Zip it, Lady!

July 14th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  17 Comments


From the Times‘s Motherlode blog:

A post on people criticizing parents in public. The example on the blog is of a woman with her toddler at the supermarket. Said youngster has a meltdown in the checkout lane, complete with much loud crying. Mother, instead of trying to quiet child, tries to hurry through the line and get out of the store. Another mother in line behind her intervenes, not to help, mind you, but only to say that, “Long-term crying is very bad for this child.”

Yowza. Isn’t city life a beautiful thing, one big urban, helping, sharing, co-parenting, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along, utopia? Mother’s response to this:

Why would another MOTHER do such a thing?!? It isn’t like she offered to help me pack my groceries or pick up my daughter to get her to stop crying. She just wanted me to know that a crying baby is a bad thing?! Honestly. I’m sure there are many of us out there with similar experiences. I’d love to hear from the women who make these comments to understand what on earth makes them think this is acceptable or helpful?!

There’s a long string of comments appended to the post, many worth reading. Here’s my query to you, readers: is this mostly a mom-on-mom thing? I’ve never received any unsolicited advice about JP, and I’m definitely no saint. Is this the kind of thing competitive mothers do to passively-aggressively undermine each other?

Or are people really just assholes?


  1. Marty says:

    July 14th, 2010at 9:58 am(#)

    Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me yet. I’ve already prepared my response full of cursing and venom. But at the same time I have to believe that no woman would approach a dad and say something for just this reason. And no man really cares enough to butt in do they?

  2. Didactic Pirate says:

    July 14th, 2010at 9:59 am(#)

    It does seem like there’s a gender element here. I’ve never had another dad criticize or advise me when I’ve been out with my daughter, or even give me any sort of judgmental look. At the most, I’ve had dads give me an empathic “Yea, I’ve been there, Dude” sort of expression when seeing me deal with some mini-tantrum or something, which I actually appreciate.

    I have, on the other hand, had mothers approach me out of the blue to offer me unsolicited parenting advice when they see me and my daughter out in public. I always thought it was just because of the still-pervasive stereotype that men are too Cro-Mag to be decent parents — it’s interesting to know that women do this to each other too.

  3. Joshua says:

    July 14th, 2010at 10:35 am(#)

    I find that this happens only with the mom on mom basis or at the least the gender card only works with females. One such instance that occurs constantly is from my friend’s wife. She openly has these backhanded comments on the parenting style that my wife and I take. However never can my wife say something in response without getting an ear full from said wife “I can’t believe you would say something like that”.

    My wife and only my wife has been approached in stores and judged on her lack of parenting because it’s not politically correct ( left the baby more than 2 feet from her to look at some clothes).

    Dads and other guys rarely even look my way but if a mother does I get the “oh look at that he’s being a good dad” look. Which is creepy cause it makes me feel as though they know something I don’t. Its all undermining.

  4. Daddy Files says:

    July 14th, 2010at 11:15 am(#)

    I think dads would step in if they saw a parent in public who was endangering his/her child in some way. But short of that, only women feel the need to butt in and offer unsolicited advice when it comes to tantrums, crying babies, etc.

    It’s obnoxious.

  5. Charles says:

    July 14th, 2010at 11:55 am(#)

    I have only occasionally received unwanted parenting suggestions when out with my daughter (generally falling into the rather vague realm of either fashion advice or the importance of winter layering), but last winter my wife and I were accosted by a panhandler on Avenue J who, apparently mistaking our mobi-wrap as a suffocation device, interrupted his transaction with another passerby to lumber after us shouting, “Let him breathe! You have to let him breathe!”, incorrectly presuming both the gender of our child and our receptiveness to unsolicited parenting advice from random street-crazies. Sorry dude. Wrong on both counts.

  6. Tim says:

    July 14th, 2010at 1:33 pm(#)

    I have never been given anything even slightly resembling critical parenting advice when I’ve been alone with my children. In fact, it’s completely the opposite, where some folks (esp grandma-aged women) regard me as if I’m doing something heroically bold and challenging.

    So I’m inclined to think that it’s a woman-on-woman crime, but you should never rule out gender-blind assholery.

  7. Jack says:

    July 14th, 2010at 1:40 pm(#)

    I had one instance years ago where a guy said something. I was in line to pay for some items at the store, just one person in front of me.

    My son starts screaming at the top of his lungs. I know what it is about, he is teething. I give him a pacifier, but it takes a moment for him to settle down.

