It's Easy to Judge a Mother - picture of woman holding thumbs down

It’s Easy to Judge a Mother

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A few weeks ago, I took my kids to Shoe Carnival to get Big Sis some new shoes.  And it was just like any other day.  Aside from the fact that the kids were hungry and a little tired, they were in good spirits.  And after browsing the store for a while, we found several pairs of shoes that my oldest daughter liked.  With my two-year-old by my side, I helped my four-year-old try on a few pairs and took a little extra time to show her how to tie the laces.  She had never had shoelaces before, only Velcro.  Needless to say, she was very excited.

Once we had been in the store for a while, my two-year-old started to lose it.  She is not great at being tired, after all, and she doesn’t do well in between meals.  (She would be an awful contestant on Survivor.)  Regardless, over the course of about ten minutes, my sweet angel turned into a deranged lunatic.  She started running up and down the aisles like a crazy person.  And because I was trying to help her big sister, I basically ignored her.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that she was knocking shoes off their display pedestals as she went.  Crap.

Doing Damage Control

As I began frantically began matching all of the scattered shoes to the right pedestal, my four-year-old started crying.  That’s when my two-year-old decided to throw her own shoes in the air, just to see where they would land.  To say I was embarrassed would be an epic understatement, yet all I could do was clean up the mess and move on.  So I did.

Once I got all of the misplaced shoes back in place, I started looking for the shoes my two-year-old had thrown.  In the meantime, she took off her socks and started doing a modified snow angel in the shoe store’s carpet.  And she did this all while crying, of course.  And that’s when things went from bad to worse.

At this point, all I wanted to do was pick up our mess, pay for the shoes my daughter picked out, and leave.  Once I had everything back where it went, we stood in line while my daughter’s tantrum commenced.  It sucked.  Store employees and customers were ogling us like members of a traveling circus.  Dirty looks.  Loud sighs. 

The teenager behind me mouthed “WHY ISN’T SHE DOING ANYTHING?”

But, the woman in front of me shot me a knowing glance.  She nodded and smiled.  She laughed.  But, she wasn’t laughing at me.  She was laughing with me, as if to say “oh, I’ve been there” or “you poor thing.”  The look on her face let me know that I wasn’t alone.

Unfortunately, others in the store weren’t as understanding.  My two-year-old was still rolling on the floor when I discovered the shoes we picked weren’t $24.99 like we had thought.  In fact, they were $49.99.  Yikes.  Since we would never pay that much for children’s shoes, I apologized to the cashier and told her that we didn’t want them.

Oh, come on!  You got to be freakin’ kidding me,” the woman behind me shouted.

Both of my kids were crying by this time, and my two-year-old ran away screaming as if she were escaping a burning building.  Gulp.

After a few moments, I gathered my kiddos and bolted for the door.  And if looks could kill, we would all be dead. 

It’s Easy to Judge a Mother

It’s easy to witness a tiny glimpse of bad behavior and assume you know the whole story, isn’t it?  It’s easy to think the worst of someone based on a snapshot of time – an instant – even though that moment cannot possibly tell you what their life is really like, what kind of rules those children have, and how hard that mother tries to do everything right.

It’s easy to judge a mother that you don’t know. 

She was alone so she’s probably a single mother. 

She couldn’t afford the shoes.  She’s probably poor and on welfare. 

My kids NEVER acted like that when they were little.  They would’ve been spanked immediately. 

My kids were always perfect angels in public.  How embarrassing.

When I have kids, they will never act like that.

Think what you want, but you never really know what goes on in someone’s home.  The awful moment in the shoe store may be the worst parenting moment that they’ve ever experienced.  Maybe it was an isolated incident.  And maybe, just maybe, the parents are doing the best they can.  Maybe they’re not perfect, but they’re trying.  And really, isn’t that the best that any of us can do?

It’s easy to judge a mother.   It’s easy to roll your eyes and assume the worst.  It’s easy to huff and puff loudly, to ridicule her, and to let her know that you disapprove.

But, it’s just as easy to smile and nod, to laugh with her not at her, and to let her know that she’s not alone. 

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94 Comments

  1. what a day! Little sis and I sound like we’re cut from the same cloth. To this day if I get dragged out shopping for too long and don’t have snacks on hand I still get amazingly grumpy. =)

    1. Yeah, she’s not great with snacks and naps! =)

  2. Yep, you can’t ever judge someone else (ok 99.99% of the time). As soon as you do, something worse usually happens to you and then you wish no one is judging you!

