Sometimes simply existing as a mother, especially one who dares to go out in public, makes you vulnerable to an endless amount of shaming. Though I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to mom-shaming, one incident in particular still sticks out in my mind, even though it’s been more than two years since it first occurred. Still, there are things I wish I said to the mom who stood up for me in the checkout line at my local craft store, because her gesture mattered more to me than I think she realized.
At the time my son was about 6 months old, and I was wearing him in a carrier while I shopped for a few things in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. It was late fall, but it was so cold outside it might as well have been the middle of winter. My son was fully dressed, and I took him straight from his car seat, secured him to my chest, and went quickly inside. In other words, I didn't really think much of the weather or how it was supposedly "hurting" my son. However, as I stood in line, an older lady observed dryly, “Where are his shoes?”
After first I didn’t even realize she was being judgmental. I thought she might have been actually concerned or unable to see that he was, in fact, wearing socks, as he often did as a 6 month old whose feet pretty much never touched the ground in a public space. So, I naively pointed out his socks, thinking that was the end of it. It wasn’t. She went on to lament about the cold, and to tell me repeatedly that he should have also been wearing shoes. I was so stunned I didn’t even know what to say. Who was this lady? How long had it been since she’d cared for a 6 month old and knew how useless shoes actually were (unless we were taking pictures because, hello, cuteness)?
Another woman, also a bit older, joined the conversation and defended me. She pleasantly noted that my son was fine, and that he was plenty warm seeing as I was wearing him and sharing body heat, among other things. The first lady stopped her lecture, and we all completed our transactions and went on our separate ways. I left feeling both stunned by the first woman's invasion, and grateful to the second woman's kind defense.
It’s very likely that these other women forgot this ever happened, but I haven’t. If I were to be in that situation again, here’s what I might consider saying to the woman who was kind enough to speak up:
At the very least, I wish I could have conveyed my gratitude. I imagine the second woman probably had an inkling of my appreciation, however I would have loved to have been able to articulate it. Something along the lines of, “Thanks for squashing that grumpy woman like a bug with your polite verbal beat-down,” would have surely sufficed.
"You Obviously Didn’t Have To Do That "
I’m sure she knew this, too, but mentioning it would have made it clear I recognized that the gesture came totally out of the goodness of her heart. Plus, telling someone that they didn’t have to do something is also another way to say, “OMG, but I’m so glad you did.”
"Do You Know You’re My Hero?"
OK, maybe this one's a slight exaggeration, but it never hurts to let someone know you appreciate them, right? I really don't know what I would have done if she hadn't spoken up. I (still) don't have a lot of practice with passive strangers confronting me about my parenting choices. Maybe I would have nervously laughed, or pretended to forget something and leave the line until that judgmental lady left? Or maybe I would have totally stood up for myself like the badass I am/aspire to be? It's a mystery.
"Seriously Though, I'm New At This..."
I mean, the fact that I was wearing my only baby probably gave away the fact that I hadn't been a mother for very long. Now that I'm ever-so-slightly more seasoned, I could maybe handle a similar situation a bit better, but at the time? No way. At the time I was totally stunned, so the fact that she stepped up was significant.
"...And When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Just Like You"
By “just like you” I mean, "totally intuitive and aware of how my fellow women are feeling, and jumping in to help whenever possible." Also, what I think was especially clutch about this woman in particular is that she was totally casual and non-confrontational about it, which are two emotional states I can totally get behind.
"Do You Want To Adopt Me?"
Is that weird? Or maybe, instead of adoption, we could consider some sort of student/teacher relationship, where we accompany one another on errands all the time?
"What Is Your Name?"
Of course, I wouldn't want to ask this in a creepy way, more so that I can refer to her as more than just "this amazing lady who once saved me in line at a craft store." OK, and maybe so I could also name any future children after her.
"Can I Send You An Embarrassingly Large Display Of Flowers?"
Too much? What about an edible bouquet? Everyone loves edible bouquets, right?
"Can I Call You If I Need A Pep Talk?"
In fact, what if we trade numbers? Maybe I could, like, text you a special code word in case I'm ever in need of emergency support, and then you can either text me back your top 10 tips for fighting the mommy wars, or show up wherever I am, wearing a cape?
"Do You Mind If I Just Sing Your Praises Online, Anonymously, For The Next Few Years?"
Cool, because unlike some of these other questions, I fully intend on doing this, no matter what.