On Parent Shaming.

About two weeks ago now, between swimming lessons and hockey, I decided to try to get our Target run out of the way with my kids. I had made a list, meal planned. Was actually feeling pretty on top of things as we zoomed through the store up this aisle and that aisle.

I looked at the time and realized that we were going to cut it close to get H to hockey with enough time to get his equipment on if we didn’t step it up a notch so I told my kids that they could pick out a Lunchable {In the moment I felt this was my parenting downfall of the day, getting my kids lunchables versus a healthy lunch. Little did I know.}

Once we got to the check out, I ripped the backs off the Lunchables so I could pay and sent the three of them {ages 10, 7 and 3} to the cafe area to eat their lunch while I checked out.

This was a good solution to me for two reasons:

1. They were out of the way while I was trying to check out. There is nothing worse than kids in the check out aisle.
2. They would get their lunch eaten while I checked out, meaning we’d be able to get to hockey on time.

I was apart from my kids between 5-7 minutes. The entire time we were separated, I was putting my items on the belt and/or paying. I didn’t go anywhere else.
My kids sat in the cafe, the two little girls at one table and H at another. At one point H came to tell me that he was finished but the girls were diddle-daddling, I sent him back with instructions to tell them to get a move on and he did.

Once I paid, I pushed my cart towards the cafe to grab the kids. A woman, maybe around the age of 40, was standing nearby and appeared to be waiting for someone. As I got closer, she said “Are these your daughters?” and pointed at the girls.

Yes, I answered thinking she would launch into something funny/cute/ridiculous the two had done.

“You should really think more and make better choices before leaving your cute little girls alone.”

She started and I felt my cheeks turn red and told her that their brother was watching them and then I pointed at him.

She continued.
She continued to question my parenting.
She continued to berate me.
She continued to tear me down IN FRONT of my children using words like “better parenting choices” and “lucky to not be a headline.”

I was so caught off guard all I could think to say was “Thank you for your concern!” and I scooped up Miss F and her half eaten lunchable and walked out the door.

Of course my kids had a hey-day with this.
Miss F asking me why I was a naughty mom {Definitely not words this woman used but she obviously picked up on this woman’s sentiment.}
Miss E let me know that while I was checking out this woman approached her and asked where I was and she told her I was checking out. According to my SEVEN year old, this woman told her that she should be with me and not alone in the cafe.
And H witnessed this woman call a manager over and stand talking to the manager while pointing at the girls.

This was within 5-7 minutes.

I’m just flabbergasted.

I mean, I appreciate the concern. I do. To know another mom is looking out for my kids, that’s awesome.

But the shaming that went along with it?
To publicly humiliate me?

There are so many responses I’ve thought of since this happened but none make it any better.

This woman thought I was a terrible mother and felt it was important for me to know how terrible I was right then and right there.

Has this ever happened to you? How did you respond? Also, what would it take for you to approach another parent to criticize their parenting?


  1. This story still shocks me!! I feel like I have made some poor choices over the past 10 years of being a mom that would warrant a “scolding” but this seems totally fine with me!! At age 10 I was babysitting other kids until midnight! I don’t see anything wrong with H watching them 20 feet away from you??? I’m guessing this mom had some situation in the past that made her so “nervous” and paranoid!

  2. Lisa Braegelman says:

    My experience with shaming is a lot more subtle. As a childcare provider, I am out in public quite often with 3-5 children who are not mine. They are too far apart in age to be twins, too close together in age to be siblings and the do not look like me or my four biological children. I am obviously taking care of other people’s children and women/moms treat me as such-as though I am hired help. As a mom I stand with moms every morning at preschool drop off, at the bottom of slides at playgrounds, in the library at story hour or in line checking out books. I go to DQ for the occasional treat or a quick trip to Target to replenish our coloring books supply-I bring the childcare kids along so they can pick out their favorites characters too. I know the kinds of conversations moms strike up in lines, or booths at ice cream shops or when waiting patiently or impatiently for a child to pick out a treat, book or sitting on a bench outside the splash pad because I am a mom and I have had plenty of mom-like interactions when I am “just a mom” in those places. However, when I am a childcare provider, moms treat me like I am the hired help and do not bother to acknowledge me. I am snubbed and looked at as though I, and my childcare tribe, do not belong on the indoor climber with the children whose moms choose to work inside the home. I feel the need to add that my kids are very well behaved and do not cause a disturbance. If that was the case, we would stay home. Some interesting things to know about my 11+ years as a childcare provider is that although I have been snubbed by almost every mom I have encountered in the 8 years I have dropped off and picked up at preschool – and that is a LOT of moms – I have never been made to feel less than by a Dad picking up or dropping off. Women judge and women rank other women and it’s very sad. We do to feel more secure in our choices and how we choose to parent.

  3. Adrianne says:

    You are a great mom. I’ve seen you in action. You let your kids be free and wild and themselves (in all the right ways and with limitations of course). This lady needed to get this off her chest and you were there to take what she had to say. I’m with Stacey. Probably something that happened to her and she’s putting it on you to feel better.

    Your kids are lucky to have you, even from 20 feet away.

  4. You are a GOOD mom! Do not let one person’s opinion sway your thinking about that! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people judge and berate when they are not in the same situation. I would have done something similar to what you did without a second thought and I’m sure I wouldn’t have handled this woman’s tirade nearly as well as you did!

  5. Maria Sterner says:

    My advise, if you know you are a good mom (everyone’s standards are different) just IGNORE everyone’s else concern or ugly comment. We will always find this ridiculous person that doesn’t see the stick up their eyes 😉 and just find pleasure bothering others. The problem is that your kids were witnesses. Then I would try to use this opportunity to teach them how ugly those people without nothing better to do are. what this sour lady did is completely wrong, being so judgmental and sour of her. Kids KNOW how great their parents are no matter what other people say.