  3. Not everyone judges you! I always feel a lot of empathy for moms/dads whose kids are losing it in public since you never know why- maybe they are hungry, maybe they are tired, maybe they have special needs, or maybe they hate Mondays too. I usually just pretend not to notice, but perhaps a sympathy glance is a better idea 🙂

    1. Pretending not to notice is acceptable as well, I think!

  4. How awful, even the best behaved children will have moments. You feel bad enough, then others giving you dirty looks makes you want to crawl under a rock. The two worst things others can do is stare and judge. Some people have no regards or decency (except the one mother who sympathized with you) and neglect to think of how a person feels.

    1. Definitely. It was awful…..glad it’s over with!

  5. Wow now that you put it that way, yes it is very easy to judge a mother. I know I’ve been guilty and I’m sure most others have. I do have to laugh at myself and other people who haven’t had kids yet, because this has probably crossed all our minds at one time or another -> “When I have kids, they will never act like that.”

    1. My kids are usually angels in public and bad at home….so I had no idea what to do. I literally froze!

  6. Yikes. I’ve been in that situation with kids I babysat, except I was very young, so then I looked like a teenage mother. My gosh, if you want to get the major dirty looks, look about 18 with a three year old.

    I don’t let any of those things bother me in public anymore. I’ve witnessed enough friends with little ones trying to make it through shopping trips that I am now much more understanding.

    1. Kids are just bad sometimes. There’s a reason they call it the terrible twos!

  7. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Man alive! My sister’s kids are absolutely crazy no matter what she does, so I’ve learned from experience that kids just have different personalities. Chances are the rude lady behind you has kids that are just as bad but she’s just as impatient with them as she was with you.

    1. I agree that some kids misbehave no matter what you do. My older child was better behaved at this age and my youngest is a little twerp some of the time. Their personalities are just different!

  8. Yep. Before kids I was terribly “judge-y”. I am a horrible mother in public. I routinely get dirty looks, sympathetic smiles, and rolled- eyes. Yesterday, we ran to Target and my older two were so proud they “acted like normal kids” in the store instead of the heathens that they usually are. It was nearly a shock to my system; apparently being so close to Christmas is all the incentive they need to not run screaming through the store, hitting and fighting with each other, complaining the whole time.

    1. I think it’s easy to think your kids would never act like that! But even the best kids misbehave sometimes…especially when they’re only two years old.

  9. Wow, what an experience! We haven’t had anything quite that bad yet but I can obviously identify with the fact that sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. Sometimes kids are just going to cry or throw a tantrum and in many cases the best thing you can do is ignore it. Anyone who judges a situation like that negatively has either never had kids or wasn’t a good parent.

    1. It was the worst!~ I have never experienced anything like it in my life!

  10. I used to get a little frustrated when I would see kids acting like hooligans, but then I remembered, kids are just being kids. As long as the parent(s) look like they are trying there is zero chance I get mad, it is when they get that defeated look and just let their kids go wild I get upset. Which happened a couple times this weekend with my wife’s brother and his kids. In the end it just made me pray my little guy stays as sweet as he is right now (probably won’t tho).

    1. I just think that 2-3 year olds pose a special challenge. You can’t always talk sense into them at that age no matter what you do. My two-year-old can’t talk that well yet and she gets frustrated and cries instead =/

  11. I remember being one of those teenagers thinking similar thoughts when kids acted up in whatever store I was in at the time. The first time my toddler son threw one of those full body convulsion tantrums in public my younger years flashed in front of my eyes and I apologized to the universe for EVERY time I wondered why a parent wasn’t just making their kid shut the hell up. Now I’m the cashier….with the knowing glance and the “I’ve been there, no worries” kind of look. 🙂

    1. Yep! I try to give a sympathetic look when I can! =/

  12. I’m not a mother, but I’ve babysat my fair share of kids who had meltdowns in public. I also currently am a regular babysitter for a teenage boy with severe Autism which has given me an absolutely respect for parents.

    It is easy to judge a mother, but unless I witness some sort of nasty behavior from the parent that instigates the tantrum, I try my hardest not to assume anything about her (or the dad) or the child.

    My heart goes out most to parents dealing with screaming babies on airplanes. There is a whole new level of hatred and judgement coming from everyone else.

    1. I have never flown with my kids before! We are thinking we’ll wait until they are at least 3 and 5 before we put them on a plane. Even then nothing is guaranteed….they could still cry! =/

  13. I had a similar incident yesterday at Family Dollar which included my three year old pulling all the boxes of Christmas ornaments off the shelf while I was trying to help my oldest pick out garland for her little Christmas tree. Some people are real dicks. My kids are pretty well behaved but at the end of the day they’re still three and four years old and taking them into a store all by myself is always a challenge.

