By Sabina Chen
A young mother and her three kids were in the shoe store. Two of the kids were trying on shoes and the third was asleep in the stroller. The mother, who was clearly exhausted, had a very short temper, yelling at them for doing normal kid things. When her son tossed a shoe aside, she threw down another pair of shoes and yelled at him to pick them up. When her daughter brought out a pair she wanted, her mother said she didn’t like them and screamed at her for pulling them out. Finally, the mother yelled that the kids were going home and sitting in their room for the rest of the afternoon. She put the kids on a time out right there in the shoe store.
The sales person, trying to diffuse a tense situation, said,
“Looks like mom could use some time alone in her room!”
The mother smiled weakly and said,
“Yeah, I would love to lock myself up in my room!”
It was a difficult scene to witness and, as much as I was trying to mind my own business, it was hard to avoid. I felt for the young mother, who was clearly at the end of her rope. Maybe the baby had kept her up all night for several nights in a row, who knows? But I felt even more for her poor kids, who looked so sad and forlorn on their time out. They even looked a little scared. Milo even went over to them and tried to cheer them up. I hoped their mom’s short temper wasn’t a regular occurrence at their house.
I’m not sure what to do in these situations, when I see a mother struggling with her kids and needing help. Do I try to ignore it and say it’s none of my business? (Which is what I did, though I didn’t feel good about it.) Do I step in and try to lighten the mood? (I was thankful the sales person said what she said.) Do I offer to play with the kids while the mother takes a break and gathers herself? (Milo would have happily helped.)
What is my responsibility as a concerned neighbor?
After the Mother’s Day chocolates are gone and the flowers have wilted, there’s no denying that motherhood is hard. It’s exhausting and overwhelming to be responsible for another human being, one who relies on you for his or her very survival. As hard as we try, we all fail sometimes in motherhood. We all need help. That young mother needed help. She needed a grandparent or a sibling or a friend to come alongside her and give her a break from her kids so that she could lock herself up in her room for an afternoon and have a good cry.
I hope she got that for Mother’s Day. For her children’s sake.