| LifeTakes |

Mommy Shame

I take comments personally, when I should’ve learned from my single years that people’s comments are a fact of life



I usually adore going to Costco, even though the majority of their bulk items aren’t quite practical for a family of 2.3. But the wide spaces! The bountiful produce! And now with a baby, the mega boxes of diapers, wipes, and Cheerios are a pleasure.

But since last summer, a wave of anxiety washes over me when I enter Costco.

It started when I took the baby there for the first time. In order to get to the blueberries, carrots, and mushrooms, I had to enter the refrigerated hangars. It was quite refreshing for an adult on such a sweltering day, but suddenly the baby’s weather-appropriate attire became a deathtrap.

I carefully positioned the cart so I could keep my eyes on him while I backed inside the hangar, hands waving wildly behind me in an attempt to grab a bag of lettuce without looking. I’m watching him!

“Whose baby is this?”

“Mine! Mine! I’m watching him!”

Her disapproval was quite clear. “Someone could walk off with him, you know.”

I was six steps away.

“It’s so cold in there, I don’t want him to get sick,” I protested.

Too late. She started lecturing me. I nodded dutifully, wondering how I was going to buy lettuce without giving my baby pneumonia and/or letting him get kidnapped.


Shouldn’t I have thicker skin? After a decade in the shidduch field, I’ve heard it all. I mean all. All the reasons I was still single: my physical appearance, personality, dating preferences, picture selection, and bizarrely, my aversion to camping in the great outdoors.

Then, badda-bing-badda-boom, I was engaged, then married, and… there’s only the sound of crickets. People have nothing to say! Or there would be polite niceties like, “Hello, nice to meet you,” instead of, “Hello, you must be Picky.”

Baruch Hashem, I was soon cradling a mewling infant. I preened as the nurses complimented me for “being so good with him” (I’m a professional aunt). My cockiness, however, didn’t last long. Because the comments started.

I once left the house without a change of baby clothes. It had been so long since he had leaked through a diaper, after all, and I wasn’t going that far.

Of course, his diaper leaked.

Of course, another mother saw.

Of course, she had to say, “I never leave the house without two outfits,” in that wise, I-was-born-an-all-knowing-mother voice, instead of, “It’s no big deal, it happened to me too with my first kid.”

I confess: My baby doesn’t sleep consistently through the night. Yes, I know all about the baby books. I even tried sleep training him for a few nights, but frankly, I don’t have that many principles at 2 a.m. I just want to go back to bed.

“Does he sleep through the night?” random strangers ask, as though that bit of information has any bearing on their existences. I debate if I should lie, because then I’ll get, “My babies slept through the night at six weeks!”

Are you offering to sleep train him? Awesome! I’ll expect you at 8 p.m.

When I laughingly related to a mommy that my growing boy is destroying my arm, to the point I have to sleep in a brace, I got, “Well, you don’t have to hold him all day.”

I… don’t?

Maybe I shouldn’t hold him at all. That would solve my arm problem, but would probably necessitate a psychologist in the future.

These comments, they’re back with a vengeance. Like before, it’s hard to tune them out. I know I’m practicing the same paranoid version of love I received (is he breathing? I’m sure he’s breathing. Maybe I should press my ear to the door just in case. Ah! A nose whistle! He’s alive!), but the seeds of self-doubt are being sown once again.

Maybe I am picky? Maybe it is my fault I’m not yet married? Maybe there is something wrong with me? was the internal playlist that ran for ten years. I really don’t want to hear that when raising my child, wondering if I’m being incompetent when I serve Cheerios on occasion. Or often.

I take comments personally, when I should’ve learned from my single years that people’s comments are a fact of life, like death and taxes. Just filter them out! But I wonder what damage our one-upmanship does to our children, pawns in the game of insecurity chess.

One day, I was in Costco, one eyeball fixed on the cart and the other on the vegetable display.

“Whose baby is this?”

“Mine! Mine! I’m watching him!”

“No worries, I’ll watch your pumpkin for you! My pumpkin is in college now. We mommies have to help each other out!”

Wow! Was that camaraderie, rather than competition?

We mommies really should help each other out.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 718)

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