A Big, Buttery Nugget of Mom Shame

I woke up with a searing headache and a foot to the face. After working on a freelance project until 3am, the kids were up and at ‘em at 6 and of course, I was, too. The house was atrocious since the garden is up and my husband is planting and mowing pretty much all night every night. Honestly, nothing was right when I woke up today, but what ever is when you’ve been dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression for, like, EVER?

So, you know how sometimes you just see the day tanking fast and you decide to abandon ship and take the kids out? Somewhere. Anywhere. That’s what we did.

The kids lasted about 4 minutes at the mall before the whole trip started getting hairy. The 4-year-old: poking, whining, antagonizing, arguing.  Then the baby started crying. And crying. Very unlike her…she just doesn’t do that. Except she did today.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for over a year now, and this moment is one we’ve dissected a few times. Without getting into all the boring details of My Own Head, I’ll just skip to the end part where I try to find a way to hit that reset button and change the direction of our day.


When we first became parents, my husband and I made whole organic food our #1 priority. But, 2 kids later, we’re at about 85/15.  Sometimes, grab-and-go foods are just a necessity, and soft pretzels are one thing on our “OK while we’re out” list. They don’t contain dyes, have fairly simple ingredients, and while some might cry “Gluten!” on us, when you weigh them against bags of candy or head-sized cinnamon buns, they’re just not that bad. Especially when the three of us share them.

So off we headed to our pretzel mecca. The kids were smiling and happy and the pretzels smelled awesome. Find a bench, breathe, regroup, shop for something to wear to a meeting with my main client tomorrow. In my head, I was working through that “inner dialogue” diagram my therapist keeps telling me to use when anxiety sets in.

Just as we began to pop our first pretzels, I looked up to see three of the most heavenly looking children I’ve ever seen. Long, curly hair, with outfits just mismatched perfectly enough that they could live on a magazine page. Then, the dad. Well dressed, with a thick Australian accent, asking his kids to behave so he could check work emails on his iPhone (they did), and good looking enough to make me quite aware that I hadn’t showered and I couldn’t really be sure there wasn’t any food on my old maternity shirt.

Yes, maternity.

That’s when I heard it. One model child, seeing ours, asked if they could have pretzels, too. Dad’s response nearly knocked me on the floor.

“No, you may not have pretzels. You may never have pretzels. Not if you were starving to death – STAHVING to DEATH – would I evah, evah buy you garbage like that. That kind of food will KILL YOU.”

OOF. Mind you, this guy was about two feet from me. His comments were pointed and deliberate and filled with disgust aimed right at my face. I sat there, in that moment, realizing that I had been mom shamed right there in the mall.

A Big Buttery Nugget of Mom Shame

I wanted to sink into the floor. Because he was right. I fully agreed with him. But I also wanted to rise up and yell at him, too. Yell that I have been working unimaginable hours trying to establish a new business on my own. Yell that I just registered for a half marathon and I harvest asparagus and spinach from my yard every day and that my kids eat ALL THE GREEN THINGS and that I know I’m failing every single day because I just can’t meet these expectations I set up for myself and I DO know how to make better pretzels at home but OH MY GOD THE TIME THERE’S NEVER ANY TIME.

…and seriously, doing things I never thought I’d do – like feeding my kids mall food –  is becoming pretty flickin’ commonplace around here these days.

And then his flawless wife bounced out of Hollister (of course she did) and off they went, surrounded by a soft, hazy white light, leaving me feel like I’d been punched in the stomach.

Because you, Mr. Haughty and Successful Australian Stranger in the mall, have no right to try to shame me for taking a moment to just let things slide. I’m very well aware of my own shortcomings, but I see no need to make my kids so well aware of them that they start making up shortcomings of their own. I didn’t judge you for lining your obedient children up on a mall bench while you checked work emails (nor do I judge the iPhone-toting playground moms who are so popular to pick on these days.)

I’m seeing a lot of “let’s stop judging” pleas lately, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Yeah, I judge. Most of us do. Just keep that nonsense to yourself. Because there’s a very good chance that the mom being looked down upon is pretty darn aware of whatever judge-worthy thing she’s doing, and she just may be judging herself over it harder than any stranger ever could. But she’s trying. We’re all trying. And if a cup full of pretzels is the worst thing to happen to my kids today, well then we all just might make it until tomorrow.