    I’m always that person to give another parent that knowing smile when their kids are on a rampage. It doesn’t matter who you are or how well behaved you think your kids are – tired toddlers are hard to handle. Period.

    I love this post. It depicts what parenting two small children is actually like.

    1. Tired toddlers can act crazy! And it’s very difficult to be one adult with more than one kid in public. I’m sticking to places where carts are available from now on. My two-year-old is much better behaved when she is confined.

  14. Oh Holly that sounds awful! I totally transform when I don’t eat too so I can relate to baby girl, and as for the mother behind you, what a biotch. I feel like I’m bring judged before my children even come. “You’re too small to be carrying twins” “Better you than me.” So annoying.

    1. My friend from high school had twins recently and she weighs less than 100 pounds. Her twins were born small but they’re both big now (I think about 6 months!) and did just fine.

      I think having twins would be great! What an efficient way to have two kids. You only have to put your body through it once and – boom- you’re done. Bringing one baby home from the hospital is amazing and I’m sure that bringing two home would be twice the fun. You’ll do great!

  15. As a newbie dad, I’m looking forward to many chaotic shopping experiences.

    The wife and I have taken a few parenting classes so we aren’t blind sided by the chaos.

    When I see what happened to you at stores these days, I try to distract the crazy kid in a -n-I’m-not-a-kidnapper kind of way. Usually, the kid will be shocked that I am talking to them and freeze. I might ask for a high five or ask them if they think this toy is cool or something random, but they often stop their maniacal ways and the mom or dad is thrilled that they have stopped. It’s my small way of, hopefully, paying ahead so that some other parent helps me in the future.

    Have a good Tuesday Holly!

    The Warrior
    NetWorthWarrior.com

    1. It is much easier if there are two parents present. I’ve never had any issues when I’ve gone shopping with Greg.

      Congrats on your new baby!

  16. Love this, Holly. After having 4 kids, I’ve become the mother that gives the knowing nod and smile, because, as you said, you don’t have a clue what’s going on in that mom’s life. People will probably never stop saying stupid things to mothers, sadly. Time to get your FU smile out, Holly. 🙂

  17. Jennifer @ Budgeting in Baby says:

    I completely understand. When Emmett is really tired and hungry he screams like I’m hurting him instead of eating its really embarrassing.
    When I was 7 months pregnant I took my 3 year old nephew and my at the time 18 month old niece to the library. My nephew had a melt down similar to your youngest’s and the librarian acted like I was crazy for wanting to wait until my next visit to update my address. I was like does it really matter? Whatever if you don’t mind the 3 year old kicking the counter and running around in circles why should I care.
    To the woman who said oh come on. Its not like you didn’t pick up the mess your children made. I applaud you for not telling them off.

  18. If you even remember this when your girls are older, they will probably laugh and want you to tell them more. My kids are 13, 11 and 7 and when I tell them things they did when they were really young, they love it!
    It was great of you to pick up and rematch the shoes your daughter knocked over.

    1. I’m sure I will remember. It was by far my worst parenting moment!

  19. I have two small children and this always happens to me! Mine peed her pants one time while shopping even. This is why I shop online!! 🙂 That is terrible the woman was so rude….she needs to get a life and a clue. It really reflects more about HER than it does you or your children.

    1. Oh no! That’s awful (but funny) that your kid peed their pants. Oh well, it happens =)

  20. Hey, you do the best you can. It’s not like there is a bachelor degree curriculum for parenting. My mother raised 3 boys on her own and worked full time. Grandmother helped out when we came home from school. We never misbehaved in public. We were quiet unless spoken to. There was a discipline belt at home.

    As a result, I have the utmost respect for working moms. I also have no problem with a corrective slap on the wrist or bottom. It just can’t be painful for the child, or pleasurable for the adult.

    Now everyone go and thank your mom…and dad.

    1. I have a friend who spanks her children, but she obviously can’t do that in public. So if her children are misbehaving in public, she pinches them.

    2. We spank a little. I’m certainly not opposed to it but it’s not my first inclination either. My kids are usually pretty good so I was completely caught off guard by this incident! =/

  21. “My kids NEVER acted like that when they were little.”
    “My kids were always perfect angels in public. How embarrassing.”

    Unless the person in question never actually went anywhere with their kids or has a very short memory, those are two statements they won’t ever be thinking. My kids are angels, but not 100% of the time. Shoe shopping is especially antsy-making.

    1. Shoe shopping is officially off of the list for a while. We’re sticking to the grocery store where they can ride in the little car/cart thingy =)

      1. Alternatively, “next time daddy is taking you.”

        Heck, dads get points just for being present no matter how much the kids are hellions.

