If you see a mom struggling in the store with a screaming baby, a toddler throwing a tantrum, or maybe she just looks like a hot mess all around, there’s only ONE acceptable thing to say to her in that moment:
“You’re doing great, Mama. Can I help you at all?”
Acceptable variations include a brief explanation of remembering these days when you were a young mom OR saying nothing and just pushing her cart for her so she can use both hands to contain her demon toddler.
Because any other interaction with an already stressed mom in public is only going to add to her embarrassment.
Comments absolutely NOT okay to say to a mom having an obvious hard time in public:
“Wow, that baby sure can scream!”
“Why don’t you feed that baby already? She’s obviously hungry.”
“Stop pinching that child to make her scream so much! Ha ha” (Old people particularly like to say this one, in an awful, joking sort of way)
“Excuse me! Pay attention to your surroundings.” (AKA “Move!”)
“You need to learn to control your kids.”
“You sure have your hands full.”
Obviously. Obviously I have my hands full with three kids under four, all of which have decided right now is the best time to run in opposite directions, crying for snacks. Obviously I’m frazzled because I’m in public with sweats on, no bra, my hair looks like it hasn’t been brushed in days and my shirt has a mystery substance on it that no one is sure if it’s poop or chocolate. Obviously I’m on the brink of tears and am already worried about the noise level we are making since I can see eyes on me everywhere. Obviously, I could use a hand but am too worried or proud to ask for it. Obviously a kind word or smile would go further in my book than any one of these comments.
To a mom not in her current right mind (because it’s being pulled in three different directions by each kid), these types of remarks only come off as condescending and judgmental. All these comments do is remind us of what we already know: our baby is hungry and we haven’t fed her the instant she started crying because yes, our hands are full. We are already embarrassed that strangers have seen a moment of our worst nightmare but they know nothing of our best parenting. And we’re already praying someone will either help or at least not point out how much we are struggling. All we need in that moment is some support.
The next time you see a mom struggling at the store (or whatever public venue we find ourselves in close proximity to you), please take a moment to offer a hand. Or if nothing else, eyes down and move along, buddy. Because ignoring our shortcomings is a hell of a lot nicer than some of those condescending remarks we hear about not doing enough.
Read what happens to a mother who is judged openly HERE.