I was at the Lake, walking back from the beach with my kids, when it happened.
Another Mom Judged Me.
How do I know?
Because I got the evil stink eye.
You know, the look that says “You are not fit to be a mother!”
Yep, that one.
You’ve gotten it too, I know you have. I can feel your head bobbing up and down as I write this.
My husband was with me, pushing the jogger. In it was our soon to be five-year-old.
I was pushing the double stroller. In it was Little Man B.
Little Man A was tagging along behind, screaming and hollering at the top of his lungs, big alligator tears streaming down his cheeks. When he would occasionally catch up to me, he’d wrap his tiny little arms around my legs, begging me to hold still. I’d casually unwrap his arms and keep walking.
And then she appeared; Mrs. Cool Mom who has it all together.
She cruised on by in her golf cart, long curly brown hair up in an ‘untidy’ pony-tail – you know, the kind of pony tail that you can easily spend 30 minutes trying to get to look messy? Yep, it was perfectly casual. She had long, tan legs and cute little white shorts. Sunglasses perched on her nose, and she didn’t have to move them for me to know she was giving me the stink eye.
Her girls were just as perfect, bobbing alongside her. Sleek, brunette pony-tails. They looked at me in awe. Had they never seen a screaming boy before?
I pushed the double up to my husband to talk. “Did you see that?!?” I demanded.
“What? The evil stink eye?”
“Yeah!” (See, I told you I didn’t need to see her eyes….)
“Yeah, I did.” He shrugs, “I just glared right back at her. She looked away.”
And men can do that. They can just glare right back and not think twice about it.
Women, we question everything. Other people’s opinions matter to us; especially other moms. Especially have-it-all-together other moms.
Am I a bad mom? Should I be giving in? Maybe I should carry him? Should the soon-to-be-five-year-old should walk? Maybe we should stop right where we are, and totally work this thing out.
These thoughts all ran through – very briefly. See, yes, I am a woman, and I do care what other moms think about me. But I’m no spring chicken and this ain’t my first rodeo. Years past, I would have been embarrassed first and then stressed all day long afterwards, analyzing the scene and wondering what I could have done differently.
Now I just thought “HOW DARE SHE?”
How dare she, in her little white shorts with her cute, sweet little girls? How dare she judge me? Let’s see her get down here and get this stubborn little mule from the beach to his bed!
The truth is, we, as mothers, do this all of the time – judge other mothers.
Why? We don’t know their story. We have no idea.
What she didn’t know is that Little Man A was extremely tired from a day of fun, and hungry. It was lunch and nap time.
What she didn’t know is that he rode in the green jogger stroller – his soon-to-be-five-year-old-brother’s stroller – all the way down to the beach. His brother cried about having to give up his stroller to his little brother. It doesn’t matter that he is almost five and really too big to be riding in a stroller in the first place. He has to give up everything to his little brothers, all of the time.
What she didn’t know was that now, on the way home, it was the soon-to-be-five-year-old’s turn to ride in the green jogger.
And what she didn’t know was that little Man A wanted me to carry him, and refused to grasp the fact that I had to push the stroller, through the mud.
What she didn’t know was that he had the option of riding in his own stroller, the double stroller, designed specifically with him and his twin brother in mind. And instead, he chose to walk home, crying the whole way.
And what she didn’t know was that we had already completed a very similar scene, just last summer.
It’s in his personality; he wants what he wants and he persists until he gets it. (That’ll be a good thing, as he gets older….it was just hard to see it on a day like this, walking back from the beach.)
I’ve learned reasoning doesn’t work…yet. I’ve also learned not to give in.
I give him options, and let him live with the natural consequences of his choices.
In this case, that meant he had to walk all the way back to the house from the beach.
But Mrs. Cool Mom didn’t know that.
And why would she?
But the stink eye told me she still judged.
How many times do we, as moms, do that to other moms? Far too many.
Not one of us is immune.
I was driving through town the other day, and noticed all the little houses lined up, side by side. A sidewalk stretched out in front of them. Remarkable to me, because I live in a rural area and just couldn’t fathom living like that. On the sidewalk was a little girl, running. She must’ve been about three. Her pony tail bobbed, ribbons flying in the air. She was on a mission.
She ran out of her little yard and down the side walk, past first one house, then two, until I could no longer see her in my rearview mirror. And I thought to myself, ‘What kind of a mom lets a child that young be outside alone?”
I just judged the mom.
But I don’t know the whole story.
There was an older boy outside too. He looked about eight; maybe he was in charge. It’s possible mom was outside and I didn’t see her. Maybe that house wasn’t the little girl’s house and she was actually running home. Or it could be that grandma lived just two houses down, and she was running to visit. Maybe mom wasn’t home, and a babysitter was in charge. What if mom was two houses away, in the yard, beckoning the little girl to return to her?
Who knows? But my mind immediately leapt to “What a horrible mother”.
Good thing I was in my vehicle, and couldn’t see the mom. I may have unknowingly given her the stink eye.
I can’t stop Mrs. Cool Mom from judging me, but I can be sure not to carry the torch.
And I can be sure not to take it to heart when she judges me.
After all, she just doesn’t know.
The next time you see me – or any mom – struggling with our kids, don’t judge. Stop by and offer a helping hand. Distraction can be very powerful. If Mrs. Cool Mom would have gotten down off her golf cart and talked to my Little Man A., he would have stopped in mid-tantrum. He’s a very social little boy and loves attention from others. He would have stopped crying to listen to her, to see what new adventure she had to offer, or, at the very least, to tell her his sob story.
I’m a social worker, and by law, a mandated reporter. In my trainings, we always asked, “What if you see a mom yelling at her child in a grocery store? Do you report?”
No. You offer a helping hand. Mom most likely just needs to calm down. Shopping with kids isn’t easy. Mom’s tired and frustrated. The kids are tired and frustrated. You validate how hard it is. “Boy, shopping can be exhausting, can’t it!” Strike up a conversation, distract the children, offer to give mom a hand.
Diffuse the situation. Distract the child. Offer mom a hand.
No one likes to be looked down on or thought less of. Especially moms. Our kids are our world. We want to do it right.
And it isn’t always easy.
All you moms out there, let’s band together and help each other out when our kids step it up a notch!
Oh, and Mrs. Cool Mom, you may look like you have it all together. But us other moms, we know things are never how they look.
And when we see those pretty little girls throw themselves down on the ground in anger, we will be there to distract them.
Have you ever been judged by another mom? Share your story in the comments below!