To the woman in Tesco, how dare you judge me

To the woman in Tesco, how dare you judge me

** Mum, Nan, anyone else who doesn’t like bad language, either don’t read this one or do so knowing it is scattered with a fair few F bombs. You have been warned. **

To the elderly lady in Tesco,

Firstly, sorry to refer to you as the ‘elderly lady’ but I, obviously, don’t know your name and the fact you are, to put it bluntly, old is your most defining feature to a stranger like me. I want people reading this to know that I am not about to verbally take down a sweet little old over the internet. You are not all white curls, cuddly smiles and tottering about with a Zimmer frame, are you? When you spoke to me, it was clear you are very sound of mind and know what’s going on around you. For these reasons, my reaction to you is the same as it would be to anyone of any age who spoke to me the way you did. I refuse to let the fact you are probably over seventy be a valid excuse for the way you chose to go out of your way to make me feel like a rubbish mum this morning.

Can you remember our conversation? Maybe not, maybe this is the sort of thing you say to young unsuspecting mums all the time and you’ve already forgot about our little exchange this morning. If you have already let the hurtful comments you made slip from your memory, here is a gentle reminder of our conversation.

Alex and I were sat eating our lunch in the Tesco café and you were sat on the table opposite. Every time I looked up across our table I could see you staring at me. I was on my phone, catching up on emails and promoting a recent piece of work I’d written on social media. This was after Alex and I had finished eating, he was happily colouring in a picture and I was busily working away on my phone.

When you finished your cup of tea, for reasons I don’t fully understand you felt the need to wander over to our table. Your presence next to my chair felt intimidating, I could tell that all the angry stares from you preceding this moment were about to be given a voice. I knew you were going to judge me.

You said to Alex, ‘Oh aren’t you beautiful, what’s that your putting on your head?’ Alex was putting a tiny sandwich bag on top of his head, resting it on his hair like a hat. Disclaimer, I know kids shouldn’t play with plastic bags but this was ripped and only just big enough to fit a fairy cake in, the boy was at no risk of suffocating himself (besides, I was watching him with eagle eyes anyway).

When you started talking to Alex, I thought I’d got you wrong, you were being nice to him, smiling and he was smiling back. This happens a lot, Alex has blonde hair and massive shiny blue eyes and there’s always a smile on his face when we are out and about; he attracts a lot of old lady attention. I decided to get involved, ‘Alex, why don’t you wave hello to the nice lady?’ My boy waved his podgy little hand at you but I could tell he was becoming bored of this exchange, he’s more than just a cute toddler to be admired and he wanted to carry on with his colouring in/trying to make a hat out of cling film.

This is when the mood shifted, this is when things began to travel down the path I was expecting them to originally go when you wandered over to our table.

‘Why don’t you wave to Mummy? Considering she’s been on her phone the whole time, maybe you should give her a wave? You’re not getting any social interaction are you?’

Umm, what the fuck?

After you said this I laughed, I didn’t know what else to do. I could hardly tell you to pack up your judgemental comments and leave us the fuck alone, could I? Although you are clearly of the mindset that us younger generation only care about their phones, I happen to hold old fashioned values like using good manners, if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all and, most appropriate for this situation, respect your elders. So, that’s why I didn’t tell you to fuck off and instead allowed a shocked laugh escape my lips before you said, ‘Enjoy him while you still can’ in what felt like a sinister tone of voice and you finally left us alone.

I would just like to clear a few things up with you, is that alright?

Number 1, I wasn’t on my phone the whole time. To be fair, I was using it more than I normally would over lunch as I had lots of emails I needed to read, prioritise and respond to. You don’t know this, because you don’t know me, but I work from home. I blog but I also work as a personal assistant for my sister, there is always something I need to be doing and, more often than not, that involves looking at my phone.

Number 2, I am also trying to forge together a freelance writing portfolio and I had just noticed a piece I wrote for a parenting magazine had been published on their website. You don’t know this about me either, but I suffer with crippling self doubt and when you saw me on my phone, I wasn’t scrolling social media, I was scrutinising that piece of writing for any typos I had missed or any mistakes at all; I was rereading it for probably the thousandth time and trying to convince myself it was actually pretty good.