Oh damn. I still have nothing to wear to my meeting.

High fives all around, moms.




  1. Ruth Tincoff says:

    You tell it Wendy!!
    We need penalty flags. When the shame and judgment flies, throw the flag. postcards with #nojudgment?

  2. LOVE!!! So well stated!!! I hope the day comes when, instead of judging others for their preferred parenting style, we can just be kind and supportive and help each other out! You’re an amazing mama!! Good for you to get out, and use a “safe” thing to calm a situation!! :)
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  3. Wow. I would just love to unload on that guy. Ugh, what a douche canoe.
    Who does that? Especially in front of his kids. I will never understand that kind of parental behavior.

    Okay, I’m done judging him.

    I’m sure he’s got his own insecurities, too.

    But YOU are doing an amazing job, one of the most productive moms I know – I wish I accomplished half of what you are juggling. My kids don’t eat nearly so well and I’m not doing any blogging or official work of any kind, and yet I feel like I’m drowning most days.
    I am doing better now since I cut down, but I have definitely struggled with PPD since Elanora. It makes me want to punch people like that guy in the face for making any mom feel that way.
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  4. I never would have let that slide. He was wrong to embarrass you like that and especially in front of your child. What you feed your kids is YOUR decision.
    Robin (Masshole Mommy) recently posted..16 Picnic Perfect SandwichesMy Profile

  5. That was a totally over the top response from that dad.

    And, seriously, a few pretzel bites are not going to kill ANYone.

    He needs to get over himself.
    Tracie recently posted..The Early Days Of Blogging And How It Has Changed Since 2005My Profile

  6. Hugs to you Wendy! I think we have all had moments like that. I have to applaud you for keeping your mouth shut. I would’ve had a thing or two to say to that snotty dad :)
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  7. It’s so terrible when parents judge other parents. You never know what someone else is going through.
    Pam recently posted..Easy Gluten Free 7 Layer Bars recipeMy Profile

  8. Wow. I would have to give that man a lesson in parenting plus one in kindness.

  9. Seriously, I’m not sure I would have had enough self control to withhold giving him a BIG piece of my mind! Whatever happened to be kind to people and not judgmental?? Sorry you had to encounter such a jerk. :(
    Christine Luken recently posted..$15 Amazon Gift card and 7 Day Shakeology Giveaway!My Profile

  10. lisa jones says:

    People Stink & I’m Putting That Nicely But Keep Doing What You Do Best & That Is Being A Mom Yoyr Doing A Great Job & Don’t Let Anyone Knock You Down!!! XO

  11. I think unless you are physically abusing your child there is no reason to be judged.

    • I know what you mean. Truthfully, I have to admit that I do judge sometimes. Probably too much. But the difference is that I DON’T say anything to parents who are doing things I don’t agree with. You get so much further by sticking to your own guns and trying to be a positive example, maybe inspiring others on occasion.

      No positive example came from this guy. I just left feeling like a hypocrite in need of a good juice cleanse. :/

  12. Oh, this makes me so angry. SO angry. What is wrong with people? Why do some people think its ok to judge like that? Karma. That’s all I am going to say. That dad is going to get some karma right back at him, because he deserves it. As Tracie said, he needs to get over himself.
    Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life recently posted..Small Business Interview: Hippie Chick Granola {Discount code included}My Profile

  13. LOVE Auntie Annie’s pretzels. People can be so judgemental, I am sorry this happened to you.
    Mama to 5 BLessings recently posted..Jimmy’s Gone Green Challenge ReviewMy Profile

  14. That was incredibly rude on his part. Maybe it’s not his choice for his family but he ought to keep his opinions to himself. I see absolutely nothing wrong with your choice to have some pretzels. Besides Auntie Anne’s pretzels ROCK.
    Liz Mays recently posted..These Squishy Little Shoes #SkyscapeMy Profile

    • Rock, they do! But if we’re being honest, they’re not MY choice for my family either! But I focus on promoting what we DO choose, not bashing what we don’t.