  22. As the oldest of 7 kids, I know what you’re going through. I have 2 of my own (with a 3rd on the way!) and I have to remind my wife (and myself) all the time that “we’ll always value our relationships with our kids, but not the people in the store”. A tiny dose of perspective in that situation can make a huge difference!

    My mom was the best “calm in crisis” mom I’ve ever seen. I’m sure she grew into that over time though. 🙂

  23. We went to a running store this weekend and while I was looking at socks, my daughter went under one of the racks of clothes and was crawling around on the floor and knocking the clothes off. She certainly knows better, but was bored, and I didn’t have my full attention on her, so it happens. I don’t ever judge crying or acting up, but I’m so glad you didn’t pull candy off the rack and give her that to make her stop crying. People in line anywhere are just rude, especially if you want to do separate transactions or use coupons or something like that. They just need to get over themselves.

    1. I definitely didn’t give her a sucker to shut her up!

      Ignoring her almost always gets her to straighten up. All she wants is the attention and when she doesn’t get it she quits.

  24. Wow, what a story. So sorry Holly, and you’re right, it is so easy to judge in those moments. But, once you’ve been in them you know that it’s so much more helpful to give that empathetic knowing glance as opposed to huffing and puffing or making some idiotic comment. For anyone who thinks that toddlers don’t act up in public, I want to know what kids they have. Our latest trick is for the two older ones to encourage our two year old to take his socks off, stuff them in his mouth to the point of near gagging. Of course he always gives in to them and make us look even more deranged. 😉

    1. Nice! So you’re “those people.” Just kidding =)

  25. I used to think “my kids will never be like that!” We used to watch Supernanny and just assumed the parents were not using the right methods to discipline. But now as a father, I am much more understanding. My son is only 5 months and he has thrown tantrums in public…we probably get looks from people who think we should just stay home with such a young infant.

    1. It just happens sometimes…you know? Kids aren’t always perfect.

  26. I’ve definitely been guilty of judging a mother and I really have no right to do that since I don’t have kids yet and can’t relate. I’m sure that being a parent is the hardest job in the world though. At the end of the day, you know you’re an amazing mom and your kids are happy. Forget what strangers think.

    1. Thanks Connie! I do my best. Amazing? Maybe some days….haha

  27. My mom always told me that the terrible two’s start at age 1.5 and go THRU age 4. Boy was she right. Whenever I witness this kind of stuff at stores, I try hard to get the parent’s attention and then I say, “Don’t worry, if my kids were with me today, they would probably be acting the same way.” or “My kids do the same thing sometimes. You’re a good parent because your child is acting that way because you did not give in to what they wanted.” –Of course the 2nd scenario is only for when that particular situation arises and that is the reason for the tantrum.

    1. Oftentimes when I see other people’s kids acting like total angels it’s only because they are sitting (or walking) in a cart playing a video game.

    2. My oldest skipped the terrible two’s and just did the terrible 3’s! It must depend on the kid~

      1. My oldest (son who is 7 now) skipped it also, come to think of it. He also started right before he turned 3, on the day his sister was born. :p

  28. I swear parents forget how their kids really behaved when they were little. My kids are 4 and 7 and we limit our shoe shopping trips to 15 minutes or less. For some reason they really act up at the shoe store. That may explain why they only have two pairs of shoes : )

    1. Haha! Probably. It wasn’t a good idea. I think I’ll wait a few years before I try that again.

  29. That’s so sad to hear that people were saying mean things – I don’t have any kids yet, but I’ve been around my friends’ toddlers and it can be quite a handful when you’re with multiple little ones (especially when they all run around in every direction – I was so exhausted after taking care of them, and it was for only one day!). Know that you are doing an amazing job, and those people that are quick to judge aren’t worth anyone’s time.

  30. Oh man, that sounds like an extremely stressful situation! I know kids will be kids from time to time, and while I can’t say I love the sound of a screaming child in public, I know they have meltdowns and there’s not much a parent can do about it. I feel really bad for those moms and dads that are obviously trying their best to get the situation under control (like you did by cleaning up the shoes!)

    1. Yep, it isn’t easy! Next time I’ll skip the shoe store!

  31. Wow I am recalling an experience 11 years ago when my son did something like this in a toy store. One day you will look back and laugh and think about that time in the shoe store! It’s like we don’t forget these things. In fact I tell my son the story and he laughs with a look like wow did I really act like that! Just know that we all have these moments!

    1. Thanks Diane! It’s already pretty funny now that it’s over with!

  32. Yikes! I would have snapped at the lady who had the audacity to say anything when you didn’t get the shoes. If looks could kill, she’d be dead! Sheesh!

