I was recently at Target picking up essentials for my new apartment when I got into the elevator with a mom pushing her infant in a stroller. I happened to look down and noticed she had a couple cases of beer in the undercarriage of the stroller. When I looked back up, I caught her eye and smiled.
“Oh my god, please don’t judge me!” were the first words out of her mouth.
I felt sad and immediately responded, “I would never! If that’s your thing, then do your thing!” I also joked that being a mom to a toddler made me want to drink all the beer, too, so I totally understood. We had a good chuckle and a minute of small talk as we exited the elevator and went our separate ways.
Her initial reaction was something that stuck with me though: “Oh my god, please don’t judge me.” She was serious too. She felt like she needed to justify her purchases to a random stranger so that she wasn’t unfairly taken down by my glimpse at her purchases.
The fact that judgment was her first instinct is really indicative of the state of society, especially when it comes to mothers. As parents, and maybe especially as millennial mothers, we feel vulnerable to constant ridicule. And it’s not a self-perceived scrutiny; millennial moms are subjected to judgment more than mothers of any generation before us.
You see it everywhere, especially given the rise of Facebook parenting groups and internet comment sections. Our parenting choices are constantly under siege by people who know absolutely nothing about us or our children. It can be overwhelming, especially when you’re a new mom like the woman in Target.
Her little boy was only 8 months old, and I can only imagine what she had already been dealing with if her first instinct upon seeing me glance at her purchase was to beg me not to judge her for buying beer. And I get it, judgment is an inherent part of any human being’s personality. It’s one of those natural instincts that tells us if we think someone might be a serial killer. We are never going to stop judging. It’s not necessarily wrong to make a snap judgment, but it is certainly wrong to let that snap judgment come sideways out of your mouth at a complete stranger without regard for that person’s life and feelings. Don’t be that person, okay?
What I didn’t get a chance to tell this mom was that I am in no position to judge another mom for her choices. My kid ate handfuls of mini M&M’s as we navigated our way through the store. I gave them to him in an effort to keep him entertained and not whining for more trains. I didn’t tell her that I let him have an ice cream sandwich for dinner because he wouldn’t eat anything else. I didn’t tell her that when he goes to sleep, I eat handfuls of Hot Tamales because sometimes it’s just one of those days and being a single parent is tough.
As a mom who puts all of her motherly flaws out there, I know how many judgmental assholes are lurking, looking for a reason to pounce on me for a perceived faux pas. I don’t like it when people do it to me, so barring extreme circumstances, I would certainly never do it to another mom and especially not over something like buying some damn beer. It was a summer weekend and any time I see someone with multiple cases of beer I just assume they’re having a barbecue. Bottom line: I’m never going to see this woman again — why would I ever judge what’s in her damn shopping cart?
If she looked in my shopping cart, she likely wouldn’t have felt so bad. It’s often filled with things like potato chips, fruit snacks, apple juice (regular apple juice because my kid won’t drink that watered down “tots” shit), soda (my biggest vice), and the odd fruit or vegetable. People probably give me dirty looks about letting my kid have junk food, but you know what? That’s why they invented the self-checkout line. Keep your eyes on our own damn cart, and worry about your damn self.
There are so many other things to worry about when you’re a mom: How am I going to keep this kid alive? Will we be able to afford college? Is my kid going to become a Tea Partier? Something like “Am I buying too much beer for my barbecue, and will some other mom (likely with a snot-nosed toddler in her cart that’s overflowing with chemical-filled, brand-name cleaning products) going to give me shit about it?” should be the last thing on your mind. And trust me, the mom with the toddler who’s probably throwing a tantrum because Mommy can’t afford a new toy and he ate all of his M&M’s is definitely not judging you (That’s me.)