Enough Is Enough

On 28 September 2017, two police officers showed up at my weekly Concord Hospital market stall and told me that someone had filed a report about my Down Syndrome child being with me at work.

This was not the first time some anonymous member of the public had lodged a complaint about Noah’s presence at my stall; two years previously, I hit the news when another anonymous campaigner launched a petition to remove him from another market where I had operated for 14 years. I subsequently quit that stall, which leaves me with Concord Hospital Market as the one last remaining weekly event where I earn an income from selling Malaysian food.

At Concord Hospital, around this time last year, a woman came up and yelled at me for “child abuse” and said that she was going to report me to the authorities. I filmed our interaction and ended up being invited on television to talk about it.

Every time I post about this on social media, the average person is perplexed about what the problem is. What’s wrong with a child staying with his mom at work? Why do people get so worked up about it? On what basis would they be lodging their complaint? Some people probably assume I’m doing something wrong to get this kind of attention.

In fact when the story came out on the front page of The Daily Mail 2 years ago, some of the commenters suggested this was a publicity stunt by me looking for my 15 minutes of fame. Others are indignant that I would think I’m entitled to bring my kid to work when they don’t have that privilege (this one always stumps me because it’s so obvious – the difference between my situation and theirs is that I’m my own boss).

The fact is, efforts to thwart my integration of my child with my business have been taking place in more subtle forms since way before these incidents. I understand from my fellow stallholders that people gripe to them about Noah’s presence at the markets. They wonder why I’m not home looking after him or why he’s not in childcare. As if he’s better off with strangers for 8 hours than with his mom in an environment he absolutely loves.

Except for the one woman last year who yelled at me, nobody has had the wherewithal to confront me directly.

Throughout all these years, I’ve tried to address this issue with some level of restraint and diplomacy. I’ve tried to assume these people’s motives are pure but misguided. I’ve suggested it’s probably a cultural issue; that some Westerners find the idea of kids in a work environment to be offensive and an example of poor parenting. I’ve figured in their lack of understanding of my child’s disability, they assume he’s not getting the stimulation he needs to thrive.

My frustration stems from these people’s refusal to engage me respectfully to find out my story. They hide behind a wall of anonymity so I never really know the real motivations behind their actions. I decided to provoke a conversation, so I put up this sign the following week at my stall. Halfway through the day, I was told by the market organisers to pull down the sign based on a complaint by someone at the hospital.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m done with diplomacy and I’m done with being a sitting duck for malicious anonymous campaigners.

When I quit my other market stall 2 years ago, one person who had experienced disability discrimination in her own life posted on my Facebook page. She begged me to stay and fight. She said that I have a voice and that I need to use it to speak out for those who don’t. She’s right. This website may be about my baby Noah and our story, but I hope it helps other people out there who are or will be facing these kinds of obstacles in their own lives.

Let’s do this.

Sign the petition >> https://www.change.org/p/concord-hospital-support-baby-noah-s-right-to-stay-with-jackie-m-at-the-markets

 

Who Complained?

Some people have suggested on social media that those behind these acts of harassments are possibly jealous stallholders or business rivals. I don’t think so; in all my years of trading at markets I’ve always found my fellow stallholders to be among my staunchest supporters.

For as long as these bullies remain anonymous, I can only speculate on their psychological makeup (let’s face it; calling the police because you don’t like seeing a kid obviously having a great time with his mom at work is pretty hardcore).

I know nothing about the person who spent A MONTH gathering signatures for a petition at Orange Grove Market.

But I know this much about the people behind the two occasions specific to Concord Hospital Market:

The woman who threatened to report me for child abuse last year, according to an email from the head of marketing at the hospital, was not a part of the hospital community; she was there for training for the day, from another hospital >>

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In this latest incident where the police were called, I’m told it WAS a hospital staffer, BUT one who doesn’t usually work on Thursdays (market day), so it was her first encounter with Noah.

In other words, NEITHER of these people are part of the market community.

They chose to judge my situation based on a fleeting, one-off observation (OMG child in cot while mom is cooking , therefore this woman needs to go to prison).

They showed their bigotry when they opted to remain ignorant rather than educate themselves on the facts.

The hospital market regulars have seen and interacted with Noah for years and they’re not the ones calling the cops. 

These are some of the patrons of Concord Hospital Market – doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. I posted this picture on Instagram months ago (for a laugh) with a caption that said something like – “You know you’re at Concord Hospital Market when…”

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They’re healthcare professionals who, more than probably any other segment of society, would know if Noah was in distress.

On top of all this, should he get attacked by tigers or other imaginary creatures, we are in the grounds of a HOSPITAL.

Given all the facts, are you honestly that concerned about my child’s welfare that you would call the police?

Or are you so malicious that you actually hope I’d get arrested and have my child removed from my care?

Every time this story blows up online, there’s the occasional comment that aligns with the psyche of these bullies.

Some examples of the points they bring up (these are from actual Facebook comments over the last few days; I’m labelling them as trolls since it’d be unkind to post their real names) –

TROLL – This has nothing to do with his Down Syndrome; maybe he was too close to the cooking area.

Response –

  1. You obviously have never seen Noah at the market or you would know his cot is OUTSIDE the tent, facing the side where the customers are served, ie. where no cooking is done.