    1. Yeah, it wasn’t very nice. I think she assumed that I couldn’t afford it. Nope, I’m just cheap!

  33. I’m so sorry! That does not sound like fun at all. I hate when people judge others.

  34. Sounds awful and I think I would have froze too. I think you gave good advice for those who are judging. Offer more support and less judgement.

  35. This is such an important post. We never know the whole story behind the situation other folks are in. What’s worse, we never take the time to learn 🙁

  36. Oh wow, I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I were you. It’s incidents like these that make me so scared to have kids! That sounds like such a handful, and it was really rude of people to start yelling. Like you didn’t have enough to deal with at the moment. Hopefully she got it out of her system and it was an isolated thing.

  37. I have always been sympathetic to those with kids who are melting down, not sure where I got it from though. The only thing I judge is those who are CRAZY HARSH with their kids and treat them like criminals and idiots instead of human beings. But again, you never know the whole story, so I would never give an evil eye or say anything, that is NO ONE’S PLACE.

    Sorry you have the shopping trip from hell, I’m sure we have ours coming up as we move into the two’s. If I was there, I’d probably just chuckle and let you know that you’re rockin’ it!

  38. Oh yes, I do remember those days. I also remember pre-kids there were times where I wondered why parents couldn’t “handle” their kids better. Now I know. They were. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder the next time I see a Mom trying to handle a child going through a nuclear meltdown to give her sympathetic, supportive smile.

  39. “When I have kids, they will never act like that.”

    In my younger (perhaps more naive days), I would have likely had that type of thought had I witnessed your tough time. Now that I’ve got a 15 month old son who is starting to develop his personality and showing signs of tantrum mode, I can now TRULY understand what it’s like! I sympathize with you, Holly. I think if, rather when, I experience something similar, I’ll just do my best to not care what others may be thinking or judging. You can only control your own thoughts/emotions. It’s probably easier said than done though…

    1. I’m sure it happens to everyone eventually. My kids are usually pretty good in public so I was total unprepared for the event~!

  40. I think it’s a “rite of passage” when your kid throws their first public tantrum – you all of a sudden regret ever judging other parents and wish you could go back and apologize.. We haven’t had one like your story (yet!), but we’ve only got the one to deal with, and I try to avoid taking her shopping on my own…

    1. It’s much easier when you’re not alone, I think. Greg usually keeps the kids busy while I shop for whatever we need. It’s a two-man job!

  41. It’s situations like that that make me feel bad for parents. I do suppose I get somewhat judgmental if I see no effort into going into at least trying to get a handle on things, but it makes me realize even more I’m SO not cut out to be a parent. And I know those are just moments…not the big picture. Oddly enough I feel sometimes I get judged for NOT having children. Like I could not possibly understand someone’s life who does have them. And at the same time I’m missing out on the best thing that one can ever have in life. It’s like the reverse grass is greener theory.

    1. That’s the thing. Little kids sometimes throw tantrums for the attention (mine does!) and trying to console them just adds fuel to the fire. My daughter usually gets it together if I pretend that she isn’t there! Of course, all kids are different.

  42. I always tell my wife is she ready for all the tantrums. We don’t have kids but we want them, so I can look forward to this.

  43. Although you had a terrible time, this is a great post! Moms are so underappreciated and you are right, we judge them all the time. I don’t have kids, but my mom said when I used to go to the mall with her as a toddler, I used to run and scream “Help!”. Yikes. My mom never did anything run, I was just out there sometimes. Thanks for sharing your experience and keeping it real.

  44. I used to work in retail, so I’d see stuff like this a lot. My response was usually to try to distract the .. erm.. “busy” kid by playing with him, or making faces or being goofy so that he’d calm down a bit to give the parent a break (it’s just as easy to judge a father who has a wild child!). People are so judgemental and it’s really sad to see.

  45. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    First, mine are 4.5 and almost 6 and I do my best to avoid taking them shopping at all costs!! They turn into crazy people!

    My first instinct is to distract the kids! If I see a child crying in line or in the store, I try making silly faces at them…sometimes they just don’t hear or see mom. They get so used to mom that she can’t get them calmed or soothed. A perfect stranger making googly eyes gets them to stop crying so etimes even turning around to giggles. MAYBE that b***h in line could have asked if you needed help instead acting like an ogre! It amazes me the way people will open their mouths and make rude comments…whatever happened to treat others as you want to be treated?

  46. It’s one the toughest jobs in the world, and I don’t think anyone has any right to make any judgement without having their own kids because they have no idea what it is really like.

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