The Ikea Trip

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!

101 thoughts on “The Ikea Trip

  1. This isn’t helpful after the fact, but at Ikea you don’t have to unload your cart of boxes. They have wireless scanners and can scan your boxes in your cart. The cashier should have told you that. In fact, there should be big signs letting people know that so they don’t have to go through what you did with your cart.

  2. This was an interesting post. I am a first time commenter too. I think you are right that people are not quick to offer help. When we moved (from NY to CA) we flew and had about 5 suitcases, a stroller and a car seat at the airport. My husband dropped off the rental car and left me with a huge pile of stuff and a 2 year old. As I struggled to move everything not one person offered help but plenty commented on how much stuff I had packed. It was so frustrating! When we got to CA I was offered help (one man even rented a luggage cart for me, husband was off picking up rental car while I retrieved luggage) and offered to get it outside with me.

    I do try to offer to help if I see anyone struggle because I would someone would do the same for me.

  3. I’m single, no kids and honestly I can say I disagree with you.. but not in the way you might think.

    I think people need to stop being scaredy-cats, suck it up and just offer to help people. So what if they say no in a tone you may not like, get over it, and look around for the next person you can offer your help to.

    Shame on that gentleman for a) not being a gentleman at all and b) not offering to help. And shame on that cashier for a) not doing her job and b) not offering to help. And shame on everyone else in line behind you as well.

    You shouldn’t have to have ask for help every where you go. This world would be a much better place if people went through their day looking for people they could help. I get that sometimes we’re in a rush and can’t and that’s okay. Sometimes we just have too much going on at the moment and we can’t and that’s okay too. But most of the time we don’t and most of the time we don’t have excuses for not helping other people.

    Sophia Reply:

    I respectfully disagree on one point- I think, in many ways, it *is* expected that you ask for help. I grew up being told “don’t expect others to know what you need, ask them for help if you need it, most people are nice and will help you, they just need to know”. It almost seems as though people have this built in aversion to asking for help in general- much less from strangers. In my experience it’s the only way that anyone around you knows you need it, and I have never been turned down when I explicitly asked for help. I would much rather speak up and make sure someone knew I needed help than wait for it to be offered. Plus, I think sometimes people are not very aware of other people around them, and might not even notice others needing help. I know I’ve zoned out in a very busy public place before, and have pretty much been in my own world, thinking about things I needed to do, etc. Personally, I may not have noticed Jenna struggling with her tray because of that. But I’m usually the first person to jump up in a restaurant when a waiter or waitress drops a tray, or when someone spills change all over the floor- it’s hard to miss that, haha :) I open doors, I unload carts, I herd children back to their mothers, I’ve pushed a 2nd cart out to a mother’s car on multiple occasions, etc. But I’m sure I have accidentally missed other opportunities to help simply because I didn’t notice it and the person didn’t ask for help.

    Gogo Reply:


    Cécy Reply:

    I agree with that. Yes it would be nice for more people to offer help, but let’s be honest. If my spouse can’t read my mind I can’t expect a stranger to do it either.
    I think we as people need to also swallow our pride, stop expecting people to read our body language and ask for the help we need.
    If you start with asking the employee for help, then someone may hear your plea and offer help. Or if the employee can not assist, ask someone.
    But it’s also good to know your limits. Ikea may not be the ideal store when carrying a small child since it’s more of a self-serve store than anything else. Sometimes it may be worth it to way until someone else can come with you to do it.

  4. As someone who was raised without siblings or nearby extended family, I have to say that it’s so difficult to know when a mother/father wants help and when they are fine. I always try to be considerate in holding doors, lending a hand, etc, but with kids it’s almost different nowadays. So many mothers glare at you if you go anywhere near their kid.

    I understand that “stranger danger” is especially important in a big city, but I do feel like sometimes it’s a bit scary, as the helper, to stick your neck out there when so many parents glare or even snap at anyone who goes near their child. Eye contact and smiling really helps me to know that a mother is friendly and open to a helping hand.

  5. Whenever I notice mother’s in need I am VERY hesitate to offer. I’ve been given some DIRTY looks before, and that always makes me feel like some creepy child-napping molester, rather than someone who is just trying to be helpful! I do try to offer help if the parent seems friendly though! The few times I have helped some very exhausted looking parents, they seemed to be very grateful. I don’t have children yet…but I certainly hope if I look like I’m at the end of my rope a stranger would be willing to step up and help!

  6. agreed. i don’t have kids, and would probably be more willing to help people out if i didn’t have to worry so much about their fear of ME. it seems like people now are so paranoid and would rather struggle than ask for help?

