What is it about being a woman alone with children out in public that makes people immediately come down with a bad case of verbal diarrhea? Below are a few of the unwelcome comments I regularly receive since joining the ranks of harried looking mothers trying to get shit done with minimal screaming:
"Wow! You have your hands full!"
WTF is that supposed to mean? My children are monsters? I had them too close together? I look inept? I hear this, at minimum, twice daily.
"Your son needs a nap."
Oh thank you, woman who has been in my life for 15 seconds at the grocery check out! For your information, children flip their shit for all sorts of reasons other than being tired, including (but not limited to); hunger, illness, anger, boredom, thirst, needing to poop, having on shoes that feel pinchy, wanting more juice, wanting attention, or hating the weird woman staring at them in the check out. Please, just STFU.
"Your son sure is fast!"
Usually said as they let my toddler sprint past them through the double sliding doors of the store, which spill directly into the parking lot. Unless you are going to help me catch the toddler in this extremely dangerous scenario, then don't fucking talk to me. I'll catch my kid while also wearing a baby and giant diaper bag and probably holding multiple shopping bags. Please don't bother yourself moving one inch to the left so my child doesn't die, but by all means take the time to comment on how fast he is running as you find amusement in my maternal terror.
"Are they yours?"
This is a bizarre question. Even though they are indeed "mine," it still bothers me and feels intrusive. It's a round about way of asking if I'm the nanny, which feels like a complement and an insult all at once. Just don't.
"How nice for you to get out of the house."
This comment usually follows someone asking me if I work. When I say I am at home full time, they take that statement literally and think I am on some sort of once-a-month field trip out into the world. Please don't act like I am some sort of hermit or social recluse because my kids don't go to child care. My husband doesn't lock me in the house each morning only to let me out at night to make dinner. I probably do more in this city in a week than you do in a month so save your pity.
"I bet you're tired"
"Cherish these moments. I would give ANYTHING to have my kids be babies again."
These types of comments are almost always coming from older, empty nester women. They usually say it to me when I am noticeably NOT cherishing the moment. This makes me feel like shit. These women have forgotten what it's like to have a baby and have enjoyed too many full nights of sleep to be trusted. Please work that shit out with a therapist and leave the people who are actually in the trenches of parenthood to cherish their moments as they please.
A former boss once told me never present a problem without also providing a potential solution. It's great advice that I almost never take but I'm working on that. Below are some things you can and should do if you see a woman alone with her children and feel the need to interact with her:
- Nothing. This isn't her first rodeo. She most likely does not need your help, advice or observations. Let her run her errand in peace. This one almost always applies and should be your go-to response.
- If her children are severely misbehaving just give her a smile that says "I've been there girlfriend. All kids are assholes, not just yours."
- Offer to help her. Is she wearing a sleeping baby in a carrier while dragging a toddler by the arm? Ask if you can load the groceries onto the belt. Is she struggling with three children in the parking lot, trying to load groceries in the car in a torrential downpour? Offer to take the empty cart to the coral. See a mom in the bathroom trying to potty train her toddler? Let her have the largest stall. Is a toddler running into oncoming traffic? Don't ask just fucking catch that kid! (Hint: this does NOT include offering to hold her baby. That is generally not helpful and probably creepy. Unless she asks you, find another way you might assist her.)
- "You have a beautiful family." No more feedback is necessary or appropriate.