I was at play group (surprise surprise). My social life is wild like that. My one and a half year old had decided to sit himself at a table with a group of kids for morning tea whose mothers I don’t know. They are all foreign, Russian I think, I have never heard them speak English or seen them chat to any of the other mothers at play group. Sort of a clique I suppose. But at my age I don’t have the energy for that kind of thing, and being a foreigner in a new country myself I have found other foreigners quite welcoming.

I turned to the closest women and asked if there was space for my son to sit there. She (kind of) nodded and they continued their conversation that I couldn’t understand. As they set out the food for their kids one of the mothers placed her coffee down on the kids table to put out a lunch box. Her child is at the grabbing age and in a second he had pulled the hot coffee towards him, spilling it all over his lap, the table, chair and floor.

And then everyone just stood there. She did too but I think she was in shock, it’s hard to react when it’s your own kid. But all her friends, the women I see her chat with every week, just stood there staring, and then returned to their conversation. And none of the mothers at the surrounding tables did anything either.

She started to clean the spill and I went to fetch wet wipes and asked if I could wipe the coffee off her son’s legs. She nodded. We cleaned up the mess while everyone acted like nothing had happened, the play group organisers eventually fetching a mop and bucket. Everything continued as nothing had happened and they returned to their conversation, discussing banana bread from what I could make out.

As we left play group she was sitting at the door and looked up and said “thank you for helping me”. It’s the first time I’ve heard her speak English.

This whole situation has me dumbfounded to be honest. Mothers have it tough. I know it because I am one. And other mothers know it too. You spend your day holding one while wiping another’s bum, juggling chores while attempting to half-arse a game, perfecting the art of doing things with one hand. As far as I know we are a tribe. Language, race, social status and age disappear when you have something so monumental connecting you. Little humans to keep alive.

We all know sometimes we need help even if we prefer to do everything ourselves. Sometimes a stranger holding the door for you so you can navigate a pram through is the biggest relief. Sometimes the mum in line who lets you go ahead of her or happily chats to your cranky child entertaining them while you wait is your day’s saving grace. We need each other because we are the ones who best understand. So don’t just stand there, help a mother out damn it.