This isn’t mum shaming — it’s mum hatred
ONE afternoon at my daughter's previous primary school, I was in the playground waiting for the bell when the stampede of little feet grew louder as boys and girls broke free from the classroom.
I saw my six-year-old in the distance and waded forward through the crush of backpacks and shrieks until I found her standing next to her teacher.
As I enveloped my daughter in our customary rib-crushing hug, the teacher looked at me shamefully.
"Oh, you're her mum," Mrs Judgment said.
"We never see you around here. Guess your career keeps you busy", the word "career" said dripping with condescension, suggesting I spent my days getting mani-pedis at the expense of my daughter's intellectual and physical development.
Notwithstanding the inaccuracy of her comment, the ignorance of her scornful remark took my breath away.
Rather than deliver a weapons-grade response that no doubt would upset my daughter (and, potentially, set her up for passive aggressive punishment for the rest of the term), I clip-clopped away quickly in my heels while hoping the little girl swinging my hand and chatting merrily did not notice the hot and furious tears pricking my eyes.
I felt that contempt again this week when I heard that Deb Knight, a very likeable and industrious journalist and dedicated mum, was being skewered by trolls for "working too much".
For a moment, just consider how ludicrous that idea is. We are talking about a talented woman and mum in good health and in demand effectively making hay while the sun shines in a fickle industry.
And, more to the point, enjoying herself and finding worth in her chosen field. This used to be thought of the very definition of fulfilment.
Her colleague and friend, 2GB host Ben Fordham - a working dad himself - said that when he popped his head into the studio to say hi, Knight was examining her phone and wearing a resigned expression.
"I could sense something was going on," Fordham told this newspaper and later his listeners.
"So I said to Deb what's happening. And she said, I'm just dealing with trolls. Then I said, What do you mean? What are they trolling you about?"
I waited for the rest of the anecdote and suspected I knew what was coming next.
"And the thing that they were trolling Deb about really knocked my socks off," Fordham continued, "because it's exposed a double standard when it comes to people working hard who also happen to have children. Deb explained to me that she was being trolled by people on social media for working too hard."
There you have it - damned if you do and damned if you don't if you are a working mum.
Fordham continued: "No one's ever said to me are, 'Are you dodging your dad responsibilities because you're working too hard?' But it seems to me that when it's a woman, that's what is flung their way."
Let me be clear - if you are a mum who works or doesn't work it should make no odds to anyone else.
I don't know the size of your mortgage or you school, grocery, utility and credit cards bills so parent how you see fit. Your life, your kids.
Likewise, if you don't know me personally, I do not want your unsolicited multifarious advice. You're not winning if you are a stay at home mum and I'm not losing because I work full time.
How can it be that if you work too hard, you are neglecting your children or is it in fact that you are pushing yourself to provide the best financial future for your family? It's the epicentre of parenting, as instinctive as feeding them.
And there can be no doubt. What is most fundamental role in life - a mother - is now the role most vilified, humiliated and judged by society.
Giving birth juggernauts women into a life full of criticism as the voices pile in.
But to call it mum shaming is disingenuous.
It is mum hatred, like a sick gladiatorial sport, a thrill kill to mum psyches.
The school gate is sort of Rome Colosseum of judgey mothers who might as well be carrying poison-dipped spears but to what end?
By shaming mums and nit picking everything from breastfeeding to school lunches, we are devaluing the very essence of life and there are no winners there.
All I need to consider is whether I am making the right choice for me and my family
I was yelled at during canteen duty once because I ordered the wrong sushi from the local cafe. I was "so busy with my job" (I had a day off incidentally), so that's why I mucked up and the world ended. Lobotomised by my career apparently.
That's just one example and I know if you are a mum, who works, you have many more similar tales.
We expect women to work like they don't have children and raise children like they don't work or so the clichéd wisdom goes.
But that's not the issue.
The shamers are more often than not other women, the sancti-mummies who have made the choice (and can thanks to having the financial means) to stay at home with their kids.
We don't need to be told what we do or chose is wrong or how we should have done it better.
So much for the sisterhood. Take it as a badge of honour, Deb, if they have rejected you.
Louise Roberts is executive editor at The Daily Telegraph.