Scene: Mall elevator. Two women enter with toddler-ladened strollers. They are chatting.
Me: (in mid-conversation to a fellow momma, not knowing I am about to be mom-shamed): The Nordstrom’s kids’ shoe department has free balloons if you need to distract him for a couple of minutes.
Other Mom: Oh, he is not allowed latex.
Me: (Confused. Maybe she thought I said condoms. Does she think I am talking about condoms? That would be weird.) Oh.
OM: They’re a choking hazard.
Me: Well, I don’t let him eat it…it floats…right above his head.
OM: They’re still dangerous.
OM: Of course, you probably supervise him.
*Me: No. In fact we have a designated balloon room at home that I toss him into every morning. Of course we leave knives and scissors out, just in case he gets sick of them and wants to pop them. He loves it, and it makes it a lot easier for me to keep up with my soap operas and prescription pain med addiction.
Awkward silence. Elevator dings. Two women exit with strollers.
*Is what I WANTED to say. Instead I just smiled, nodded, and walked off feeling super crummy.
Next time maybe I’ll be ready. But, honestly, I really hope there isn’t a next time. As brief as the encounter was and as well-meaning as the other mom might have been, that interaction really sucked.
When I debriefed the situation with my husband, he questioned the interaction. Maybe I was exaggerating? Maybe I was internalizing the situation too much? I agreed that it probably wasn’t the other mom’s intention to make me feel like a bad parent. What I took as a tone of superiority could have been her one-sided view of how to protect her child. But I left feeling like I had just been reprimanded for doing something terrible. All I was trying to do was offer a helpful tip to another person dealing with a squirming toddler about to have a meltdown. (By the way, those balloons have bought me a good 30 minutes several times. Thank you, Nordstrom)
[bctt tweet=”You can’t mom shame me like that! I’m not a terrible person, you know!”]
I have a feeling if I stormed back to her and said, “Hey! You can’t mom shame me like that! I’m not a terrible person, you know! I made my own organic baby food somewhat successfully for a couple of months! I did tummy time although we both hated it! I even take him to the library sometimes!” she would:
- Say she didn’t mean to make me feel bad.
- Think I was completely weird and probably walk a bit faster to her car.
So I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and just assume that she didn’t mean to come off as the pompous know-it-all mom I saw her as in that elevator.
But that led me to another thought: Have I ever come across as that pompous know-it-all mom?
I don’t think so. At least, I really hope not. There are very few things another parent could say or do that would make me judge him or her. You only use organics? Great. You don’t use any organics? Fantastic. You breastfed for three days? Awesome. Your 18-month old is still on the boob? Good for you. You sign everything? That’s wonderful. You don’t believe in sign? Cool. CIO worked for you? Glad to hear it. You couldn’t bear to do CIO?Gotcha. You have electively chosen not to vaccinate? Umm well, actually, I’m going to kindly ask that you distance your beliefs and child away from mine. Sorry.
Yup. That’s probably where the line starts to be drawn.
…Or so I thought. Ha, ha. Oh, Someone Upstairs decided to pull a fast one on me.
The other night, I was in the Dollar Tree (full disclosure: I was there buying balloons for the creepy-looking photo above. I know. When I really get annoyed by something, I take it a little too far. Just ask my husband.) when my son not-so-unpredictably decided to throw a tantrum. He didn’t want to be in the cart. He didn’t want to be out of the cart. He didn’t want to be on his own. He didn’t want to be held. It was nearing 6 PM. There was nothing I could do to make this child happy.
All of a sudden, an elderly man appears.
“Here,” he says, and produces a lollipop from his pocket.
The first thought in my head: Heck no, I’m not going to let my son take candy from a stranger.
The (almost) first words out of my mouth: “Thank you, but he’s too young and it would be a choking hazard.”
Yup. I admit it. Call me the kettle.
I stopped myself. Just as the words tumbled out of my mouth, I realized:
He’s only trying to help. You know what he could have done? He could have rolled his eyes, mumbled something under his breath about how I should control my child, and moved on with his life. But he didn’t. He stopped to try to help. When I realized this, I was oh so grateful.
So I accepted the lollipop and thanked him.
And you know what? Jack took it and peacefully played with it for the rest of my retail excursion. (Of course, he never realized there was sugary goodness underneath; he was just content to beat the poor thing against the shopping cart.)
Is there a lesson at the end of all this? I don’t know. As a high school English teacher, I caution my students into looking for convenient lessons in every piece of literature. But I can’t help but think that I walked away from this past week a little bit more empathetic to both sides.
So the next time I feel the judgmental monster bubbling in me, I am going to try to do one of two things:
- Smile graciously and let it be.
- If that doesn’t work, just tell them that my son is allergic to whatever idea I don’t believe in.
Do you have any experience with mom shaming? Tell us all about it!