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Monday, 29 April 2013

How I met the witch, almost got arrested and started a blog



Imagine a woman, standing outside, fighting with her extremely cute little girl to stay in the stroller. There’s another baby in the back of the double stroller, luckily sleeping soundly while her sister kicks, screams and pumps her arms.

You see her. What would you do? How would you react? Would you have sympathy, ask whether she needs help, or would you judge?

Almost exactly two years ago, I am that woman. And, unfortunately for me, the Woman in the Black Dress chooses the latter. She suddenly materializes before me. I never saw her coming. I only see her when she asks: “Are you the babysitter?”.

I stand straight. Even though my girl is having her first full-blown temper tantrum, I am still proud mom. “No”- I say, and even manage a smile- “I am the mom”.

The smile soon disappears from my face when I hear what she is saying: “I saw you from my window. You are abusing your child.” My heart stops for a moment. I manage to tell her to mind her own business and hope she will go away.

She doesn’t. Instead, she says: “I am going to call the police. You are abusing your children. No child should behave that way. My children never did!”. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. The police??? I hope she doesn’t mean it, but she gets her phone out of her bag and dials.

She speaks on her phone, in Dutch (which I didn’t speak then), and then she tells me that the police will be here shortly. By this time I am trembling and am close to tears. No, actually I am standing there, crying. Klara notices my confusion and suddenly stands still.

I call my husband and he can’t believe me. He says that that woman is just trying to threaten me. “No”- I say “she actually is calling the police right now”. My husband promises to be there in a few minutes.
In a stroke of luck, the ladies from daycare are getting ready to to go home. They are tired after a whole day with a bunch of children. They see me crying and ask what happened. I tell the story, and they are absolutely shocked by this woman’s behaviour.

-“Do you have children on your own?- they ask her.

- “Yes. I have adult children, and they have never behaved like that. Never. And children need to be protected.”

The nannies from daycare look at her. She is standing there, hands on her hips, in a triumphant gesture. She tells the ladies that I am a young mother (I am petite and never wake makeup, and look younger than I am), and that I need professional help- a shrink.

The nannies tell her in return that she is very quick to judge, and that maybe she has forgotten that children this age do have temper tantrums. At this point, we present a unified front against her.

The police arrived, and with the nannies help, I tell my side of the story. She tells hers. The police don’t really know what to do, they write down my name and address, and tell me that the lady thinks I was too harsh on my child. The nannies vouch in my favour, telling the police that they know me and Klara really well, and that I would never hurt a child.

 My husband arrives, wants to talk to her, but she is gone. I swear I hear the sound of a flying broom hissing by. Klara is confused, Julia is still sleeping. The nannies bring juice for Klara and water for me.
Then the police leaves, the nannies go home. My husband takes Klara on his bike, I walk home with Julia, still shaking and in shock.

In the night, I can’t sleep. I toss and turn and think. The Woman in Black, or as I have started calling her, The Witch, has made a point: I did need help, but not the way she thought. I needed friends. I needed a support network of likeminded people. And, I needed a platform to vent and to tell my stories. In short, I needed a blog.

This happened almost exactly 2 years ago. I am still somewhat traumatized. But I contacted expats organizations and made friends quickly. I started a blog, got interviewed, my articles were published on several websites. I am now a happy, if not slightly sleep-deprived mom of three beautiful children. Klara continued to have temper tantrums but even they got better. With Julia, we applied for more daycare days, allowing me to rest and enjoy some time for myself.  In your face, Witch.

But I think I have to be thankful. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have met my wonderful friends. I wouldn’t have started this blog. I wouldn’t have dared to have a third child. Thank you, Witch! 




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26 comments:

  1. Olga, you made an incredibly traumatising experience! I think it's the biggest nightmare for a mum. And I might say that expat mums are much more vulnerable about those kinds of judgements, as they really often feel "alone". Calling the police was so inappropriate! I guess this person was a witch, one of the worse ones. I'm glad you write this brilliant blog but I wouldn't go so far saying that I thank this witch for it. – I think that you would have started a blog anyway. Let me add something that happened to me: in my case it was a friendly and gentle fairy who inspired me to start my blog. And you'll guess who it was: You ;-)

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    1. Thank you Ute for your kind comment. It was indeed a very traumatic experience and this is why it took me two years to write it down in detail, like I did now. And yes, expat women are vulnerable (especially 6 weekas after having a baby and faced with a full-blown temper tantrum that was really bad, I never had anything like that happen after that incident)...And the "thanks" for the witch were more of a tongue-in-cheek. Yes, I would probably have started a blog anyway, but it would have taken longer. I am glad to hear I was the fairy behind your blog, but you would also have started it anyway- and you're doing a great job! We need blogs like yours, with great advice and positive messages!

