To the woman who mom-shamed me
How mean we can be to each other, especially when we don't know the entire story. Tonight, while attempting to enjoy dinner at our hotel that didn't revolve around cleaning the table, setting up the high-chair (which we carry everywhere we go to protect our little from contaminated public seats), eating with one hand while keeping one hand clean and free of allergens, watching our little out of the corner of our eyes in case we have to quickly clean our hands and assist her in some way, we decided to put aside parent-guilt and let our little watch a show in her stroller while we scarfed down our dinner.
So here's the thing about screens. We've discovered that the usual allergen-based stress that we experience at meal-times is heightened while on vacation. Like by a lot. Add to that a country that famously does not provide adequate basic health care to its own citizens, let alone those wayward Canadians who wander across the border to eat at restaurants and shop at Target. So, while on vacation, we generally choose screen-guilt over accidentally-feeding-my-kid-something-that-put-her-in-the-hospital-guilt.
Picture this, we set up our little in her travel high-chair (we use Phil & Ted's Lobster and carry it literally everywhere we go) after wiping every surface within her reach with clorox wipes and feeding her from the lunchbox we also carry everywhere we go, then as our own food arrives, we dig in and suddenly our little starts crying because she has dropped her paci on the ground, or wants a drink from her cup, or something. Like good parents, we rush to our little's help before the dark reality sets in...did we wipe our hands before we touched her soother (and shoved it in her mouth)? Did we just hand her a snack with our contaminated hand? Or did we remember to use the hand we always keep clean? Did we? Unsure, we spend the rest of the meal feeling nauseous and watching our daughter for any sign of an allergic reaction caused by our own moment of distraction?
So, we let her watch a video. That way we can eat, clean our hands and faces, make sure there is nothing risky in the crumbs on our shirts or laps, make sure our fingernails are clean. Then we can touch our little without fear that we missed something and that our mistake could have dire consequences.
Enter tonight. Instead of eating take out in our room after our baby goes to sleep, we decided to attempt eating out. Like people.
Two seconds into my hot chicken and fries, the baby starts fussing and threatening to throw her toys all over the restaurant floor. We placated her for a few minutes by letting her watch her favourite nursery rhyme show and enjoyed a meal free from hawk-eying (terrified) our daughter while we eat. While I finished the last few bites of my meal, my husband slipped off to wash his hands in the washroom, and a woman walked past my stroller saying loudly to her friend, "Huh. That baby is watching tv." Not like quiet. Like "check out that shitty mom letting a phone do her parenting." Before you say it, it's not in my head. That was a comment from a complete stranger directed at me. I know, because I'm sure I've thought that very thing when I have seen parents letting their kids watch screens in public places. And though I have better manners than to announce my thoughts, I definitely know I've judged the moms myself.
I left the restaurant as soon as my husband re-appeared, feeling disappointed in the fact that we humans are so quick to think the worst of one another. I mean, come on. Even without knowing all the details of our circumstance, its crazy to judge someone in a snap without any information aside from our own experience in the world.
It's not that I felt bad for swapping my food-based-allergy anxiety for a little screen-guilt. I make decisions every day that revolve around looking neurotic or crazy and keeping my kid out of the emergency room. But I mean, really. Don't we parents have enough to feel shitty and anxious and guilty about every day, even when we are trying our very hardest at what feels sometimes like an impossible task? Don't we deserve a little slack when it comes to assumptions about our parenting? So yeah, to the woman who mom-shamed me last night in Las Vegas (yeah, I was the one on the strip with my baby), I hope you felt good about yourself 'cause I sure as heck did when I put my sleeping baby to sleep, healthy and safely. No hives, no reactions, no ambulance rides. Vacation win for this Mom and Dad.