  7. I’ve had experiences like this when I flew with Baby T. I was trying to hold her on one hip and fold up my stroller and get it onto the security scanner belt with the other hand — it was NOT working and I was passed by several families with small children before a TSA agent finally took pity on me. I’m still not sure what I should have done. I don’t think I’m one of the paranoid, don’t-touch-my-kid mommies, but on the other hand I don’t have a lot of faith in people to just be helpful or nice. I also am very very shy so it’s difficult for me to even open my mouth to speak to people, let alone ask them for help.

    On the other hand, what about handing off your baby to a flight attendant who wants to hold her (during boarding) just because? That kind of weirded me out, and I left it up to T (who refused), and now I wonder if I am paranoia mommy…

    Jenna Reply:

    I hand over T1 all the time! It makes people happy and I like that.

    Marisa Reply:

    This is true, actually. I’ve happily entertained two year old twins for an hour of a long flight so their parents could have a break. It was a fun diversion for me (I was flying A LOT) and a great break for them.

    Which reminds me – the etiquette is a little different if you’re sitting in the same row on a plane. Then I go out of my way to indicate that I don’t dislike being in a row with kids – I actually enjoy it immensely! “Hey, who do we have here? Are you going to be my flying buddy?” does wonders for general happiness all around. Also, “Oh, hi there! I can’t wait to play with you once I’m done doing this work thing/ reading this chapter of my book/ taking a quick nap!” works when you need some space and don’t want to entertain a child.

    Eye contact can be so hard to read. I am much happier when people just say what they mean.

    Sophia Reply:

    “I am much happier when people just say what they mean.” Me too!

    Gogo Reply:

    I think it’s great that you will hand T1 over, when someone seems interested. I love kids and babies and I’m handy with them but it feels so taboo to ask someone if you can hold their baby. Even when it seems like they wouldn’t mind if you did.

    Sunny Reply:

    I could have written this. I love little ones but I don’t want to be intrusive.

  8. Well, as a mother, I usually don’t need help because I don’t do things I’m not able to do, does that make sense? I wouldn’t go to Ikea alone because I know I’d need help doing stuff and that’s what Paul (or my Dad!) is for, in MY mind. I can understand you wanting to get stuff done though, I know your husband works a lot. Most of the time I only do things I’m in my capacity to do- grocery shop with her in the stroller using the storage basket for everything- go to Target using the same thing, or put her in the seat area in the Costco shopping cart. I do this a lot (her in the stroller) because I can run errands while also getting a nap in for her, but I usually walk a few miles to do these errands because I use the trip for exercise as well as shopping.

    I’m not afraid to ask for help if I need it (I’m short so I always need help getting stuff off shelves), but I’m rarely in the position that I NEED to (again, unless it involves a high shelf). Then again, I’m rarely alone, and almost always have helpers with me already.

    I always open doors and pick up dropped toys/sippy cups for moms, and will usually run to help when I can, but I’ve found that in L.A., people aren’t as accepting of you touching their baby (especially in cold/flu/pertussis season), much less holding them. And I must say that for me, I only let people I know hold her because who knows who washes their hands and who doesn’t? I’m faaaar from a germaphobe, but I’ve seen first hand how fast sicknesses can spread (Paul’s a teacher for k-8) and how it can affect a child with an already weak constitution. But if I can avoid having Piper catch another cold, then heck, I’ll do it and only limit myself to running errands I can do with Piper just in her stroller or the seat of the shopping cart.

    I hate Ikea stores- not their items, just their stores. No clocks anywhere, always warm, random staircases and elevators where you have to trek to find them. Gah, makes me anxious just thinking about it. THAT is reason one I’d never go alone! I’d probably just end up wandering the aisles, lost and babbling.

    Grace Reply:

    I very much agree with you, Amber. I don’t do things that I just know I wouldn’t be able to pull off on my own. This can be a bummer, especially when I have to wait to pull off a big errands trip for a day when my husband is available to help, but I wait because it really isn’t anyone else’s obligation to assist me. Should a stranger offer, I’m always extremely appreciative, because let’s face it, offering to help is a courtesy, but not a requirement. Off putting as it is when someone doesn’t help one who is clearly struggling, I get it. I’m just not their responsibility.

    Personally, I try to make a conscious effort to be helpful whenever I can and wish others would too, but it is what it is, as unfortunate as that may be.

    When it comes to rude employees, however, that is especially annoying because it is literally their JOB to be helpful.

    Ellie Reply:

    So speaking from my own experience, when I want to go to Ikea alone, I can do it in the middle of the day when there is barely any crowds/line. If I want my husband to come with me, I wait until the night or weekend, when it is much more crowded. Cranky babies get worse in line, so I feel like it’s a tradeoff between needing help and being the mom that everybody is shooting dagger eyes at.

    The thing is though, not everybody is in a position to wait for their spouse to go to Ikea/Costco/anywhere else. People don’t live near their families or near friends. Also, since I’m currently at home, unemployed, I feel badly if my husband and I have to waste the precious time we have together on weekends going to do something I could have done alone during the week.

