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.
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.
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 American Eagle Outfitters (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.