A Letter to the Mamas Out There

toddler feet

I work in a children’s hospital, which means that in any given day I see hundreds of parents and their kids. I see lots and lots of Mamas. And I’ve noticed something about Mom’s that seems pretty consistent across the board. There is a look that Mom’s make when their kid is having a complete meltdown in a super public place. I’m not a Mom so I don’t know what that feels like. But I know that look and every time, I want to tell that Mama this:

It’s okay. It’s no big deal. Your kid is not the first kid to have a tantrum and won’t be the last. In fact, that isn’t even the worst one we’ve seen today! So your kid is sprawled on the floor, screaming. It will pass. It isn’t your fault. It doesn’t make you a bad Mom. I’m sure it feels bad, and your face tells me you might be embarrassed. Please don’t be. You’re doing a good job. It’s okay. 

I want to walk right up to the Mamas and tell them that. They’ll never get an eye roll, a rude comment, or a judgy glance from me. Kids have meltdowns in Target, walking down the sidewalk, and yes, on airplanes (In fact, put the kid in the seat next to me. Thanks to my airplane meds, I won’t even notice). It happens.

I was a kid once. You were a kid once. And one day, that will be my kid having a meltdown on aisle 7. It will happen. All kids have tantrums. In fact it’s normal! N and I both listed to this Stuff You Should Know podcast about Temper Tantrums and it was definitely worth a listen. So someday I hope to be on the receiving end of some understanding when that is my kid. And Mamas out there? Let me reiterate: You’re doing a good job.

And actually, because I’m not a Mom, could someone tell me this: what is the best thing to do to make a Mom feel better or to help in this situation? Ignore it all together? Offer to help? Smile? I just never know but as someone who witnesses dozens of temper tantrums a day, I’d love some suggestions.

  • Joan

    Focus on the child- not the mom 🙂 As a mom, i’m not sure there’s anything anyone can do to help me when in a situation like that…at least regarding how I feel or how I deal with it. But if my child is happy, i’m happy. Hands down.

    You see a kid throwing a tantrum? Do what you can to distract the child….there’s nothing you can do for the mom, in my eyes at least, but kiddos are pretty easy to work with 🙂

  • Whenever I see a child throwing a temper tantrum I throw a sympathetic smile to the mom because I’ve been in that situation too. Depending on why the child is throwing the tantrum, a distraction is nice. Other times it is best to ignore the situation. For example, if my son is throwing a temper tantrum because he did not get his way I usually ignore him because I do not want to fuel the fire on that one. However, if he is terribly upset or is growing restless then anything helps to distract him or cheer him back up!

  • Yup. I see this all of the time at the preschool. Every mom thinks their kid is the only one who throws tantrums, or has bad mornings, or is a picky eater, etc. When we tell them “Oh, I’ve seen worse” or “It’s okay, this is totally normal”, they always look so relieved. As for the tantrum, sometimes they just need to cry it out. Yeah, there are times you can calm them down with a toy or telling a story or a song or something. But other times they just need to get it out of their system or be put down for a nap. 90% of the time when a kid is having a major meltdown at school, it’s because they didn’t sleep at home.

  • I never really notice when other children throw tantrums, but I still seem to get a little embarrassed when my daughter throws a fit in public. A little smile from a stranger and acting like they don’t care about the noise always makes me feel a little better.

  • I think a lot of moms would love words of affirmation like that! When my little guy was small he was screaming bloody murder in the checkout line of the grocery store and I was feeling SO stressed out and embarrassed because everyone was staring and some people were rolling their eyes. The woman in line behind me leaned forward and said, “Don’t worry. You’re doing a good job. Ignore those other people–someday they’ll be in your shoes. You’re doing great.” Just having that one person be positive about it turned my whole day around–I left the store feeling okay whereas without her comment I probably would have gotten to my car and cried.

  • Thank you for this! I honestly never care too much when my boys are acting bat shit crazy in stores and screaming. For some reason I don’t notice anyone around me and since I know that everyone goes through it I guess I’ve become oblivious to it but I’ve def gotten the eye rolls by others and I typically just brush it off. Usually when I’m out (kidless) and someone’s kids are acting a fool in front of me at check out I try and gage the parent and if they are crazy or not (seriously though!) and if they seem like I’d be friends with them I try talking to the kid! Kids usually are a little caught off guard when strangers talk to them so they will sometimes stop crying and just stare at you 🙂

  • Aw I love this post!! I am not a mom (and won’t be for a while) but I think it’s so important to remember it’s not the mom’s fault her kid is having a meltdown. I feel like people glare at moms all the time and it hurts my heart because everyone’s kid has a meltdown in public at some point or another. Great post!

  • Great post! And I am not even a mum.

    I’m new blogger. Check out my blog! 🙂

  • Oh how I wish more people that aren’t parents felt the same as you!! I know that there are a lot of people out there that have compassion on parents dealing with a child throwing a tantrum, but so many people (even parents of older children that have forgotten) act like their entire day is ruined because my kid is being obnoxious. With an almost 3 year old, we have these moments every once in a while and it makes me feel better when people just go about their business and make a point not to stare or act impatient about it! That may just be me, though! 🙂

  • Lauren

    My son isn’t quite at the age of temper tantrums, but we’ve witnessed a couple. Depending on the situation, I’ll either smile supportively at the mom or talk to the child. I’ll say something like “You sound upset! Would you like to read a book with my son?” Sometimes the child is so caught off guard that it will break the tantrum.

  • I have no suggestions for this one (although I’m sure a sympathetic smile goes a long way, that’s my method!) but I’m just going to say that I DREAD the day Clara causes a scene in public! At least as an infant she can get away with crying for no reason!

  • I loved this and thank you for writing it!

    As a mom, I’ve learned that those temper tantrums were just part of the path we had to walk together. Honestly, when I see other moms going through this I understand that children don’t always know how to express themselves, especially when they’re distraught.

    Think about it this way, children are young and often times what’s important to them isn’t so important to us “grown-ups.” And, when they have to process that they can’t have their way, it’s devastating. Think about being a blank slate, like a child, without having gone through true, heartbreaking realities and facing “the real world.” Now, think about what you’d be most worried about as a child. Now, someone takes that away from you. What do you do? It’s exactly like facing something you never expected to experience as an adult. Sometimes, you can’t do anything but just cry.

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