It was Monday morning. The weekend hadn’t been very restful so the boys and I were cranky and tired. So why not go to the grocery store, right?
We were in the home stretch, grabbing the last items on the list. My 2-year-old son Luke had grown weary of the cart and was hanging from the back of it like a monkey. He kept trying to balance his feet on the bottom rack of the cart, but I warned him that wasn’t a good idea because he might fall, which of course he did as soon as I turned my back. I heard a “clunk” and there he was, flat on his back, halfway under the cart. I scooped him up as he started to wail. Out of nowhere this other woman comes flying over, an overly concerned look on her face as she put her hand on his back and said, “Is he okay?! Will he be all right?” I was taken aback by her attitude and furrowed brow as she looked me up and down. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I replied “Ummm…probably?” She walked off, watching me over her shoulder, I guess to see if I would turn my back on my child again.
I tried to shake it off as we walked to the checkout, but I could feel it, that furtive “Mommy Guilt” that lingers long after an incident is over. “How could you let him fall and crack his head on the hard floor like that?” That’s what I was hearing in my head as I kept seeing her condescending eyes staring after me. Of course I know better. We can’t keep our children from harm every moment of the day. I wish I could! From the moment my babies started to pull up on things or walk, I’ve wished there was a bubble I could put them in to keep them safe. I’ve learned, though, that sometimes those boo boos can be good learning opportunities for them. But how was I going to relay all of that to this random woman in the cereal aisle who was making me feel guilty?
It happens everywhere — those “Mommy Guilt” moments that are so unnecessary. I had another one the other day while dropping my older son, James, off at preschool. I was chatting with another mom when I heard someone say, “No no James, we don’t push.” Sure enough, he was trying to push someone down a little slide and another mom was correcting him. Boom, “Mommy Guilt.” Yup, that’s my kid doing the wrong thing and somehow it’s my fault. Ridiculous, right? Yet it sneaks up on you and settles into those vacant areas of insecurity and doubt. I get embarrassed and beat myself up over my child’s actions when they’re less than pleasing.
I’m grateful to have so many other mom friends who remind me how ludicrous that guilt is to carry around with you. I am actually relieved at play dates when I see my friends’ kids doing all the same junk that my kids do. No judgmental looks or accusatory words here, just sympathetic pats on the back and smiles of encouragement.
We mothers need to stick together and lift each other up, because we are totally our own worst enemies. Sure there may be oblivious people out there who are making stupid comments in grocery store aisles, but it’s ultimately the voices in our heads that do the most damage. So do me a favor and the next time you see a mom struggling with her kid out in public, give her a wink and a smile, it may change her whole day.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.