Thursday, 23 January 2014

Scared Of Toddler Groups

It would be pretty fair to say that in the area I live I stand out a little. I have changed very much over the years, had pretty much every hair colour you can think of and I used to have quite a few facial piercings. I don't consider myself extreme. This morning I read this post over on Chubby Vegan Mom that really resonated with me.

You see I hate how judgmental people can be, and yes I know there is always the argument that if I didn't want the negative attention I shouldn't have changed my appearance to being with - but I'd like to live in a world where people are free to make their own informed choices in life.
The most recent comment I received was whilst at the park yesterday playing with my daughter. 'You look quite normal until you get close up'- in what world is that an acceptable thing to say to somebody? I suppose in some kind of distorted way this might be slightly true - these days my hair is closest to it's natural colour it has been in years and if I happen to have my tattoos covered up I don't have anything else that is instantly noticeable, but it's always the ears they see first. I'll be happily chatting to another parent and I might have my hair tucked behind one ear - they'll suddenly stop mid sentence and almost yell, "Oh my God, you've got massive holes in your ears - doesn't that hurt?".

Me Whilst Pregnant

You see I really don't mind if people ask serious questions because they genuinely don't know something, but yelling is just rude. What is even worse is when the parent I've been happily chatting to before now eyes me in a suspicious way and finds an excuse to move away from me, or stop talking to me. It happens everywhere - the park, soft play, in coffee shops - only people don't seem to be brave enough to do it when Mr B is with me, just when I'm with my daughter. 

Just as Chubby Vegan Mom said in her post, I've also been asked (by complete strangers) if I want to be a good example to my daughter. I think this is the most upsetting thing a stranger has ever said to me, I like to think anybody that knows me would never have to ask a question like that. I am always polite to people who are rude to me. I state that I am a good example to her, then get myself out of that situation. You see the thing is, despite what misguided opinions people may form about me from my appearance I AM A GOOD EXAMPLE. With the help of Mr B we've achieved a lot. I have a good education & degree, come from a loving family, we own our home, I'm a stay at home mom by choice (not because I can't find a job like some people imply - I actually gave up my job to be with my daughter), I play and read to her, I'm a caring & loving person, Mr B has a fantastic career, I make sure my daughter feels loved, I make vegan cake for friends, we have a normal family life and do things normal families do - holidays, days out and quality time together.

I grew up in a big city and as a result became pretty worldly at a young age. You had to watch out for other kids who might be trying to steal your bike, or be careful not to get mugged going to buy tip tops at the corner shop. Despite the downsides of city living - I still love that place, but I'm also really glad that we now live in a small and pretty market town. We are extremely lucky that there are good schools, pretty parks and generally nice neighbors.

So why am I scared of toddler groups? I'll be honest in that I haven't been to any since Small was around 11 months old. We tried free classes at our local children's centre, NCT run classes, Baby sensory and Baby signing. Some were more enjoyable than others, but all included some kind of disaster or encounter with somebody rude that I then had to see week after week. So we stopped going and I started making our own fun instead. We go to National Trust properties and explore the great outdoors and frequently go to soft play, museums, parks and Small goes to a creche for a couple of hours sometimes. In fact we'll go out and find something fun to do almost every day.

The downside of this is that I haven't made any 'mummy friends' - not a single one. I guess I just haven't hit it off with anybody I've happened to meet so far - but it does get a little lonely not knowing anybody else with kids who lives close by. My oldest friends don't have kids, so I try not to be the 'crazy mummy' friend who just talks about her child and nappies the whole time. 
You see there are downsides to living in a 'small & pretty market town' too. At 27 I wouldn't class myself as a 'young mother' - I think that's kind of average - yet that's what I've been classed as around here. Most other mum's I meet are at a different place in their lives to me - they're 35 - 40 and have had more time to work on careers. I'm not saying that age is any barrier to friendship - I have friends of all ages - but they seem to look down on me and I've even been asked by a few why I choose to have a family 'so young'! If you take my age, my slightly usual appearance and then throw veganism in the mix - it seems to be all too much for people. As I was 25 when I became pregnant it was even suggested to me that I should go to special classes and parenting courses for teenage and young mothers by children's center staff I'd never met before based purely on my age and appearance. I'm glad they exist for those who need them, but I'm not one of those people.

So why am I writing about this now? I've decided it's time to give toddler groups a go. I am pretty scared, but trying to keep on open mind. I've picked one out I think that Small might enjoy - I want her to socialise more with other children as she really loves it. Wish me luck!


  1. Babe talk about babies and nappies all you like I still love you xxx

  2. Oh you SO need to come and live in Glastonbury xx

  3. Good luck! I'm shocked that strangers can be so rude as to question your parenting just because you have piercings and tattoos! I don't have any children yet but I do worry about being criticised for raising a vegan child and people thinking me and partner are weirdos....

  4. I can't believe people would be so rude to you, that's awful! These other parents are setting an awful example for their kids. If I saw you at a local toddler group I would make a beeline for you, and not so I could shout about your ears! Good luck at the toddler groups. I'm sure you will find some nice mums eventually, there must be others in the same boat! And I get the young mum thing too, so annoying. X

  5. Hello! Just stumbled upon this post after looking for recipe inspiration for Theo and I. How are you getting on with toddler groups? We go to one on a Monday which has been a godsend. I have mummy friends but all of them live a little way away from me so most of the time it's me and Theo hanging out together, which I love but do find myself wishing friends lived within walking distance. I would totally go on softplay play dates with you guys if we lived near by (hope that doesn't sound creepy). Oh, and I can't believe people are so rude to you. I'd love to have the courage to dress how I'd like to. Instead, I just look standard and boring.