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  2. I was reading with big attention, like some thriller. "OMG what will happend next?" - but everything finished happily:) It had to be a really deep experience for You. I really admire You. I'm still scared to enlarge my family.
    Need to find some time (my English is basic, so really much, much more time I need) for reading Your blog from beginning :)
    Pozdrawiam :)

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    1. Welcome, Nina!And thank you for your comment. I am glad you like this story. I wrote it like that because this is exactly how I felt during this: "I can't believe this is happening" and "What happens next?". I was so scared! I will be happy if you read this blog from the beginning! Pozdrawiam!

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  3. Oh my gosh Olga! I simply cannot believe that a woman called the police on you. I think if she had done it to me she at least would have had a good reason - I would have attacked her!

    Too bad a house hasn't fallen on her head.

    And you're so right about the support network that writing a blog brings. I can't believe how many friends I've made, just because I started to write. It changed my life here in NL.

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    1. Thanks, Nerissa! Yes, I can't believe how much support I got just from sharing my stories- and how many friends, including yourself! I couldn't attack her because I was too busy crying...anyway as for the house, I am not sure about that I started calling her the witch before I watched "Wicked" and now I think that Witch (and especially not the wicked witch) is not even a good name for her, but it stuck! Anyway, she was too bored or something. I kind of can't stop thinking what would happen if I spoke Dutch then? Would she also have called the police?Probably not because it was only after she heared me speak English did she call the police...

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    2. I can only hope that noone will have to go through this! Noone deservs to have the police called on them like that.

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  4. They didn't call the police, but I was thoroughly verbally abused by three middle-aged to older women (also mothers of adult children who had forgotten what small children are really like) on the bus last year when they didn't feel I was responding sufficiently to my crying baby. They yelled at me until I got off the bus, saying it was child neglect and so on. It was public, unmerciful and awful.

    The truth is I had tried everything to settle him down, there was nothing more I could do, and I was nearly paralyzed with post-partum depression and concentrating on not jumping in front of the bus. I still can't understand why someone would look at that situation and jump straight to public shaming rather than wondering if everything was all right or offering some compassion. I was so shocked I couldn't even formulate sentences to defend myself beyond "leave me alone".

    I guess a lot of us may have similar experiences. It is unfortunate that people forget just how awful the early years can be, so you have people judging even more harshly because their children NEVER did that.

    I also think it's harder for us because surely most people living in their own home countries were never as isolated as we are? Most people have access to family members or other helpers for when the baby is fussy (or toddler is tantrumy) but the shopping still needs to be done. Not to mention parenting 30+ years ago was different than it is today. They can't possibly remember accurately what it was like for them or understand what it is like for us. Sigh. I still get upset thinking about that.

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    1. Oh my gosh, Melissa, I'm so sorry! This mus have been really traumatic for you! And especially with PPD, I can't imagine how terrible it must have felt to be told all these things! And speaking of PPD, social isolation and shaming can be the very triggers of it- which is why expat women are often at higher risk! I agree with all that you said- you will be most likely judged by moms who have adult children and forgot about the difficult early years, and by moms whose children are younger than yours (My baby will never do that)...not only was parenting diffenret 30 years ago, but in the case of expat women, there are also cultural differences betwene parenting styles and what can seem normal in one culture, can be seen as abuse in another... thank you so much for commenting and sharing!

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  6. Oh how horrible it is when others judge - especially when they don't have (young) children themselves and walk in without seeing the whole story!!!! I can't believe she called the police on you - and I would have been incredibly shaken too. Motherhood is a hard enough job without strangers making you wrongly feel like you have done something wrong.

    Wouldn't it be a nicer world if everyone stopped judging and offered to help instead!!!??

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    1. Thank you, Amanda! Yes, it would be nice and good if we all helped each other, but this is not always the case...What worries me, however, is how fast we forget this and are so quick to judge others...they have been though the same and yet they apss it on to new moms...I guess it's just a way to survive and we tend to forget painful situations. But maybe somehow it's better to remember so that others don't get to experience that, too?