      I was already feeling like I was bending rules, which for me = a feeling of failure and not being able to quite “hack it”, and that’s why his attitude affected me as much as it did. I kind of felt like he kicked me when I was down, you know?

  15. Some people can be so rude, they do not realize how bad they look when they do it. Life is too short to be rude to others. Who doesn’t like a buttery pretzel or doughnut now and then?
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  16. I’ll take your mall pretzel and old maternity shirt over his poor personality and work emails any day. No one likes a Judgy McJudgster.
    Dawn recently posted..Reebok Skyscape Runaround: The Perfect Summer Shoe #MC #sponsoredMy Profile

    • True! Funny part = I was checking work emails all day too, on the sly. I had to wonder if he and I did the same job for a living. Wouldn’t THAT be funny!

  17. I totally agree – no judging! I have news for Mr. Know It All – the lesson he taught his children by his remarks are much worse than a few pretzels. Also, if he is like that in a busy location….can you imagine how he is behind closed doors! Scarey!

  18. Unfortunately this stuff keeps happening even when the kids are older, just what the judging is about changes.
    Hey, I have given my kid a lollipop at the bank at 9 in the morning just to make it through the day. It doesn’t make me a bad parent it makes me a survivor-LOL!
    Milena recently posted..10 Things I Learned This Week in MayMy Profile

    • I can only imagine how bad it gets once the kids reach their teenage years! Ugh… Maybe then I’ll be better at dealing.

  19. PSSSH! There is never any judgement from THIS mom! Ever. Mr Know It All needs to be ignored…overreaction much? The pretzel will KILL them? OK.
    Dee recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Evan Conquers The WakeboardMy Profile

    • Yeah, it was definitely a bit over the top. He didn’t actually say it TO me, but his intentions for me to hear it were clear. I preach about junk food quite a bit myself, but it’s not like we were eating a big bag of Nerds, you know?

  20. Ugh. Those people (like that Dad) who are so quick to judge, label, react to what they think they see tire me out. I sincerely feel bad for his kids. They will learn that behavior and probably be just like him.
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  21. Oh well to each his own. I hope you really got to enjoy your pretzel.
    Bella Vida Letty recently posted..Oven Baked Spinach Kale Ricotta Frittata RecipeMy Profile

  22. You are absolutely right in that we are all doing the best that we can in every single moment with our children. Judgment and snide remarks will get no one anywhere – regardless of how fashionably mismatched their outfits are ;)
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  23. So awesome that you all live a healthy lifestyle. I definitely understand where you are coming from with people misjudging moms. It can be hard, but people shouldn’t judge if they don’t know all the facts. :)
    Brittnei recently posted..Activities To Do With A 2 Year Old On A BudgetMy Profile

  24. I think we have a right to parent our own ways. Judgments galore it seems since I’ve had a kid. I see it all over the place. The way people look at you, etc. Sometimes we just have to pretend they don’t exist. :)

  25. “I wanted to sink into the floor. Because he was right. I know this, and I fully agreed with him.”
    I think stopping judging should begin with yourself. Why, why, why(!?!) was he right? I don’t often give my kids Auntie Anne’s pretzels because I think they’re overpriced, but I certainly don’t think they’re gonna kill them.

    • Yeah, you got me. He wasn’t really right, I just felt like he was. I spend so much of my work and personal life fighting the good fight for real food, that I just felt so small when he caught me during what I already felt like was my weak moment. That jerk.

      Thanks for the dose of reality. I need those sometimes. :)

  26. I just loved this post more than I can even say. Word, sister.
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  27. This dad actually told his kids that he’d rather see them starve than eat mall food. While he was in a mall. That is almost priceless.

    What in the world is wrong with people? I’m sorry that you had to deal with that.
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  28. Oh the judging :( I’m so sorry. Everyone deserves a little pretzel now and then. Everyone. Seriously.
    Tricia recently posted..A little bit of workMy Profile

  29. Oh heck no, you didn’t let that stick up his ass, judgmental douche canoe make you feel bad about buying your children some occasional mall treats. It’s all on him, not you. It is in no way a reflection of you or your parenting.
    We all get our kids pretzels from time to time, and that was just plain rude and thoughtless of him. It’s awful when parents judge each other. We all need to stick together in a show of parental solidarity, you know?
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