We think we have all the mod cons, but none of them can replace the power of a helping hand when we need one

When my daughter Millie Valentine pulled the top of my dress down in the middle of a toddler tantrum, exposing my naked boob to all the diners in the shopping centre food court, I knew I had hit mothering rock bottom. It didn’t help that I squealed in shock, practically inviting an entire audience of fast food eaters to look up and cop an eyeful. As quick as it was uncovered I scooped it up and shoved it back from whence it came while my face turned bright pink.

My normally perfect 17-month-old now refuses to sit in a pram or trolley, preferring to do what she is aptly named for at the moment and that is toddle around and say hello to everyone who looks at her and those who don’t. When I try to shove her into the safe confines of any vehicle she screams as if I am pulling her toenails out one by one.

On the day of the boob flash I was navigating a heavy trolley overflowing with groceries through chairs and tables with one hand while wrangling her writhing body on my hip with the other. Normally mothers are awesome like that. Doing two of the most difficult things you can do in the world at once, direct a wonky shopping trolley and hold still a wriggling child. It’s a challenge of Olympic proportions but that day I was far from winning gold, especially not by wearing a pretty blue dress with a flimsy shoulder strap. Note to self, wear more suitable ‘mummy clothes’ when doing mummy things.

Then, like a prince on a horse emerging through thick fog to rescue his fair maiden, the trolley collector walked over to me and politely asked if I needed help. I tried to hand him the wailing child but he wisely chose to push the trolley all the way to the car and then help me unload it while I continued to pull out my child’s toenails…I mean strap her into her car seat so that the nightmare could end.

When both were done I thanked him profusely for his kindness, asked his name so I could let the centre know they had employed a total gentleman and drove away still flushing at the thought of my first foray into stripteasing…mummy style. Sure, I know I breastfed for a short time but it is different when you are exposed for a worthwhile cause.

Reflecting on the embarrassment with my mother I lamented that I would be willing to pay a small fee to have that sort of service offered to me regularly, someone to simply push my trolley to the car so I could shop with dignity. My mum replied with: “In Nana’s day the grocer would have done that, without expecting payment. And, in my day, you didn’t have to pump your own petrol and then have the dilemma of leaving the kids in the car while you pay. I think things are a lot harder on mums these days, Em.”

And boom, there it was, acknowledgement that life isn’t getting easier. I mean, on paper it sounds like it should be. We have disposable nappies so we don’t spend all day washing, formula that is nutritious so if we can’t breastfeed our babies are still healthy, pre-made food and packet mixes so we don’t spend all day slaving over a hot stove and we have cars and the internet so we don’t feel so isolated.
I could go on and on about all the innovations mothers now have and yet all those things don’t make up for what we have lost. A human helping hand.