    I try to help people, but I too am reluctant to help moms. Jenna, I’m glad you took responsibility for this situation and didn’t just say, “people should help me”. In the future, I think I’ll try to offer to help more when I see anybody, not just a mom, clearly struggling.

    Amber Reply:

    Well, I’m a working mom, (I actually take the baby to work with me and have since she was six weeks) so I can’t go during the day. As my husband usually works weekends, and is gone during most week evenings (and also works during the day), we have to cram a time to go into our schedules because it’s important to us to spend time together, too, and honestly, he LOVES Ikea, so it’s like a treat for him, so it’s not forcing him to do something with me that I could have done alone. :)

    Also, when we plan outings, we plan around her schedule, so she’s usually either getting ready to take a nap, or has just woken up from one, since she falls asleep in the car/stroller very easily. When she wakes from a nap she’s happy and very eager for a trip. When she fusses in line, it’s usually a rarity, and I give her a toy and she’s fine. She’s been napping in her stroller since she was 8 weeks so she’s kind of trained that way, I guess.

    I’m not blaming Jenna for going alone, if that’s what it sounds like. She asked what we, as mothers, as non-mothers, whatever, do, and I told her how I avoid needing that kind of help. I didn’t say people should do the same thing as I do, because maybe their babies aren’t as good at napping in strollers, or going for errand runs all day. I just happen to not need to do it because we budget our time with these errands in mind, along with our daughter’s time. If she’s had a bad day, usually we’ll put whatever it is off because I know we’ll all be miserable if she’s cranky. Of course, that’s considering most things at Ikea to be NOT immediately necessary to our life, unlike items from the market or pharmacy.

    Since my husband works so much, he’s thrilled doing anything with us as long as he gets to spend time with his baby. Of course, Ikea was where we spent most of my pregnancy, designing her nursery and stuff, so it’s like a date for us.

  9. I don’t know, maybe it depends on the area? I’m always getting offers for help (I also have a 6 months old). In fact I get more offers now than when I was pregnant for sure.

    Also for the future, you can wear T1 in a high back carry (won’t work with a stretchy like the Moby, but you can easily make a wrap from cutting up an old sheet)or a back carry in an Ergo. I don’t think I’d ever get any errands done if it weren’t for those:)

  10. Maybe someone has already said this, but what about offering a mother help with the NON-baby stuff? Like you could help her carry her bag off the plane instead of the baby. Granted, it’s not as fun, but probably less anxiety producing. Or at Ikea, like you suggested, they could help with your tray or shopping cart items. This would be my first instinct.

    Evelyn Reply:

    YES!!! I don’t think many (any?) would describe me as a helicopter mom, but your comment is probably the best answer yet! Offer to help in a way the mother would probably feel most comfortable with. If someone asked me if they could help with my bag and helping with my baby was most helpful I would TOTALLY ask them if they’d help with my baby instead. And, to take it one step further, the offer to help could be either open-ended (Can I help you?) Or multi-option (Can I help you with your bag or your baby?).

    Anni Reply:

    I guess what I find even more awkward about that is I usually see mothers struggling with their purses or wallets or looking for keys, a credit card, etc. Maybe it’s just the places I frequent, but I feel like that’d be really awkward!

  11. I always offer help if I can and just brush off the moms who don’t accept my help or get huffy. I can see why some people don’t bother trying to help though, there are so many parents who think all strangers are pedophiles or health-risks. I once got yelled at by a mom in Target because I saw a kid wandering around by himself and asked him where his mommy was. I guess that’s part of the world we live in.

    Gogo Reply:

    The thing is, the world is not THAT dangerous. Being conscientious and aware is important, but stranger-danger is way overblown to the detriment of all of us.

    Meagan Reply:

    I agree, too bad not everyone does, that’s what I meant by saying its part of the world we live in.

    Jenna Reply:

    One of the book club books we are thinking about is called The Culture of Fear. It’s sad that we don’t think we can interact with strangers anymore!

  12. I fly a lot for work and am often in the position where I could help a mother with a baby, but I rarely offer, because I’ve been snapped at and also because I wonder if I would be comfortable with it. If it were my child, would I let some random stranger hold my baby while I turned my back to grab my bags? Or would I be comfortable letting someone carry my purse while I carried my baby? I do try to “look nice” and smile at the baby so at least the mother doesn’t have to feel anxious that I’m going to be pissed about sitting next to the baby, but it is hard to know what I should do. Even touching a bottle to hand it to a mom has gotten me in trouble before- but then again, would I want some germy person’s hands on something going into my baby’s mouth?

    I can see both sides, so I guess I just try to “look nice” so that if the mother needs help, she doesn’t have to be afraid to ask me?

