Hayley Matthews: A special hell for mums who throw punches in softplay

I witnessed something recently that's really made me think about how we treat each other. I'm talking specifically about women.
Given the world we live in, women need to have each others' backsGiven the world we live in, women need to have each others' backs
Given the world we live in, women need to have each others' backs

With all the #MeToo stories floating about, I believe we need to stand by each other more than ever. And by the way, on the #MeToo front, mine will come out one day, blowing the whistle on the sexist, 1920s, opinionated chauvinists that I’ve worked with over the last 20 years, but first I need to build a nest egg and go into ­hiding first. However, back to looking out for our fellow women, and The Incident.

It was the last week of the school holidays, we were in softplay and ­everyone with kids seemed to be on edge. You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.

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Suddenly, a young mum darted across the softplay, shouting and screaming obscenities towards another mum with a child. ­Everyone gathered round, punches were flying and the staff then stepped in. It was truly awful. Finger salutes were given, evil stares were given and ­everyone watched on in horror. The thing that upset me the most was the kids crying, watching on while taking shelter as their mums continued to holler.

I appreciate we’re protective beings when it comes to our kids, but aren’t we actually doing more harm by showing them that this is how to treat others? I don’t know what had happened but I’m guessing it wasn’t Kim Jong Un material – no missiles were fired. I’m more than sure that with a little understanding and respect for each other, the issue could have been settled with a smile so the kids could carry on playing nicely.

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If kids see the parents flipping the bird at each other, then they’re not going to bother being nice to fellow playmates are they? Who knows what was going on underneath the tip of the mum ‘iceberg’. They could have been having a ­terrible week, maybe they were exhausted, or just juggling the many things that parents do. I felt sorry for the two women. I’m not judging, quite the opposite, as this is where I think it all goes wrong.

Too often we think we all know best, and look down our snooty noses in the playground, in softplay, in the park at those women who we tell ­ourselves that we’re much better than, all while giving the impression that we’re winning at life. The only person those people are cheating is themselves. Let’s be honest with the women around us, let’s listen to each other, talk to each other, reach out and offer support, instead of putting on a front while our internal dialogue repeats “Gosh, you’d never catch me doing that”. Let’s have each other’s backs.

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Oprah Winfrey’s inspirational Golden Globes speech, and hearing about Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks fighting for justice during the US Civil Rights struggle, made realise how strong the female will is. Just think of how much better the world would be if all that will and strength united. Think of the magnificent generation we’d be raising. But we need to support our fellow women instead of throwing a punch – and then being cheered on by the onlookers.

So, I’ll leave you with my favourite quote of all time. Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State, once said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” And I’m on a mission to sniff them all out!