auckland. It's called, school and  "Parental Involvement in the life of the school." I am a drop out from that as well. Its mother-up-ship with bells on. Take my advice, make a mental note to stay out of that one before you even get there.

by Eleanor Black on November 09, 2009
Eleanor Black

Bonnie, I find it so depressing and hilarious that you found political lobbying to be a more supportive arena than mothering! Ugh. I can't even bear to think about school--I get so many stories already about competitive school-gate nonsense and general mean spiritedness. And then there are the hobby groups to contend with--the dancing mothers and rugger mums. It sounds to me like a lot of mothers revert to their high school personas when they encounter other mums for some bizarre reason.

by Elaine on February 21, 2010

Reading your article made my day. I was feeling depressed after attending a party with my daughter. I felt like an outcast - the odd one out. After all, some of us just do not fit in the coffee group category. And it is alright not to be one.  

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