Number 3, you have no clue how much social interaction my child gets. Not one single clue. How can you decide that he doesn’t get any after only seeing us once in your life as we sat in a Tesco café and he coloured happily and I tried to get some work done? You didn’t see us earlier this morning, did you? We were at a toddler group, he had my whole attention for two hours, we built puzzles together, played farm animals, he sat on my knee as we sang nursery rhymes and we made a Valentines craft together. This is what we do atleast three mornings a week, we also play in the park, read story books, draw pictures, cuddle on the sofa, laugh, play and dance. He sees his grandparents a lot, he has an older brother he absolutely adores and sometimes, and only sometimes, he entertains himself while I do my work.

don't judge me

How dare you go out of your way to make me feel like a bad mum. Like I am failing my son, my child that you know nothing about.

Phones aren’t the devil in disguise you know. I was using mine to get some work done but so what if I wasn’t? It is absolutely none of your business if a mum wants to scroll Instagram for half an hour, or stalk old friends on Facebook or laugh at amusing thread she’s found on Mumsnet. Does it really have any impact on your day, like, any at all? Are you going to go home and fret about her toddler sitting in the highchair who didn’t get constant eye contact for thirty minutes? Is it really going to ruin your day?

In another life, a time when I wasn’t so mentally strong and confident in my role as a mother, your words would have really hurt my. You passive aggressively judged me through cutchy-coo talk with my toddler but I still felt the full force of the venom in your words. It wasn’t able to poison my self confidence like it once would have though, back only a year or so ago your words would have made me upset for the whole day. I think you should know that if you utter words like that to a fragile and vulnerable new mum, you could have her tears as she drives home feeling like a failure on your conscience. If she walks away after your nasty comments feeling rubbish about herself, that is all on you.

Also, can I just point something out? So fucking what if I was not giving my child my full attention to scroll on social media for a while? Being a parent is a 24/7 kind of gig, if we want a break to do something we enjoy, sometimes that time has to overlap with when our babies are around because there just are not enough hours in the day. We are allowed to take a break from time to time, are you really going to make us feel rubbish for needing a moment or two to ourselves? Alex was safe and he was happy colouring, he didn’t need me in those moments so I took advantage and pulled out my phone. I did my work but I refuse to be made to feel guilty if I had decided to get lost in a social media rabbit hole for a while instead. Like I said before, what business is it of yours?

As for, ‘make the most of it before it’s too late’, I don’t need to hear that. I have an older son, I know how quickly they grow, I know how precious these years at home with him are. I also know that I do not need to be interacting with him every single second of the day and I also know stepping back and letting them enjoy an activity to themselves gives them a chance to learn and develop certain skills. Taking some time to do something I want to do doesn’t make me a bad mum, answering emails when out to lunch doesn’t make me a failure. I know he will be in school before I know it, that’s why I am spending so much time with him and making so many memories with him and trying to soak up every second of the good times, I don’t need a stranger in the supermarket to tell me what to do. I especially don’t need to be told to make the most of it as your final nail in your judgmental argument, in fact, I don’t need your judgement at all. None of us parents do.

kindness poem don't judge mums

So, if you feel the need in the future, angrily stare across the café at parents who are just going about their day. Decide that they are awful parents for looking at their phones and not singing nursery rhymes on a loop to their toddlers or whatever it is you think we should all be doing. Just, can you please keep those thoughts to yourself? You don’t need to come over and share them with us, your only going to make someone feel bad about themselves and is that what you want? Is that person you want to be? Better yet, don’t be a judgemental old lady? I’ve experienced it myself enough and heard from mum friends and read enough blog posts to know that there is a whole gang of you out there, you’ve all clearly forgotten what the day in day out life of being a parent to young kids is really like. You’ve forgotten the times you felt judged when your own children were small by older generations, you’ve decided to take the moral high ground when no one ever asked you to.

Luckily, the judgmental Judy’s are in the minority and I have to say, I much prefer  your Smiley Sarah counterparts. I have all the time in the world for lovely grannies who want to speak to me about my kids, who want to coo into their pram or ask me how old they are and what are there names and, better yet, say something that makes me feel like I’m doing a good job (not, like you, say something that makes me feel like shit). Perhaps you could take a leaf out of their book? Or, if that really goes against your natural character, maybe you could just make a conscious decision not to voice those judgmental thoughts circling around your head? I know myself and all other parents out there will thank you for it.

