Universal between parents is the energy expended in trying to get baby to sleep. Whether it be rocking, bouncing on a ball, playing music, patting and shushing (naturally or via an app.), driving until a sleep-induced state is achieved, we are all aiming for the same end game. I was reminded of this recently when flying 14 hours across the Pacific with my husband, parents, and three young children in tow. (‘Look!’ I said to my husband, while bustling through Melbourne airport, ‘there’s a mum with three kids. It’s not just us!’)
On board the flight, during the superficially created night-time, along the same row of seats was a Muslim mother rocking a toddler to her own brand of shushing; a cyclical flow of air. The sound was unique to her, in the way that a mother can identify her own baby’s cry. Hour after hour, this mother persisted, rocking and shushing by the window, rocking and shushing by the aisle, that same rise and fall of air like a clothes dryer spinning round and round. I grew accustomed to the sound, it became almost like another natural sound of the plane. I think part of me appreciated this mother’s struggle. It made my struggle easier to endure. Her struggle was my struggle.
One of my girlfriends, also recently became a mother of three. When we last caught up I told her how hard I was finding things in that joking kind of way people admit hard truths. Her response was ‘Yeah, I’m really sorry to hear that, but…‘ and then proceeded to share her own struggle. There was a definite sense of relief. In that kind of did anyone else not do their homework? illogical self-reassurance, we both felt better about our situation.
I’ve been reading Lily Brett’s New York. There is a section about women, about how women don’t help other women. ‘…we won’t share anything that might help to put another female ahead of us.’This was published in 2001. I wanted to believe this trend was outdated.
A few months ago, at playgroup a whole wave of new mums came through the door. Although I have grown quite fond of playgroup, I didn’t feel at ease. There were so many new faces. I was introduced to another mum, also a teacher. I explained I was on maternity leave but had picked up some casual-relief teaching. She expressed an interest in this kind of work, having found two days permanent part-time too much. Never had I been able to secure a load of just two days.
‘Where have you been doing CRT?’ she asked. ‘Just locally,’ I replied. ‘Any schools in particular?’ she pressed. The conversation went on like this for some time, me like a politician at question time, refusing to give the names of the schools I had managed to forge a relationship with.
Then it was time for the children to wash their hands before snack.