  13. That’s one thing I really love about where live… Texas just seems to be more full of people who are super helpful! I’m one of those moms that has no problem asking for help, and handing over my baby to a trustworthy looking person. I’ve been offered help before when I didn’t need it, and I always say, “I’m really ok, but you’re so kind to offer! I really appreciate it!” and usually finish what I’m doing then stand for a second and let them play with the baby.
    Super protective moms annoy me. I’ll just go ahead and put that right out there. A stranger can pick up the toy your baby dropped without infecting it with the plague. And people who are ugly when receiving advice annoy me, too! That’s the flip side of living in the south… people are willing to help, but EVERYONE is a passenger-seat-parent. For example: Dorothy went through a period where she hated socks. She’d pull them off whenever we put them on her. There was NO keeping socks on the child. So, ya know what, her feet were cold. I caught SO much crap at church for not having socks on her. I would always laugh and say, “Well, I’m sure next week she’ll be in mortal danger from something else.” and go on about my way. A laugh, a little sarcasm but not hatefully, and the ability to brush people off goes a LONG way.
    I totally agree that we as mothers need to be able to ask for and receive help gracefully… I’m so sorry you had a hard time!

  14. I always go out of my way to help others even if it’s something as simple as opening a door or offering to give them a hand. I see it as my duty as a fellow human being! I can’t even imagine not offering to help a mom with a baby. (Especially with bagging your stuff at Ikea. I think the person working there should have helped you rather than putting the person behind you’s stuff to the side.)

    I guess the best way to combat this is simply ask for help but that irritates me too. I don’t think we should need to ask! Especially in your situation…the cashier should have offered to help.

    I always want to ask mom’s if they need help but don’t want them to think I’m a creepy baby-snatcher. Do mom’s like when strangers offer to hold their babies?

    Elizabeth Barron Reply:

    I totally have to agree with you! This is simply our duty as human beings!

    Jenna Reply:

    Why in the world it’s seen as “creepy” to offer is beyond me! Babies are likeable and loveable and most people like being around them, so it’s understandable that someone would want to interact with one.

    Unfortunately I think most people don’t like handing their baby over. I don’t mind though, so if you ever see me ask away!

  15. Even though I wrote a whole post about hating strangers touching Mavi or giving me unsolicited advice about mothering, I actually am not shy or ashamed to ask for help when I am out an about with Mavi and in need of help. (hold a door open, put a tray away)

    I find people to be super helpful here and have rarely had moments where people would just walk pass me and not offer to lend a helping hand. Don’t get me wrong, it’s happened but maybe not as much as what you seem to be saying in your area

    I agree people are less helpful because many mothers out there are like “I don’t need your help, I’m a super mom” but in reality it is not helping out the situation for other mothers who do need the help.

  16. Yeah, homeless man outside In-N-Out offering to hold my 4 month old? I don’t think so. Nice people sitting next to me on the plane, please and thank you! I’ve always had help when flying alone, with my bags, with switching seats, with holding Claire. I feel like I do get a lot of offers for help, I don’t know why, but it’s nice. I just thank them if I don’t need the help. I won’t let a stranger hold her anywhere but a plane though, they can’t go anywhere on a plane!

    Katy Reply:

    Yes. I definately allow more up close help on a case-by-case basis. Does that mean I’m “profiling”, yes, but certain people I feel comfortable recieving more close up help and others don’t fit the bill.

  17. Jenna I really liked the diplomatic way that you approached this subject- and wow super Mom, those 3 stores in one day! I think that sometimes this topic can start to veer into a territory of “the person needing help is innocent and the person that doesn’t offer is a jerk” :) This is frustrating to me for two reasons. For one, I am in the camp of if you need help, ask for it, because most people are kind and will help you if they know you need it- it’s just the way I was raised. For two, I know some very shy and/or socially awkward people who are loathe to talk to strangers, and approaching a stranger with their child on an assumption that they need help, and saying “let me walk you to your car/load your cart” etc. can be beyond their comfort zone-they’re not jerks, they’re just not comfortable with social interactions like that. Also,I know many men who are uncomfortable approaching a single woman with a child to help her because they don’t want to seem like a “creeper”- so, strangely, they feel it’s *more* respectful to back off. For whatever reason, some people don’t feel comfortable asking for help when they need it, and for whatever reason some people don’t feel comfortable helping, and that is a matter of personality and personal comfort more than it is a matter of being a saint in distress or a jerk who ignores it.

    I think the issue of approaching strangers and offering help is one of those weird social areas that is completely contingent upon context, personality, and previous experiences- and honestly, culture as well. When I lived in Japan, you simply didn’t interact with a stranger on the street. An old woman spilled her vegetables all. over. the train, and I was the only person that got up to help her. And the other people actually didn’t even look up! They totally ignored the whole thing. My co-workers told me that they were trying to be respectful of the woman, because clearly she was embarrassed, so they were “acting like it didn’t happen” to preserve her dignity.