Finally, I add this last paragraph incase the comments you made today stem from a place of hurt or emotional pain. I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you are sad now your children are grown up and you miss the days when they were small. I’m sorry if you never had children and wish you did. I’m sorry if seeing me ‘ignore’ mine made you angry because I seemed to be taking for granted something you longed your whole life to have. I’m sorry if you are lonely and wish there was a little human in your life you could shower with all of your attention. I’m sorry if you are hurting and the only way you know how to deal with those feeling is to hurt someone else too. I’m sorry if I upset you today, of course this was not my intention. I wonder though, are you sorry too?

From,

The actually pretty good mum in Tesco Café with the son who is not in anyway neglected

***

Have you ever felt judged in public? Or have you maybe said something to a mum who’ve seen out and about and regretted what you said?

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to the woman in tesco, how dare you judge me

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21 Comments

  1. February 15, 2019 / 7:51 am

    Ah Wendy, what a horrible thing she did and such a shame that you’ve even had to write a post explaining any of it. You are a wonderful mum and I think sometimes people forget that being ‘present’ every day for your child means that you DO have to make time to switch of momentarily in other ways, or to focus on other things. When you work from home, checking your work in the presence of a child shouldn’t incur any stronger wrath than a parent who went to work and left their child at nursery (who incidentally, also won’t get 100% interaction btw, because, other children).

    I’ve been in a similar situation last year when our car was broken into overnight and belongings stolen. My husband and I took the children to Nero for a hot chocolate to have a change of scene and a treat whilst we tried to sort it all out … insurance, bank statements, police, contacting neighbours etc…a woman of a certain age (and her husband) sat on the table next to us staring and tutting before exclaiming “look at those two! Just on their phones the whole time whist their two beautiful children are just being ignored – it’s disgraceful”…. my usually placid husband saw red and just glared at her and said very loudly back “we are actually on our phones because we’ve just been burgled and we’re trying to sort it out whilst the children have a treat!” – her husband was absolutely mortified and they left pretty quickly after that.

    Too many people see technology as a bad thing without having a single clue as to what is really going on xx

  2. February 15, 2019 / 12:06 pm

    Well done for keeping it together so well at the time. That lady has no right to make you feel like that, as you say she knows nothing about you or your context.
    Great outlet for sharing your experiences.
    Lucy Mackcracken recently posted…Breastfeeding Fashion with Simply BeMy Profile

  3. February 15, 2019 / 2:46 pm

    That’s an awful thing to experience. I’m not sure I’d have been able to hold my tongue though. There are too many judgemental people out there and in my eyes their numbers are growing. Say what you want in your own heads but don’t voice it. You never know what effect it’ll have!

  4. February 15, 2019 / 4:15 pm

    You were so the better person in this exchange. You didn’t rise to this horrible judgemental person. She probably hoped you would, as this is how some people get their kicks. She probably has nothing better to do than try to bring others down and say horrible things. Nothing you could have said in the exchange would have made her nicer. She will always be a miserable old lady. Good for you. #BlogCrush

  5. Anita Faulkner - Brazen Mummy Writes
    February 15, 2019 / 7:35 pm

    Good for you, taking this opportunity to say your piece. It’s a brilliant post! Maybe you should print a copy and keep it in your bag in case you bump into her next week! Keep us posted. Will give your blog a follow, as I love your honesty. (A bit like my own blogging style.) I hate these judgmental types, and being made to feel like we need to justify ourselves. I’m sure you’re doing a fantastic job. X

  6. February 16, 2019 / 6:44 am

    Oh my goodness. Well done for keeping calm and using this post as a way to get it off your chest. I agree if you don’t have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything.
    Michelle Murray recently posted…Review | Panda The Cloud Bamboo DuvetMy Profile

  7. February 16, 2019 / 10:08 am

    I hate the fact that some people feel the need to share the opinions with everyone like that. She didn’t know what you were doing on your phone, you could have been supporting someone who was having a crisis. Also fustrates me that we don’t feel we can respond back to them, it’s always after that I wish I had something back. Don’t worry about her comments, she has nothing to do with your life

  8. February 16, 2019 / 1:36 pm

    you shouldn’t give people like this a 2nd thought or a second of your time. The other a week a woman was rude to me about my dog at the dog park (I have 5 adult children also) my response was ‘that was rude and I have no need to justify my actions to you’ I promptly walked away and left her mouthing off at me, making herself look silly and small. #blogcrush

