Sometimes it feels like society expects moms to apologize for simply being moms, especially when your child is having a hard time in public. If you're a single mom (like I was) or have more than one child, their judgement increases exponentially. Moms pretty much have to choose to either never take their kids anywhere, or risk stares, comments, name calling, jokes, and even people attempting to parent their kids if they misbehave. There are so many cruel things you can do to a mom when her kid's having a tantrum, and I've experienced them all. Unfortunately.
For the most part, my kids are pretty well-behaved, especially considering that I have five of them, but when they're hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or just plain crabby, all bets are off. And as much as I try to prevent tantrums from happening, even the best kids with the best parents are going to go off the deep end and throw a tantrum or seven. So, no, stranger in the grocery store who just pointed at my tantrum-throwing 4 year old and made a nasty comment: I am a good mom and he's not a horrible kid. He's a great kid who is having a hard time, and I'm doing the best I can.
The same goes for the creepy guy who asked me if I knew where the condom aisle was, or the checkout clerk who told me that my crying 2 year old was "good birth control." Comments like these stung and left me asking myself, "Who says that? Did they really just say that?" I've honestly reached a point where I would rather just stay home instead of risk a public tantrum and deal with the judgment that comes along with it. Unfortunately that's not always an option, so I have slowly worked on managing my social anxiety and developing a thicker skin.
You see, all kids have tantrums once in a while, even my perfect kids (kidding). It happens. It's embarrassing, frustrating, and makes you want to sink into the floor. Even the best parents can't always manage them "perfectly" either, especially when people are staring, making rude comments, or intervening when they have no clue what's going on with you and your kid. So the next time you see a mom (or any parent for that matter), with a upset kid, try asking them if they need help or telling them that they are doing a good job. Definitely don't be cruel, like these people, and do the following things:
Insult Her Parenting Ability
I hear lots of comments about my gentle parenting style, especially when my kids are being less than perfect in public. Unhelpful comments like, "You shouldn't let those kids run all over you," and, "That child needs to learn who's boss," or pretty much anything that starts with the phrase, "Parents these days..." are so not helpful. Besides, who do you think raised the parents you are complaining about? You. The answer is "your generation."
Ask Her If She Knows Where The Condom Aisle Is
I've actually heard this more than once. Yes, I'm serious. No, I'm not lying. Jokes about contraception are so not funny and not helpful and in no way help me get my kid through a particularly difficult moment. Also, these comments pretty much always come from a random dude, which makes me wonder why my husband never gets directed to the condom aisle. It's almost as if society expects women to be solely responsible for contraception. Weird.
Offer Her Unsolicited Advice
Of all the unsolicited advice I have received from strangers in public, the worst was that I should spank my kids. Ummm no. I wouldn't hit another adult if they were having a hard time, so I certainly would never hit my kid. Kids generally throw tantrums because they need something or are overwhelmed. Hitting them won't help and will definitely hurt them. Please stop.
Stare Judgmentally At Her
Staring at me when I am trying to deal with an upset kid is so not helpful. It actually will probably make things worse. So, why do it? I see you. If you aren't going to help me, just go away and clear the area. It's none of your damn business what's going on with my child and, well, you're making me uncomfortable.
Tell Her She Shouldn't Have Had Kids
Telling a mom they shouldn't have had kids is pretty much the most horrible thing you can say, especially when she's struggling. I just can't even. Horrible.
Talk To Her Kid
Don't talk to my kids, stranger. If you want to help, talk to me, because telling my kid to "shut up" or "listen to mommy," is passive aggressive and will not aid my child in calming down or dealing with the variety of emotions they're having difficulty correctly identifying or processing. Besides, if you have kid, you know that the last thing you should give a toddler throwing a tantrum is an audience. It makes things so much worse.
Complain To A Manager
This has happened to me twice at family restaurants, and I was mortified each and every time. This might be an unpopular opinion, but if you go to a restaurant with a kids' menu, you should prepare yourself to encounter kids. Unfortunately, even the best kids can have a hard time sitting still or not throwing a fit at a restaurant when they are hungry, tired, or over-stimulated. Have some compassion or, if you can't handle it, maybe you should leave.
Touch Her Kid
Don't you dare touch my kid unless, of course, you are protecting them from certain death. If you do, I will go "full-on mama bear" and, trust me, you won't like me when I am angry. I may be little, but I'm scrappy when someone I don't know lays a hand on my kid. Grr.
Why do people do this? I mean, I just can't understand. Mocking me when I am dealing with a public tantrum is just likely to make me flustered and less capable of coping, which will prolong the scene my kid is making.
Refer To Her Child As "Birth Control"
Making jokes about kids being "birth control" is cruel and totally unnecessary. Honestly, my kids are pretty tame, even at their worst. So, if the sight of my toddler's tantrum is enough to make you swear-off having children, you probably should use birth control. Not that I would say that to you, because I am not rude like some people and your reproductive choices are totally none of my business, but don't position my children as the deciding factor when you make those choices. All you're really saying is that my life makes you cringe. Ouch.