    Remember, the police did their due diligence, checked out everything and found I did NOTHING WRONG.

    Also, making vague accusations based on non-existent facts is really unbecoming of someone employed in academia.
  2. Does it have anything to do with his Down Syndrome? I don’t know since these cowards are anonymous. I’ll tell you this much though – many current and former stallholders have personally contacted me to say –
    • they raised their kids at the markets
    • the kids loved it
    • the public loved it
    • nobody ever complained

The only point of difference – Noah has Down Syndrome. I don’t care whether you think his disability means he needs extra attention; it is still discrimination.

TROLL – 5 year old kids, even with a mental age of 18 months, need more stimulation than being in a cot all day.

Response –

  1. He’s NOT in his cot all day; he gets offered plenty of breaks which he usually REJECTS since he prefers to absorb his environment and interact with the public from his cot.
  2. You’re generalising based on never having spent one single minute with my child, compared to me, his mom and his greatest advocate. YOU SANCTIMONIOUS TWAT.

(I promise you this next one was a real comment, albeit paraphrased since this woman, a teacher at an elite private school, ended up deleting everything she said.)

TROLL – Why doesn’t she send him to childcare? All working parents send their kids to childcare. I have to pay $140 per day for childcare. As a single mum she gets more benefits than all of us.

Response –

  1. Let me get this straight; your employer won’t allow you to bring your kid to work, therefore nobody is allowed to take their kid to work. How old are you, again?
  2. Why do you hold such resentment towards single moms, especially ones working to break out of the cycle of welfare dependency?
  3. Since when was childcare the only non-criminal option for working parents?

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As society grapples with issues regarding workplace flexibility and parents re-entering the workforce, these elitist trolls remain hellbent on maintaining the status quo. Why?

The market regulars accept Noah and engage with him; some like to tell me about their own experiences of living with disability.

One woman lost her Down Syndrome baby many years ago, so she brings small gifts for him.

Another has mosaic Down Syndrome and similarly feels connected to Noah.  

Yet another can’t stop regaling me with the latest exploits of his teenage grandson, who has Down Syndrome.

These older folks remember the days when people with disability were kept out of sight of the general public; they think it’s wonderful that I bring Noah with me.

Here’s an idea – next time, before you gripe about why Noah isn’t in childcare instead of being out with me, maybe ask yourself whether some people might think that’s your sugar-coated, guilt-free way of saying he should be in institutionalised care.

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Petition Update – General Manager of Concord Hospital Responds

I posted this directly in the petition yesterday but thought I should reshare it here as well, in case it was missed –

OCT 12, 2017 — Earlier today, the General Manager of Concord Hospital, Dr. Steevie Chan, came to see me and very graciously expressed his unequivocal support for my continued presence at the market and for Noah’s right to be there. He said a lot of other things but I don’t want to inadvertently misquote him. Suffice it to say that I no longer feel as if my market stall operation is in jeopardy. Thank you so much for those who have signed the petition and please continue to show your support so we can help raise awareness and send a message to the outliers that this kind of display of intolerance is unacceptable.


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I am humbled by the thousands who have expressed their support since I started the petition less than 3 days ago, and grateful for the outreach by Dr. Steevie Chan and Concord Hospital.

In this day and age we pay a lot of lip service to issues around workplace flexibility, parents returning to the workforce and reducing welfare dependency among single parents. That’s why it’s important to continue to share this petition – it’s so that others who come after me may see that society as a whole backs their initiatives rather than try to hamper them through the kind of malicious actions like what I have encountered in my situation.

Noah’s Schedule

I don’t like playing the pity card about what it’s like to be a single parent raising a special needs kid.

Please don’t take this as an attempt to elicit sympathy; this is to show those who doubt my parenting obligations that in fact, Noah is anything but neglected.

This is Noah’s typical schedule –

Mondays & Tuesdays – 2 full days at Bronte Early Education Centre with dedicated support worker.

Wednesdays – Fortnightly visits from a special needs keyworker to assess and plan Noah’s ongoing developmental needs. Special needs playgroup from 10-12 if we have no other plans for the day.

Thursdays & Fridays – 2 full days of preschool in a supported environment with in-house speech therapist, child psychologist and occupational therapist. 

Fridays – Fortnightly speech therapy

Sundays – Church & Creche/Sunday School

This is in addition to revolving door hospital appointments and diagnostic assessments covering all aspects of his medical and developmental needs –

  • cardiologist
  • pediatrician
  • GP
  • sleep specialist
  • hearing tests, eyesight tests, physical therapy, dental work, IQ tests etc.

Noah starts kindergarten at a special needs school next year. His opportunity to experience the world outside the coccoon of special needs therapy is going to lessen significantly once that happens.

I don’t just bring him along to the markets because special needs childcare is expensive and hard to come by (which it is).

I do it also so that he has the opportunity to experience the real world, remain integrated in society, interact with the general public, and observe mommy at work.  Most importantly, he thrives at the market, as you can see from the photos I’ve posted here and on Instagram.

Noah thinks he lives a fabulous life. He thinks he is a little prince and the world is his oyster.  Why would anyone presume to know otherwise?

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