Why do random strangers concern-troll moms in the winter?
It’s that magical time of year where strangers at the mall, old women in line at the grocery store and some guy at the mechanic shop panic that your baby is cold. Because obviously, us moms have no idea at all when it’s appropriate to put a hat on our own kid. My eyes may have rolled all the way to the point of no return just typing that.
Slate writer Rebecca Schuman recently addressed this incredibly irritating seasonal phenomenon and her observations are spot on. She says, “Concern-trolling vis-à-vis a small human’s relative temperature is a beloved year-round pastime, but never more popular than in winter.” This is absolutely true. As much as we may hear about keeping babies out of the sun, it’s about 500 times worse in the cold weather when every nosy, busy-body wants to tell you exactly how awful you are for not putting enough winter garb on your baby.
As Schuman also notes, it’s not that moms are cruel and trying to freeze their innocent babies: it’s simply that sometimes, babies are….babies. They tug hats off their sweet, little heads. They kick shoes and socks off their adorable, chubby feet. It’s just the way of the world for babies to fight clothing and any mom who’s been around the block a few times knows when to give up. Apparently, some strangers don’t understand how babies operate and hence, feel the need to “help.”
Schuman tells of an encounter at an airport baggage claim where a “well-meaning” stranger spotted her barefoot infant and felt the need to weigh in. “The lady took one look at my daughter’s pudgy feet, bare from kicking off her socks during an airborne contortion, and exclaimed, “PUT SOME SHOES ON HIM!”
Don’t you love how the stranger even got the baby’s sex wrong? This is probably a familiar exchange to any mother (yes, mother — it doesn’t seem as though fathers are subjected to this brand of criticism since all they need to do is show up to receive parenting praise.) It’s hard to understand why a stranger thinks they know how to care for your child better than you do. It assumes so much — that they know your kid and what they’re willing to tolerate. That they know you and your intentions. They might think they’re being helpful but truthfully, they’re being obnoxious jerks and need to mind their own business.
This is all aside from the fact that these nosy people are factually wrong most of the time in assuming a baby is cold. Schuman spoke with pediatrician Dr. Rae Brager who says yes, babies should have on a hat once the weather dips to a certain temperature. Brager states that infants are more susceptible to hypothermia due to their large heads causing them to have more “relative surface area” but that doesn’t mean they need a hat when it’s 70 degrees.
Brager says infants should have on hats “about the time that adults are wearing a light jacket.” Then, there’s the conventional wisdom that a baby doesn’t need to be bundled up much more than an adult. So if you’re not wearing a snowsuit, they probably don’t need one either.
The doctor also acknowledges that parents know if their baby “runs hot” and doesn’t need as many clothes as their peers might. That was definitely the case with my son, who would sweat in his infant seat if he had on a long-sleeve onesie in 60-degree weather. He’s six now and still tends to run a bit warm, so I don’t always push the issue. He might wear a lighter coat when other kids are in a winter coat but when I feel his skin, he’s not cold at all. A passing stranger might think me awful for not bundling him up, but that would make him sweat, so I don’t force it.
The bottom line is, most parents are doing the best they can and random strangers need to lay off with their “help.” All it really does is cause a parent to momentarily question themselves and possibly, further erode their confidence in caring for their kid. If you see a baby in a blizzard wearing a bikini, maybe speak up. Otherwise, keep your “helpful” thoughts to yourself. Because they almost certainly won’t help.