Allow me to introduce you to Exhibit A:
That’s my sweet daughter… one of the first days that we started wearing her hair in a ponytail on top of her head (a style someone affectionately called the “whale spout”). You fellow moms-of-daughters can probably feel me on this one… when they let you put their hair a certain way after they’ve ripped out options 1 thru 5… then you just roll with it. But it fits her goofy, fun-loving personality to a T… so I love it.
Well… apparently not everyone feels the same way…
One day prior, I took my daughter to a public area to play and have a day out together. I was on the ground playing with her and I heard a voice say, “You know… you should REALLY consider putting a bow in her hair instead.”
I was thinking I was going to turn around and have it be one of my friends just being funny… but, no. It was a perfect stranger (a Mom playing with her son, actually) I looked at her and asked, “I’m sorry?” … (in a “Did-you-really-say-that?” kind of tone) And she says again, “I’m just saying. She’d look really cute if she had a bow in her hair instead” with this smile that makes me think that she really thought she was helping me with some great, life-changing advice.
I really don’t remember what happened after that (which is probably good because it means I kept my mouth shut!) But on the ride home that day, and ever since then… I can’t stop thinking about the fact that a stranger could say such a peculiar, somewhat rude comment to another Mom. And for what reason? My hope is that if my daughter’s “whale spout” bothered her, it’s because her mind wasn’t filled with any other serious worries in life.
But really… this incident (and this blog) IS NOT about hair.
When I was in high school I was sure I wanted to be a psychologist because I’ve always found an interest in how people think, and in turn, how that makes them act. So that situation just really got me thinking. What makes someone… another Mom, for that matter… say something to try to “take away” from another Mom (or anyone for that matter)? Because on a bigger level… I KNOW there are Moms who have been on the receiving end of a lot more scrutinizing, insensitive comments about their children from strangers than what I heard that day. In fact, I just witnessed it the other day when a Mom was in line at Michael’s with her teenage son who had a disability. He dramatically begged to sit on the ground next to the fake flowers instead of standing in line, so she let him. And I heard a Mom behind me make a comment to her friend that I’m choosing to not repeat. The Mom didn’t hear it… but that didn’t matter… the point is, another Mom SAID it.
So my once-wanted-to-be-a-psychologist mind is just really curious as to WHY ON EARTH it is that a Mom’s worst enemy is often another Mom. Whether it’s the “Whale Spout Bully” I encountered. Or that Mom in line at Michaels. Or the Mom that looks at you at the playground like, “Don’t you teach your kids to share?!” when your doesn’t-really-get-it-yet 18-month old takes a toy from her child. Or the Mom in Aisle 6 at Target when your 3-year-old is dangling off the side of the cart and screaming at a decibel that can be heard at the Target ten miles away …. as she strolls by with her toddler sitting straight up in her cart reading a book and not uttering a word. It’s almost like you can see the cartoon thought cloud above her saying, “Wow. She needs to learn how to control her kid.”
The reality is… if there’s anyone that should be supporting Moms – it’s another Mom. In what I do, I work with so many (amazing) Moms … and in that process, I am exposed to just how much we all truly struggle with similar things. And while some of our bigger battles may not be relatable, a lot of our day to day ones are. So, even if you can’t relate to the experiences of that Mom in the Michael’s line whose son wanted to sit by the flowers, you can relate to her as a MOM who is trying to do her best like all of us are. So why aren’t we supporting each other more in challenging situations… or even more importantly … giving each other pats on the back when we witness “the little victories” as Moms?
Cases in point:
You sit next to a family in a restaurant and their newborn baby doesn’t make a peep the entire dinner.
The “No harm but no good” option: Walk away and say nothing.
Whale Spout Bully: Walk up to them and say, “Wow, your baby was really good during that dinner. Enjoy THAT while it lasts! Wait until they know how to move around – your peaceful meals are over!” (This has been said to my husband and I on multiple occasions… as if “warning” me that my days of going out to eat are slim … is somehow benefitting me. This is one of my biggest bet peeves. I beg you … please remove “Enjoy it while it lasts” from your vocabulary while talking to any parent. Ever. Please.)
The supportive option: Walk up to them and say, “Hey – I just wanted to tell you that your baby was really well behaved during dinner. I’m glad you could have a peaceful night out.” (Ding Ding Ding! You just gave those parents a little boost of confidence that maybe they’re doing something right. And you will feel good about yourself when you see how happy you made those parents feel. Go one step further? Buy them their meal!)
A Mom is in front of you in line at the grocery store. She has two kids in the cart and one hanging on her leg. And her outfit ROCKS.
No harm but no good: Think to yourself “Her outfit rocks” … and then don’t tell her.
Whale Spout Bully: Think “her outfit rocks” and then bash yourself for being at the grocery store in workout clothes and a two-days-ago shower – and not being able to balance your time enough to actually get DRESSED to go out in public. (This is me. All of the time. And while this isn’t harmful to the other Mom… it IS harmful to you.)
The supportive option: Tap her on the shoulder and say, “I love your shirt. Where did you get it?” (All Moms know that getting underneath a shower head is a feat in itself. But to be out in public and look PUT TOGETHER with three kids? That’s exceptional. Let her know about it! No woman hates a compliment – and she’ll walk away feeling confident, and you’ll walk away with a great feeling knowing you made someone’s day. Spread the love! And while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to compliment her for being able to keep three kids under control at the grocery store.
A Mom is trying desperately to keep her screaming 4-year-old from running in the grocery store parking lot while she has a carseat with another baby and a cart full of groceries.
No harm but no good: Do nothing.
Whale Spout Bully: Say something brilliant like, “Wow… it looks like somebody needs a nap!” or “Wow, you sure have your hands full.” (This has been said to me before while my daughter was screaming in her carseat and I’m trying to get the groceries out of the cart as fast as someone on “Supermarket Sweep” would try to get them in. What’s the pointttt of saying thisssss?! All you are doing is confirming her fears that someone else is witnessing her child screaming like a crazyperson making her look like she can’t control her kids.)
The supportive option: “Let me help you with you groceries while you take care of him.” And once you’re done putting the groceries in her car for her, reassure her, “Hey – we’ve all had those days. Hang in there.” (While you might not have taken all of her stresses away, at least you made her feel like someone understands… and you are helping her get out of the situation.)
… Ok – I know you get it. I’m writing this knowing that most of you reading this are not Whale Spout Bullies… but a lot of us probably fall in the “no harm, no good” category in our daily encounters with other Moms. (I still feel guilt today that I never said something encouraging to that Mom in Michaels as everyone stared at her child’s public meltdown).
So I’m going to ask you to take this challenge with me… in honor of my favorite quote:
“Be kinder than necessary… because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.”
Because IT’S TRUE… and it’s even more reason that we HAVE to stick together on this because we all fight our own battles as Moms, as women, as humans. That Mom in the grocery store could be a single Mom getting off her second job of the day. That Mom could be going through something personally tragic. That Mom could just need SOMEONE to support her that day, because maybe she’s not getting it anywhere else. So if we can just assume that about everyone … I would hope that we would be a little more supportive.
Take the challenge with me to SEARCH OUT ways to encourage another Mom when you encounter her. And let’s CHANGE the notion that a Mom’s worst enemy is often another Mom… and let’s become the allies we were meant to be.