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  7. Good Lawd .. the nerve of people. But on the upside, she made you reevaluate your life, and you made friends and started a blog and now here we are chatting right across the great Atlantic ... hello sweet new friend xxxx

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  8. Welcome, Nicole, and thank you for your comment! Yes, there is an upside, even though considering the intensity of this situation and the fact that it was so traumatic, it's a pretty high prize to pay. Anyway, the important thing is that I am now very happy and it's always hard to recognize when you need help. Greetings from the Netherlands, dear friend!

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  9. Oh my goodness, judging from the title I thought this was going to be humorous post! I'm so very sorry that you had to go through that - I can't even imagine what it must have felt like but I'm so glad that at the very least the nannies were there to stick up for you - of course you shouldn't have needed to stick up for yourself or justify why your daughter was behaving like a normal young child. I also started blogging to develop a community because I was feeling very isolated and alone - but thankfully I have no horror stories like yours. Some misunderstandings and advice I didn't always appreciate but nothing traumatic. I'm sorry you experienced this but I'm glad you are blogging.

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    1. Jody, I wish this would be a humorous post! I am glad this didn'r happen to you and I hope it never will! Of course, everybody had to deal with useless advice, but I really hope noone would have to deal with this...And thank you for your encouraging words about my blog- I really appreciate it!

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  10. Wow! What a traumatizing position to be in, especially when you're "the odd man out" in terms of not being from there, and not knowing the language very well. I would have been in tears, too! I also know how it feels to not "have friends", and I'm happy you turned a bad situation into a good one. You have a wonderful blog, and I'm glad to have met you through the multicultural group.

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  11. Frances, the pleasure is all mine! I can't believe how many great people I have met through our group-including yourself! I am very happy to have this support network now- both online and offline!

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  12. OMG! I can't believe that happened to you that this woman claimed kids shouldn't have tantrums then called the police. All kids have tantrums! She was the one who needed the shrink!! It is made all the more frustrating when you can't speak the language of the country--I have been in a few very difficult situations in various countries where I did not speak the language (luckily no incidents with my kids as that would have even been far worse), and the frustration level at not being able to communicate to defend myself was horrible. Even remembering those incidents gives me that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. So I know how you must have felt. But it's nice to see how out of terrible situations arise wonderful things- like your blog and the friends and connections you made!

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    1. Hello, Stephanie, thank you for your comment! I think I was unlucky and not speaking the language didn't help. I am glad all turned out good in the end! And the friends and connections are invaluable!

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  13. Oh, my heart was just aching reading this Olga. Don't we have enough on our plates beating ourselves up for our parenting decisions. This was just beyond the pale. But I'm so thankful you eventually rallied some allies to your side. Hopefully she went away thinking she over-reacting.

    Frankly, I started blogging for very similar reasons. Of course, no one accosted me, but I did get a lot of very strange looks when my toddler would through a fit in public (Kenyan kids tend not to) and people would ask me what was wrong with him. I felt so alone and disoriented and questioned almost everything I knew about parenting. And, you're right, having this blogging community is a real godsend. I'm glad I found you through it!!

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    1. Hi Kim, thanks for your input and I am also happy I found you and your blog! The nannies were very helpful and the police didn't think that I really hurt my child and I also think that she went away because she though that her cause was hopeless- especially when she saw that my husband also came to support me... I still can't believe there are people like that. My daughter's tantrum also came as a shock and I was even more confused. Luckily, she got much better now and I should tell it to every young mom who is going through a similar situation!

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  14. What a horrible woman!!! Well done you for turning such a negative into a positive :-)

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    1. Thank you, Kym! I am glad it worked out well, that's all! Glad you stopped by!

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  15. I'm glad you posted your experience - even as terrible as it was. Feeling isolated is bad enough, but then having someone judge you so extremely because of something relatively minor makes the experience that much worse. I've been reading your blog for a few months, but hadn't come across this post until today. It's good to know that we all have similar experiences and need the community of other expats to support us. I've had both sides of the experience. I've had people speak down to me (in the US and in the Netherlands) about my toddler son's behavior during a tantrum (and I'm sure because I look even younger than I am), telling me I need to learn to control/discipline him. I've also had an older Dutch woman "rescue" me by helping me get my son into his bike seat while throwing a "code-red" level tantrum. The experiences are difficult no matter the circumstances, but I'm glad you're wonderful blog developed out of your own experiences.

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    1. Hi Ace, thank you for your encouraging words and sorry for taking my time to comment. I usually found the Dutch extremely understanding when it comes to temper tantrums , I've never met a woman like her after that incident and I hope I never will. Loved your blog as well, will visit often!

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