    I commented on another thread that I have had some terrible experiences with being snapped at when offering help, but I do still offer it, even without being asked. If more people helped without being asked, and if more people asked for help, I’m sure we could all meet in the middle and have our needs met :)

  18. I think this raises such a good point. Why is there special parking for expectant mothers, but not people with small children? I think it’s so true that often strangers will offer help, but mothers will not accept it for whatever reason.

    I know I’ve offerred help and been turned down. And, then had mothers (and fathers) act out out if I wait a few extra seconds to hold a door for them. Really, it’s no trouble to me. But, they get a bit panicky as if they need to hurtry up and get through the door. I think everyone should be better and understand that if someone is holding the door they don’t mind doing so.

    Also, I have never told someone no when they asked for help. Unless they asked for money…

    Maureen Reply:

    In my area there are a couple of stores that do, in fact, have parking for new mothers.

  19. I actually got into an argument with a woman about this when I tried to help her. She had four children under four (I do live in Utah :) and we were in Costco and I said something like “can I help you with anything?” and she snapped that she didn’t want people thinking she couldn’t take care of her own children. Usually I’d just walk away, but it bothered me, so I told her I was sorry if my offer of help had made her feel that I was judging her ability to take care of things herself, I was just trying to make things easier for her, because I was sure it was more difficult with all those little ones. She then let out a sigh of relief like she realized she was being defensive and she let me help her get something from a higher shelf w/o smashing her baby’s face (she was wearing him, too).

    Anyway, my point is I think a lot of women give off a defensiveness and feel like offers of help are judgmental. Sometimes when I smile at a mom or say something about how adorable their child is, they seem to get annoyed with me, like they think I’ll steal their baby or something! I still try to help when I can or when someone seems receptive to it, but the above anecdote was not the first time I’ve been rebuffed for trying to help. I will say, it’s one thing I love about Utah. Even though I’m not a mom myself (yet), I love how, for the most part, people seem super helpful and understanding of moms, so that happens less often here than it has other places I’ve lived.

    I’m so sorry you had this experience, Jenna! I do think you’re right, though. Asking for help is the way to go.

    Sara Reply:

    I think that this is one of the biggest parts of this problem – so many women feel that by accepting help, they’re admitting that they can’t manage on their own. This probably has a lot of causes – feminism, for one, projecting this ‘women can do everything’ idea. Which is true, if you’re talking about being a CEO or the President or Oprah. I’d bet that it is nearly impossible, though, for one person (man/woman/etc) to take care of a baby without ever getting any help.

    Another big cause, imho, is the amount of judgment that everyone seems to have about the way that other people parent. So many mothers are used to being judged and criticized that they can’t accept any help, because it just furthers their feelings of ‘I’m doing it wrong’. Bad all around.

    Ellie Reply:

    I really don’t think feminism is to blame for moms in checkout lines not accepting help. And most of the women that I know who do project a “I can do everything myself” mentality don’t call or consider themselves feminists. Most feminists just want to be considered as capable as men are of accomplishing whatever task they set out to. On the contrary, I see this attitude projected a lot from Moms who think “I’m the mom and I have to do all of the mom stuff myself because I’m the mom and this is my job/place/etc.” Which was the attitude long before feminism even started.

    Valerie Reply:

    Yeah, I was just going to say the same thing. Feminism gets blamed for a lot of things but just like religion I think some feminists give the rest of us a bad reputation.

    Anyway, I do think you’re right about the judgment women face. I see this all the time as a doula, and I try not to ever judge other women I see. It’s just so hard to communicate “I am a nice person who just wants to help” via a look. If they knew how much I love moms and babies, they would probably be more willing to let me help.

    Sophia Reply:

    Much along the lines of what Ellie said, I disagree that this problem of not asking for help has anything to do with feminism. If anything, I think it is *more* rooted in the long held idea that “women should be capable nurturers because they are naturally genetically awesome at taking care of babies and homes”, and I think that is probably a huge part of the guilt of not asking for help when needed. Personally, so much of the feminist theory I studied all through undergrad and grad school focused on the need to support and help caretakers and how, as a society, we need to be more compassionate and grateful towards caretakers, who are traditionally women.

  20. In my experience, it’s hard asking for help in a big city. People have this go-go-go expectation, and any inconvenience to them becomes a huge ordeal. However, I’ve found that asking for assistance (holding the door while I’m carrying a large box, for example) takes people by surprise and they do the favor automatically. Maybe asking snaps them out of the big city/stranger danger mentality? Anyway, I agree with you that we need to be willing to ask for help when we need it.