  9. February 16, 2019 / 1:39 pm

    Oh god, Judgey McJudgeface are the worst kind of people. How could they possibly know what or why a mum is using her phone, not that it’ any of their business in the first place. Like you, they could be getting some work done after just spending some quality time with their child. Or maybe they are working on a job application. Or arranging to attend a funeral. Or organising a house move (all things I have done on my phone whilst in the presence of my children). I’m too polite to ever tell those judgey people to F off, but I’d really like to.
    Jenni recently posted…15 Winter Wonderland Picture BooksMy Profile

  10. February 18, 2019 / 9:04 am

    Gah I hate women like that! It’s usually the older ones who will wander over and make such a comment too! As if life isn’t hard enough!
    Sonia recently posted…My Favourite Place: Jenny EavesMy Profile

  11. February 19, 2019 / 8:20 am

    I honestly don’t know how I would have reacted to such comments, she had nothing better to do than cause someone pain. What a shame

  12. February 19, 2019 / 10:37 am

    Good job she stopped in to offer your son a few seconds of social contact … how considerate. Wonder how many other rescue missions she performs every day? Bet she’s a regular supernan … not #DreamTeam
    Enda Sheppard recently posted…Some kids really know how to partyMy Profile

  13. February 20, 2019 / 11:12 pm

    The trouble is, people get past a certain age and just don’t seem to CARE what they say to others. Is it old age or were they always like that? Who knows. But what this “lady” said to you was so out of order, I bet you kept thinking of things to say to her afterwards?

    I once got told by an elderly couple, that they had been watching me for a while and thought that I was an older sister not the mum because I was so young! Thanks? I think??

    #dreamteam

  14. February 21, 2019 / 12:17 pm

    Oh my goodness Wendy this is so horrible. I don’t know why people feel it’s ok to vocalise such negative thoughts!!I used to get all kinds of comments when the elder 3 were little with just 2 and a half years between them all. “have they all got the same dad?” was a fave!!How rude! Seems some people think parents are fair game for a bit of judging!!
    Daydreams of a Mum recently posted…BlogCrush Week 105 – February 15th 2019My Profile

  15. February 21, 2019 / 8:11 pm

    Us mums are targets for unwanted advice or judgemental comments aren’t we? I have birthed 3 boys in 4 years…apparently this causes others great offence! Who knew the fact that I haven’t produced a female would be so upsetting? Or that I’ve had three children close in age means I need to be told to get a hobby? Seriously nosey Norah, do one! I’m in awe of your self control, I’d have given her a piece of my mind. #blogcrush

  16. February 21, 2019 / 11:10 pm

    I’m really impressed with both how you dealt with the actual situation, and how eloquently you discuss it in this post (and the F bombs were relevant in this context!). Especially the last paragraph, where you acknowledge that her bitter remarks might stem from a pain she’s carrying, made me quite emotional. I’m not sure I could have managed to stay as calm, and be as understanding, as you. Hoping you won’t have to deal with this kind of judgement again, it can really eat away at you even when you know they’re wrong, can’t it? Hugs x #BlogCrush
    Malin – Sensational Learning with Penguin recently posted…Sensory Fun in the Kitchen: Iceberg SlushMy Profile

  17. February 22, 2019 / 9:05 pm

    Oh god, Wendy, I am sat here seething and raging for you! What an absolute cow! I don’t know how you kept your mouth shut. I would have had to have tracked her down and given her a mouthful. The whole ‘phone thing’ gets right on my wick as it is – something I have written about myself before. The older generation are so very judgemental about it – I’ve even had comments from my own Mother about it in the past, she knows better than to bring it up these days. They don’t realise that phones are so much more than phones – they are mini computers that able us to work on the go – so that we can spend time with our kids instead of being chained to a desk. They have no clue and they think they are so right. I’m cross for you. I hope you felt better after writing it all down. Thanks so much for joining in with #TriumphantTales – make sure you come back next week for our special announcement!

  18. February 22, 2019 / 10:52 pm

    There wasn’t that many f bombs in here, I think you have been quite reserved! I remember being judged once, when I had a lady say, and I quote “you’re mummy won’t know what to do when you go to school, she will have to get a job” I had a job at the time, I had finished early to take my son to the dentist. #TriumphantTales

  19. February 24, 2019 / 8:05 pm

    People can be so vile!! I can’t tell you how many times we are judged mostly for having a large family. Even just today we sat down in a cafe and an old couple huffed and moved tables like the children were toxic! My son has even asked me why grown ups are allowed to be rude to them, but children have to bite their tongues… it is hard to give an answer when some random just told him to shut up because she had a headache! Thanks for sharing with the #DreamTeam