Stop judging the mom with screaming kids in the grocery store

Before I became a mom, I never understood the screaming and whining kids I’d see pulling at their mom’s jeans for the Lucky Charms on the shelf just inches from their little fingers. I’d say things to myself like, 

“She needs to discipline her kids. How rude are they?!” 

I’d even stare if there was a child making a ruckus while I was trying to find the quinoa and salmon for my husband and I for dinner that night.

I had no clue. Kinda like when I said I’d nevergive my kids McDonald’s french fries. Who was I kidding? Fast forward to when God gave me four kids, five and under… Now I make those greasy fries in the air fryer.

It was payback time and as a new mom, the grocery store began to terrify me. So much that sometimes I’d even have a panic attack. Once I ran from the grocery section in Sam’s Club to the tire section and broke down in tears (true story).

I’d do everything I could to avoid grocery shopping with my kids. And on the days where the fridge was bare and I had no choice, I sucked it up and put on my big girl pants.

This one particular day I had all four kids in tow. Two seated in the double seated cart, one walking beside me, and the infant in his car seat in the basket (which I always wondered if that was officially OK or not). I felt like a wreck and as if all eyes were looking at me wondering what in the world I was doing. I didn’t have much makeup on and my attire was nothing short of mediocre living in a big city that boasted fashion and style.

To focus on my list was just impossible between my toddlers not being able to sit still in their seats and pinching each other. The infant screaming bloody murder and needing his milk, and my walking son being distracted by everything in his sight. My head started to pound and my muscles were tired from pushing all those pounds. I kept thinking what product could I take to have more energy?

When I walked down the cheese and meat aisle, condemning stares of other shoppers cut through me like a knife. My kids were loud and interrupting the peace and quiet of their peaceful shopping experience. And I hated that because I was a people pleaser. Their shrills were drowning out the elevator music coming from the speaker’s above.

But I was trying as best I could. I felt alone as a mom with a husband working lots of hours and adjusting to a new home and community. I was sleep deprived, hormonal, and depressed. And to add grocery shopping to my to-do list, just overwhelmed me to no end.

When we finally arrived at the checkout line, I felt like my chest was going to burst and I prayed the kids would be patient. I thanked the Lord for stickers and lollipops from the cashier and her friendly smile. Oh her warm smile gave me hope again.

She must have kids of her own, I thought.

I felt burdens lifted when I was helped to my suburban and groceries were put in my trunk.

I know I’m not the only one who’s felt judged and picked apart at the grocery store with young kids. It happens often. But I believe there should be no judgment of other moms who are just making it, getting food in for their family, and simultaneously handling meltdowns and discipline needs. It was a brave act for them just to get their young children there.

On top of that, there are emotional needs and challenges she may be facing in her marriage and family that weigh on her while she’s walking the aisles. Chances are high, she’s fighting battles of her own and doesn’t need to fight a battle of disapproving glares while she’s trying to provide the most basic needs for her family. 

Chances are good she’s trying to get through the aisles as fast as she can so she can reward her child with a ring pop at checkout. Who was the genius that decided to put every sugary candy there is in the checkout line anyway? 

The truth is we’ve all been there as moms- on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out. It’s far easy to judge what we see with our naked eyes. It takes hard work to pause, examine the situation, see what’s going on beneath the surface, and be compassionate and understanding towards another mom by:

  • Giving her the biggest smile you’ve got
  • Sharing an encouraging word or compliment
  • Going out of your way to offer a helping hand
  • Sharing your own stories of struggle and how you overcame

I laugh today when I think about the mom I was before I had kids. I just didn’t know. But now I do, and it’s up to me to extend that same compassion and grace that I long for other moms to have towards me.

Like what you read? More from Samantha in her book: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches

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