Target. A place that has become known as the “mother sanctuary”. It is the place where moms go to sip on a venti mocha coconut milk latte while walking every inch of the store to savor the quiet and enjoy the music playing in their heads. Sometimes, the mother sanctuary gets interrupted with trips that involve taking our kids along with us.
Anyone with kids knows that often times it doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s a complete hot mess of organized chaos wrangling tiny people through the aisles of the dollar spot, or new Magnolia Homes line. Sometimes we pacify them with a cake pop from Starbucks, or a little bribe of new Pokémon cards, or a new set of tiny Hatchimals. Even then, when the novelty has worn off and you aren’t done shopping yet, the kids get a little rambunctious.
It’s these moments where strangers seem to notice us and our parenting skills. When our amazing parenting skills quickly get put into check by the cute little offspring we had. On a recent trip to Target, amid my hot mess chaos, a lady on her way out told me that I was a “bad mother and didn’t deserve to have kids.”
Knife to the heart.
How does one respond to that? I’m sure my jaw laying on the ground as she walked away was answer enough. What caused this lady to say this to me? It might have been my children running back and forth from the self-checkout to the bathroom, my son not understanding me when I asked him to hand me things from under the cart, my youngest trying to climb out of the cart as I was trying to pay, telling my kids to keep their hands to themselves and get out of the way so I could move the cart, or to come stand with me as we waited for my youngest to now have her turn at the bathroom, and as I said all this to them in my mom voice.
In the 2 minutes this lady saw me and my kids, she judged me. Was it my best parenting moment? Probably not. Was it my worst? Oh, definitely not. But because I wasn’t kissing my children and telling them how perfect they were, I must have been a horrible mother.
This lady wasn’t there to see before that time in the self-checkout line was my oldest not learning for what seemed like the thousandth time to not walk in front of the cart, she didn’t see my two in the cart fighting and hitting each other, or one crying over the fact that I said no to toys on this trip.
She also wasn’t there to see the bedtime story snuggles in my baby’s bed with tickle monsters the night before, or all the giggles and smiles from our summer activities of visiting the pool, beaches, and museums. More importantly, she wasn’t there to offer a kind word, or helping hand. She didn’t tell me that some day I’d miss this crazy moment or offer to help when I had kids running everywhere and as tired mom, was on my last nerve of trying to get my kids to listen, because on a hot day with a heat advisory there’s only so much you can do with kids outside the house.
She wasn’t there to build up, encourage, and support a mother who obviously needed some help.
I ask that the next time you think to say something negative, take a moment and pause. Remember everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about, and instead of saying something that might break them down further, offer an encouraging word, offer a hand, and just be the good to someone else.
Written by: Megan Harless, Stars and Stripes Doulas of Hampton Roads