  21. I just have to say, it’s one thing to offer (or provide on request) help with stuff, but if a woman sitting next to me on a plane asked me to hold her actual baby, I would not be okay with that. And it’s not like I dislike or don’t smile at babies and little kids. I know you come from a church community where women are all super yay children and comfortable with that, but that is definitely not true of all people.

    kylydia Reply:

    Totally. I don’t always feel comfortable holding people’s babies and sometimes the person doesn’t wait for an answer when they say, “Hey, can you hold my baby for a second?”

    schmei Reply:

    This hasn’t happened to me. However, before my niece was born, if a stranger had asked me to hold her baby I probably would have been terrified. Now I’m _much_ more chill around babies so I’d be OK with it. I think the onus is on the mom to at least gauge whether the potential baby-holder would be averse to it, right?

    Jenna Reply:

    Both times when I asked for people to hold T1 on an airplane I knew that the men were grandpas so I assumed they wouldn’t mind! Those with kids or who are grandparents (or who are close to their nieces/nephews always seem to be the most understanding when it comes to kids)

  22. i didn’t read the other comments, so I am not sure if I am repeating, but instead of asking to help with the baby…ask to help with the bag carrying, or the other object in hand. I think if someone asked me to hold my child I would probably ask them instead to help me carry my bags. Although, I have had them help me push a stroller while my hands were full. But I think people would be more apt to hand over their bags before their baby. Although, if we were somewhere where I knew that they couldn’t run off with my baby then yes I would gladly hand them over for some help. so instead of saying hey can I hold your baby while you do XYZ we need to ask if we can do XYZ for them while they hold their own baby.

    But yes I agree we need to help people with babies a lot more!!! Even when someone holds the door for me while i push the stroller through is a HUGE help! I hate those stores that still don’t have automatic doors!

  23. someone may have already said it, but it could be a regional thing. Illinois is more DIY/bootstrappy than warm and fuzzy.

    maybe the bigger thing is that if you wanted help, you should have asked for it. Strangers may not realize that you want/need help until you say something. They may just think you’re trying to be self reliant.

    I know when I’m trying to do stuff on my own that I probably shouldn’t, I make a steely face that’s not particularly inviting. I can’t imagine anyone I don’t know offering me help when I’m making the “I can do this myself” face, I probably look like I’m about to snarl at them!

  24. We have rude society in general.

    Just last weekend I was at the mall with my 10 month old. I was carrying her in my arms and a middle-aged woman totally body checked me! She slammed right into me while I was holding an infant, and then didn’t even stop, apologize, or look back- just kept on walking. What is up with that?! If I body slammed ANYONE- mother and child or otherwise- I would just say, “Sorry!”

    As for helping others, I always offer help when I can. I’ve been rebuffed, but I’ve also been thanked. Most of the time people are surprised by the offer of help.

    For instance- helping an elderly blind man find his way on the local bike path. Dozens of people walked by, leaving this man standing on the side of the path, facing the bushes, obviously unsure of where to go. I just asked if he needed help and then helped him get back on track. WHY WOULD YOU IGNORE AN ELDERLY BLIND MAN!?

    I’ve also let a WAAY pregnant women cut in front of me in line for the bathroom- remembering being in that position myself.

    I’ve helped a mom with twins sleeping in a stroller, and a load of groceries get up her front steps and into her apartment.

    I’ve told people their fly was open, they skirt was caught in their underwear, they were on the wrong train, they dropped their glove/phone/money/etc. And in each instance, there were many other people around that did nothing.

    However, I have also been in situations where my move to help jolted other people into action. An elderly woman fell on the street- she was face down on the sidewalk with a massive nosebleed and very confused. I went running to her and there were 4 men just standing around looking at her. It wasn’t until I said, “Please call and ambulance, help me sit her up, give me your handkerchief, etc.” that each of them snapped out of it and helped.

    Similar things have happened when offering an elderly/pregnant/disabled person a seat on the subway. Not until I offer my seat do the surrounding men seem to wake up and offer their own (sometime- many times they just keep their seat).

    I don’t think courtesy is reserved for women who are pregnant or women with babies. (I know you weren’t suggesting that it was!). I think we all around need to be more willing to help and more willing to ask for help.

    I don’t understand the fear of being embarrassed or uncomfortable when someone turns down your offer of help being a good reason for refusing to offer help to EVERYONE.

    You give what you get. Offer help. Ask for help.

    Kira Reply:

    Keep doing what you’re doing!! Hopefully your kindness will inspire others.

    liz Reply:

    Someone sitting next to me at a baby shower elbowed my baby in the head and didn’t say anything. He was definitely ok, didn’t even fuss, but yeah, people are so rude!

  25. I have a hard time offering to help people, but i will definitely help if I’m asked to. I am shy and have a fear of rejection, honestly. It’s not really fun to put yourself out there to a stranger and then have them treat you like you’re a jerk. Im sure i have helped without being asked, but probably not very often. I helped a lady with her stroller at airline security once, although, to be honest, handling someone else’s belongings in an airport before security makes me a little nervous! (I’m the paranoid type!)

