I am surrounded by moms. If I look at the people I interact with most in a day, whether it be in person or via the internet, I see mostly moms. For several years I’ve wanted to write about the way we non-moms interact with moms and after hearing about what happened to a mom-I-know at a Trader Joe’s yesterday, I’m ready to do it. Now, I know I can’t possible know since I don’t have kids of my own, so I’m open to additions and subtractions to this list from all the moms out there (I just practiced number 5!).
- Don’t touch. Mom or child. I often see well-meaning people reach out to touch a pregnant belly or hold the hand of a newborn infant. The mom in that situation does NOT know where your hands have been and I can’t imagine that’s ever a comfortable situation for her. Remember, puppies and kittens are for petting. Babies and Moms? Not so much.
- Do help out (but always ask first). Some of the most overwhelmed moms I’ve seen are on airplanes with young children and without another adult to help. I always ask if I can help carry the car seat on or off the plane. See a baby toss her bottle across the room in a restaurant? It’d be so nice if you would pick it up for her. Hold doors. Let mom go ahead in line. You see how it works.
- Extend an invite. We non-moms often find ourselves thinking: “She’s got a baby now…she doesn’t want to go out with the girls!” Ah, but there’s a difference between “doesn’t WANT to go out” and “is too tired to go out” or “can’t possibly go out”. New moms especially may find themselves feeling lonely for friends they don’t see as often, so DO invite them out for gatherings and DO your best to make gatherings baby friendly and DO plan an at-home date on the couch with your mom-friend, a glass of wine and a bad movie.
- Stow the judgement, even if you’re doing it in complete silence. Remember how your own mother always knew what you were up to even when you made every effort to keep it quiet? Well, that ‘s because mom’s have a gene that allows them to read minds. I’m convinced that even if you’re just thinking about how you’d discipline that child or how your baby will never cry that loud, moms can hear it. So, just don’t do it.
- Admit that you don’t get it. I did this one up there in my intro paragraph. I think this is just a nod of respect. I don’t have kids so I don’t get it. BUT, I do care and wish I could get it to better commiserate with you, mom-friend.
- No salting the wound. A stranger approached the mom-I-know in a Trader Joe’s yesterday to say that she (the stranger) had to leave because she was “disgusted” by a toddler’s meltdown. Unfortunately, I see this kind of thing happen all the time. As though mom-I-know was really enjoying the meltdown and hoped to share the experience with everyone around her. As though mom-I-know has a magic wand that stops a crying child but was just choosing not to use it. As though a hateful, ignorant remark did anything but add evil to the situation. Don’t add stress to an already stressful moment. If you can help in some way (see #2) do it…but probably the best thing is to just go on about your business!
- Don’t glare. I was once sitting on a plane beside a middle-aged man who kept turning around to GLARE at the mom-and-infant sitting behind us. The baby was pretty fussy, especially during take-off and landing. Finally, as we were about to land ) I said “I don’t giving that baby the evil eye is doing much to quiet him down.” We can express our displeasure at baby meltdowns, toddler tantrums and a host of other fun munchkin moments all we want, but while we’re hoping the glare will achieve some drastic change in behavior, what we actually do is leave mom feeling ticked off or miserable and possibly scaring the baby into crying more with our ugly faces.
- Celebrate the kid. Lord knows babies are a handful, but in the process of being more patient and understanding and better acknowledging the struggles of parenthood, I think we as non-moms often forget an important role. That of cheerleader. Does it help my mom-friends when I tell them their child is precious or that their clever discipline technique makes me say “boo-yah!”? Who knows…but I just can’t imagine that throwing in some positive could ever really hurt.