    Guy behind me decides that it is a good idea to tell me that I am not being a good parent. He came within two words of not being able to walk under his own power out of that place.

    Sleep deprivation does wonders for tolerance.

  8. karen says:

    July 14th, 2010at 6:41 pm(#)

    The best bit of parental interference I ever experienced was from an older man on a residential street. I had my first baby asleep on my front in a snuggly (Babytrekker, O how I loved you) and I nodded to him and smiled (I am an old-school Vancouvite and he, First Nations, we do those sorts of things) as I passed.

    He shook his head in a resigned fashion and said, “You younger people have it all wrong. I carried all of my babies like that, and my grandkids, but you are going to ruin your back!!! You should learn from past generations and carry babies on your back. It’s just not natural.”

    Sweetest unsolicited advice I have ever received.

  9. Amy says:

    July 14th, 2010at 11:41 pm(#)

    Now that we’ve decided to have another Goddamn kid and I’m back out in the world with a 2-month-old, I’m remembering how horrible other moms can be. I let it roll off my back this time around, but I was pretty much in tears for the first 6 weeks of my daughter’s life. Seriously, you try feeding (out of necessity) your baby a bottle of formula in upper Manhattan and hear what gets said…

    I think moms are very insecure, and we all want to know that we’re doing it right. I think the moms saying unhelpful or downright nasty things are trying to validate their own parenting choices.

    On that note, did you see this Cribs v Beds post in Salon? Hilarious.

  10. AH says:

    July 15th, 2010at 8:10 am(#)

    Never been accosted by advice-giving folks. May have said some mostly innocuous, although sometimes stupid stuff. But whatever it was (like saying “there ya go” when I saw a mom put a screaming kid in her bjorn. My own 6 month old was in a bjorn too at the moment) it was more benign than anything else.

    The one time I thought I was actually helping, I got a strange look and no “thank you”, not even a grateful look. A lady in from of me had an infant and a toddler in her cart and the infant was losing it. The toddler was trying to help, but aggravating it. I started trying to amuse them both, engaging my toddler as well. I kept out of their personal space too. She was obviously flustered and wanted to get her stuff together and get gone as she barely registered me other than to crunch her eyebrows.

    I do find the best way to avoid screaming infants or toddlers is always food… feed the baby before you leave the house and bring snacks for the todd’s.

    HA! Advice!

  11. scottstev says:

    July 15th, 2010at 9:20 am(#)

    Keeping with the theme of gender differences; I find that people bend over backwards when I’m with my kids alone. Doors get held, seats get offered to me on the bus and I get a better spot in line (or “on line” for you NY’ers). I have never seen the same offered to mothers watching the same amount of kids I have or juggling the same amount of stuff. It’s like they’re expected to handle three kids, a diaper bag, and two armloads of groceries, but a father is like the Oscar Wilde quip about a dog walking on two legs. It isn’t so much that he can do it well, it’s that he’s doing it at all that’s a marvel.

  12. Rebecca says:

    July 15th, 2010at 10:30 am(#)

    I wanted to weigh in on this yesterday, but I spent the time instead combing the flakes from my baby’s scalp. It’s definitely a mom-on-mom thing… A mompetition* where there is no winner but lots of questionable judging.

    Like most first-time parents, I went from having a challenging career to sniffing my son’s diaper for poopies. (My own mother referred to it the “peas or carrots phenomenon” — ie, the most intellectual decision a stay-at-home parent makes all day will be what to feed the kid for lunch.)

    So it doesn’t surprise me that some insecure or frustrated women offer their unsolicited “expertise” as an outlet for unused brainpower. I just ignore them. As for the male commenters who get those heroic looks — my guess is that the granny-aged women are impressed that parenting roles have blurred for our generation. And if you get a smile from a younger mom, maybe she just wants to hang out with you and your kid and have a non-competitive playdate for a change.

    *Apologies for the pun.

  13. stormsweeper says:

    July 15th, 2010at 10:42 am(#)

    My experiences are much like scottstev’s on the whole. My wife gets tons and tons of unsolicited “advice” though, which used to drive her nuts. I think now she just glares at them.

  14. Theodore says:

    July 15th, 2010at 11:16 am(#)

    Rebecca–do not apologize for “mompetition.” very funny.

  15. Nathan says:

    July 15th, 2010at 12:17 pm(#)

    Yes, Rebecca. And I love any comment that has its own footnote. Bravo.


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