    Sophia Reply:

    Thank you for pointing this out Sarah. I mentioned this in a comment upthread. I have many very shy friends who are just plain uncomfortable with the idea of approaching a stranger, unasked, and injecting themselves into a situation.

  26. To answer the “why offer to help pregnant ladies but no offers to help women with children” I think one reason is that when you offer to help a pregnant woman, it’s just one person — and one person who has a temporary disability of sorts, the same as when someone breaks their leg (don’t yell at me! My insurance classifies pregnancy as a temporary disability and my employer allows pregnant employees to get a handicapped parking pass) So pregnancy is a temporary disruption of a person’s normal abilities: you’re not the same size, you take up a different amount of space, and you have physical discomfort, walk slower, etc. and are essentially, not your normal self.

    The hesitation to help mothers I think comes from a few places: one, as described above, mommies who think that you’re going to run off with their baby OR think you are infected with the worst strain of zombie-inducing bubonic plague in the world and will infect their child. I think another issue is that moms can sometimes see offers to help as others thinking they are weak, or unable to properly care for their child and therefore, bad mothers. Which is of course, very rarely the case, but come on, it’s *really* easy to get defensive about stuff, isn’t it? Especially when you’re a mom, because it seems that moms are always being judged in some form by basically everyone — their mothers, their mothers in law, other mothers, people with no kids, etc. So mothers, rather than risk looking bad, don’t ask for help, and helpful people, burned from one too many over protective mommy episodes, don’t ask.

    Plus, I think asking for help is just taboo in general in our society. It’s the #1 piece of advice I give everyone in my job: adults and kids alike, but very few seem to realize that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you’re doing, or that you’ve failed, or whatever. It just means that you need help. We’re all somehow expected to be supermen and superwomen, naturally on our own without any assistance (there’s something in here about America’s Protestant work ethic too) and that’s really just not the case.

    Sophia Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more with this statement- “Plus, I think asking for help is just taboo in general in our society.”

    Becky Reply:

    Ha! I love your don’t yell at me disclosure.

  27. Do you think it could also be that you live in a different, bigger city now and people are just different? I work in downtown LA but live in Orange County, and the difference in the niceties I get from people (pregnant or not) are a whole world apart. Just food for thought.

  28. I ALWAYS offer to help pregnant women, mothers with small children, and older people when I am traveling. In my experiences people always help! Maybe you need to move to the East Coast! :)

  29. I can’t even count how many times I’ve flown with Eli without Dave, and many times (before I discovered the wonderful world of Ergo while traveling…) I was dropped off at the airport with a large suitcase, a stroller, a carseat, a diaper bag, and a child. It was absolutely ridiculous what I must have looked like trying to maneuver this all to the baggage check (plus on the other side getting it FROM the baggage claim to the curb to be picked up) and not once did anyone ever offer me help. Every time I wished I would have asked someone for it though. I think many people gave me looks of wanting to help but not sure if they should ask, and I was too shy to jump on those opportunities.

    Yes, I think people should be more willing to offer help, but I think more so people need to be more willing to ask for it and take it when offered.

    And in defense of nice people out there, I have been offered help at other occasions like a fellow passenger offering to carry my diaper bag off the plane, or yesterday a man offered to return my grocery cart for me. There are still people who don’t worry about a negative response and offer up help anyway :).

  30. I didn’t realize how riled up this gets me until I started responding. I totally agree with Amber – taking my 5 month old daughter to Ikea by myself sounds like a nightmare, for all the reasons you describe. I am hesitant to even take her to the grocery store! a) no one helps you and b) no one understands a crying baby (hello! babies cry all the time and there is very little I can do about it in a store, trust me, I am trying).

    And, I hate to sound rude, but I don’t understand all this stuff about not helping because people don’t want you touching a baby. You don’t have to come anywhere near my baby to open a door for me so I can push a stroller through, to make extra room in the aisle for one second so I can push the stroller through, or to pick up something that I’ve dropped and can’t easily bend down to get because I’m wearing her, or to just smile knowingly when she is screaming at me, or make a silly face at her to make her smile. Or in Jenna’s case, grab a tray, take items out of a cart, or whatever.

    My suggestion? Don’t ask to help, just do. Maybe I’m sensitive, but when someone looks at me and, with pity in their voice asks, “need help?”, it makes me feel like you don’t really want to help, you are hoping I’ll say no. I guess that’s what I need to work on, but the polite thing is to just help. Again, open the door, pick up the dropped item, unload the cart, say “I’ll get that” and take the tray.

