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#sorrynotsorry written by Fi McQuay


A little while ago, I watched a mother push a pram down a narrow bumpy pavement (seriously council, clearly designed by childless town planners), struggling with her child, her toddler and her bag. Coming towards her was a very sharp looking business man (I called him Donald, blame the pinstripe), clearly in a hurry, trying to get to the train station on time. I was sitting in traffic trying not to look at my phone and I saw her panic. The child on the scooter, moving at pace hurtling towards her, the baby, not upset but not exactly enjoying the ride, the heavy backpack, the sleep deprived eyes, the overwhelming anxiety, the desperation just to reach the destination safely. The man in his expensive shoes, and perfectly combed hair, his panic at missing his train and his plans for the day ahead. 

There would have to be an impasse - one would have to step aside - the pavement was wide enough for one body, like a game of chicken, who would relent. I didn’t have to wait long, the mother shouting for her athlete toddler, desperate to stop him before he couldn’t hear her anymore. Him, hurtling over bumps in the pavement like it was parkour, he was pretty good. I watched as she managed to catch up with him at speed, her bag falling from her shoulders as her hand moved forward to grab him, pulled him to the side and whispered something urgently, probably a ‘please can you listen to me’, ‘this is a busy road’, ‘there’s someone coming’. His helmet half over his face, pulling away from her arm because she was fussing too much. The baby coming to a grinding halt and shouting for another apple biscuit, the previous one dropped enroute, catapulted into a pot hole but no one noticed. 

Donald approached, checking his apple watch, the train was due to come in and the level crossing would come down and we’d all be stuck staring at each other. Mum holding her backpack her wrestling desperate-to -lee toddler, her pram, her breath.  

He walked straight past her. Her hunched over, smaller than him. Taking up smaller surface area, smaller meaning. Like Gollum, the ring child that had fallen into her lap, small and wide eyed. Slightly manic and hairy. No time for Jolene or tweezers. Him straight, fast and unwaiveringly efficient. Not noticing her or her space she craved to reduce. 

Straight past her. Straight past her children, her body, her immediate sorry, her smile. Like she didn’t exist. Like she was completely invisible. Like she had been deleted from his course.

The worst part? She didn’t really react, she said sorry. SHE said sorry. She didn’t raise her eyebrows or exhale or shake her head.  She’d gotten in his way after all. His important way to do important things. She gathered her stuff, her kids, herself and carried on. Down the bumpy pavement, let her toddler go, following at pace, reaching in her pocket for more baby snacks, desperately hoping she’d get to her destination without someone having a meltdown. She disappeared out of my sight and I burst into tears. 


I’d had a day of apologising. I’d been scolded in the supermarket when my eldest child cried because I wouldn’t buy her sweets but I had to do the shop so she just followed me around crying. Just a tongue click by a lady in a floral dress. Sorry for interrupting your errands. 

I’d had a week of apologising. The doctor had told me that my (later diagnosed) endometriosis was just PMS, all women feel it, take some time for ‘me’, children are tiring. Oh and take the ibuprofen, it helps with the blood loss. Sorry for wasting your time. 

I’d had a month of apologising. ‘Hi, how are you? Oh, great and by the way I need to work could you have them for a sleepover? Sorry could I drop them off for a few hours, I’ll be quick. Could you take them for an afternoon . I have a dentist appointment, could you do a morning on Friday? What time do you finish work? I need some time. Thank you. Sorry. Please. I’m so grateful. Thanks emoji. No worries. Totally understand. Oh right yeah that doesn’t work. Will let you know. 

I love my kids but/ I’m so lucky but/ I know you’re busy too but. 


Years of saying I’m sorry. Sorry I take up too much space, sorry we’re too noisy, sorry I need a break, sorry you’re holding the door open for me, sorry we’re loud, sorry they didn’t listen, sorry I forgot, sorry I’m too tired, sorry it messes your plans, sorry you were looking forward to it, sorry everything’s great for you, sorry I’m drowning, sorry I didn’t text you back. 

The other day at ALDI, a lady shook her head at a friend and I with our troupe of children. She needed her bananas guys, that potassium isn’t going to absorb itself. They were blocking the entrance, one was dancing because he had an own brand cornetto. She sighed, like they were trying to stab her and she was sick of seeing it on her daily commute. Those kids, in my day, if I had my way, snowflake parents doing what they want, letting their kids eat ice-creams like they have no shame. 

I didn’t apologise. Instead I thanked her for her patience. For waiting until we’d gotten them out the way. She didn’t look at me, she walked straight past me, she had a name tag (lets call her Julie). Like I’d been deleted from her course. We ate our ice-creams in the park, gave the extra ones to strangers (each child wanted a different one, side note: ALDI don’t sell individual ones which is fun) after battling the tills on speed checkouts and the middle aisle hell. One older man gratefully received a white chocolate magnum (alternative name of course) and told us he missed his grandchildren. They all looked like they were ‘having fun’. He talked to the children and thanked them for their generosity and if he’d been 25 years younger he’d have ‘scooted around the park as well’. I thanked him. An extension of kindness that I wasn’t prepared for. 

I’m not apologising anymore. For the space I take up, the noise we make, the stuff they do, the jokes they make, the doors they block. Instead, I’ll acknowledge their patience, thank them for waiting, show them I'm grateful, remind them they were children once too. 

I’m not sorry anymore. I’m not sorry that I’m trying, we’re trying our best in a society that doesn’t afford us childcare, or allow children to be children, or to exist alongside others. I’m not sorry that we moan about how tired we are, how we don’t ‘cherish every moment’ or the fact that I don’t ‘got this’. I’m not sorry that I need help. I’m not sorry that it’s lonely. I’m not sorry that you don’t remember. I’m not not sorry. 


Unless they try and stab you on your way into Tesco. 

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