A few weeks ago (I think on Twitter) I referenced a frustrating trip I had made to Ikea. On the to-do list that day I had down that I wanted to visit Ikea, Costco, and a Target with a grocery section. With a 6 month old in tow I knew that I was making some ambitious plans but I like getting all of my errands done at once whenever I leave the house so I wanted to give it a try.
I decided to wear T1 instead of pushing him in the stroller because I knew it wouldn’t be possible to fill up my shopping cart with the items I had come to buy if I was trying to push a stroller at the same time. We walked the show room floor together (T1 and I) while I figured out what futon cover to get and which dining room table would be best (fellow Cheap readers, I’m realizing now that it’s a good thing that I made these purchases before I made it ot the Ikea chapter of the book. Ha!), and then we stopped in the cafeteria for lunch.
I left the cart and picked up my lunch, managing to balance water glass, soup, and lunch with diaper bag over my shoulder and baby carried in the Moby on my belly. I ate, and as is the Ikea way, I had to clean up after myself. I decided to clear my tray before putting the Moby back on, so I held T1 in my left arm and picked up my tray with the other. I waitressed for a few years so I have a good sense of balance when it comes to carrying trays of food, but this one was pretty heavy and my arm started to shake a little bit. Turns out that the clearing station I had walked toward was full, so I scanned for another and walked toward it. I felt it was pretty obvious that I was struggling, the tray was heavy with a glass half full of water on the end of it, and when I stepped right in front of a middle aged gentleman I was hoping for some sort of offer to help. No help was offered though and so I picked up the pace and tried to get the tray out of my hands as quickly as possible.
When it came time to load the coffee table I asked for help from one of the Ikea employees, and he loaded it onto a cart for me, even helped me push it to the front which was very kind. Now I’m waiting in the check-out line, and I have baby strapped to my front, a shopping cart completely full of items, and another cart with a large box containing our coffee table. Several people stood behind me in line as I loaded the items onto the conveyor belt, and I think it was pretty obvious that this was a difficult thing for me to do on my own. I frequently was only able to use one hand as I loaded because the other had to protect T1′s head as a leaned over to fish something out of my cart, or bat his hands away as he grabbed for some shiny plastic.
After I had swiped my credit card, it was time to do the exact opposite of what I had finished doing 3 minutes previous, and load everything back into my cart. I was so slow that the cashier had to seek out alternative places to place the items of the middle-aged woman checking-out right behind me. My face flushed and I felt embarrassed that I was so slow, but what was I to do? I was moving as quickly as I could on my own. After I finished I wheeled my carts away one at at time, the first I took outside and asked the packing attendant outside to watch for me. I went back in and retrieved the cart with the coffee table on it. I left both carts with him, crossed my fingers he would actually watch them as he promised, and went out to get my car so we could load everything up.
Next was a trip through Costco, with a a very fussy T1 by this point, where I decided to keep in the car seat in the shopping cart this time because I was tired of trying to load everything in my cart on my own while keeping his head secure. By the time we got out to the car he was exhausted (so was I), and I hopped back on the tollway, leaving the rest of my errands for another day.
The question I had in my mind on the drive home was…
Why do people quickly jump to help a woman who looks like this?
But when she looks like this the offers to help often disappear?
In part, I think the answer lies in a comment made by Marisa. Based on what Marisa and other commenters described, the majority of mothers are so hostile, so overbearing, hovering so close to their children in their helicopter ways that they’ve driven off any do-gooders long ago.
Fellow mothers, we need to change this!
I’ll start. I realize now that in Ikea I should have asked the man for help with my tray when we made eye contact. In the check-out line I shouldn’t have let the cashier intimidate me with her “hurry up and load your cart” looks, and asked her if one of the employees could help instead of pouting. I don’t know why I was trying to play the damsel-in-distress card and I won’t be doing it anymore.
When help is offered to me, I certainly take it though. I’m certainly no germophobe (do I even have antibacterial lotion in my diaper bag anymore? I don’t even know!), and in fact I think interaction with strangers is good for T1. I hand him over to people on the plane whenever they act interested, and a few times I’ve asked for them to hold him while I buckle my seat belt, or when I need to grab my bags from the overhead bin.
Offers to help don’t bother me, just statements about my parenting choices. I don’t need to know if you think he should be wearing a sweater, or if he should or shouldn’t eat what I’m offering him, or if you disapprove of me letting him crawl around on the floor while we are waiting at the airport gate. Telling me how to raise my child is not “help” it’s advice, and unless I’m stabbing needles in his eyes or letting him crawl naked in the snow I’m fine. The best help the can be offered allows me to deal with the baby, while you take care of the other thing I’m struggling with, unless I make a motion otherwise.
I know what most of you want to know though, is how should you offer to help. Marisa has offered to help carry babies off of airplanes, for leaning too close or touching the toys of the babies she sees, and other such kind gestures, only to be left feeling like she had insulted the mother for stepping forward. Help women like Marisa know what they should do when they perceive a mother in need!
And my dear fellow mothers, there is something very important that we as a group have to commit to. We mothers have to stop being so defensive when people offer help. Stop playing the victim card to signal that you need help, stop thinking that other people touching your baby will poison him/her, realize that anyone speaking up is just trying to make the world a better place in some way.
Whether you are the helper or the helpee when it comes to this topic, what would you suggest should change to make it better for both sides?
I was thinking about this post and remembered that I was going to add that on my flight to Washington TH and I had middle seats one row apart. The man with the aisle seat next to me gave up his seat and sat in the middle so TH and I could sit next to each other. T1 only slept for a few minutes while stretched between us and I think if that man hadn’t extended that kind offer he would have been miserable the entire time. There really are some kind strangers out there!