    Also, no one helped when I was pregnant. Maybe that’s why I’m so cranky. :)

  31. I am very obviously pregnant (7 months) and I just spent a day at ikea and I must say that I was struggling A LOT and there were no offers of help for me either. I didn’t ask for help loading my cart but there were times I felt like others should have offered (I feel so bad asking a stranger). I had asked an employee for help with moving my heavy furniture to the checkout. After some fussing, I got limited help – he got me part way there. Checking out was all on my own even though it was obvious I could use some help lifting heavier items. I felt like people were just staring at me, both the customers waiting in line and the checkout attendants. One of the workers informed me I would have to go back up to the showroom (furthest away place) to get casters for a chair I purchased (the demo chair comes with casters but the chair with the fabric choice I had made didn’t!) and twice I asked employees directions and both times I got a point without any “here let me show you” or “I’ll just grab them for you”.
    There have been several occasions people have helped but ikea was just not one of them.

    I just wanted to point out that pregnant women don’t always get the help they need but, like a new parent, I am getting lots of unsolicited “help” in the form of pregnancy/newborn advice. I don’t think there is a big switch once the baby is born.

  32. If we want help, I think we have to be careful being selective about it. For example, the strangers telling you not to let T1 crawl on the floor are trying to help you, by reminding you of the possibility of germs, pieces of glass, etc. The people concerned about what you’re feeding him may be trying to help you realize that it could hurt his stomach, or they had a bad personal experience doing what you’re doing.

    You can’t really say I want help but only the help that I want – because people can’t read your mind! So you’re going to definitely have to ask for specific help instead of expecting people to just do it, because certain types of “help” are offensive to some.

    All that being said, had you been where I’m from, people would have bent over backwards to help you! So a lot of it is geographical, of course. :)

    Interesting post and responses!

  33. I totally agree with all of this! I am not a mother but I think I am an observant and kind person. Having lived in Boston for five years, I constantly saw women struggling down stairs or climbing up onto subway trains with strollers in tow, and when I offer to help, more often than not, I was met with dirty looks like “Do you really think I can’t do this myself? Why would I bring my baby here alone if I couldn’t handle it?” It really put me off trying to help in the future!

  34. I feel really bad that you’ve had to deal with this, especially as I’ve had the exact opposite experience and have actually found people to be incredibly, wonderfully helpful. Every day someone holds the door open for me or lets me cut the line at the store if my baby is fussy, and I’ve never once had to pull my own suitcases off the conveyor belt at the airport. Maybe it’s the cities we live in? That would be an interesting survey to do.

    Amber Reply:

    Yeah, here in L.A., no one would give me their seat on the bus when I was pregnant, and I was LARGE. It really sounds like an area thing. Here everyone is so private and so unwilling to let other people in that you get a standoffish vibe from most. I’m moving to Canada!

    HamiHarri Reply:

    Another West Coast Canadian here ;)

    While I too have had some lovely experiences, more often then not does a door slam into my and LOs face, or our stroller :( It really burns me up, because isn’t it basic manners to hold the door for the person coming out behind you?

    While it may be location based, I really think it is a sign of the times. People just aren’t as thoughtful or helpful these days.

  35. I was recently at a second hand kid’s store and saw both a good and bad example of this. The women in line of front of me had a screaming toddler strapped in a stroller. I’m usually not bothered by a screaming child, but this was reaching all kinds of irritating levels. We had been waiting in line for literally 20 minutes. This lady had one item to purchase. A couple in front of her had probably 30. This couple had also been waiting in a line quite a while, long enough to have been annoyed by the screaming toddler and long enough to have noticed that the toddler’s mother had only one thing to purchase. I could not figure out why the couple would not offer to let this poor frazzled mother go in front of them. This couple’s transaction took another 10 minutes to complete. So while I was annoyed that this couple couldn’t have been more courteous, a kind stranger carrying a baby approached the toddler, she knelt down to his level and spoke sweetly to him saying something like, “Hi! How are you? Are you tired of waiting in this line? This is my baby. Do you like babies?…” She basically just had a conversation with him in order to distract him and it worked! When she stood up she smiled at his mother and said, “Sorry, I’ve just found that sometimes a new face can be enough of a distraction that they’ll forget why they’re crying.” I was so impressed with this interaction. And I found it kind of ironic that the whole time I was angry at the couple in front of this mother for not being more considerate, I had the ability to help her but did nothing. Definitely a learning experience for me.

    Also if someone is the type to be paranoid of strangers in general, it is usually much safer to ask someone for help than to wait until someone offers it as your chances of just randomly asking someone who just happens to be a violent psychopath is pretty slim. But on the other hand, violent psychopaths (rapists, child molesters, potential kidnappers etc.) view a struggling, vulnerable mother/woman as easy prey and would be the first to offer assistance. Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear explains this much better than I can. This would be a great book for your book club.

    Katy Reply:

    My goodness! I so dislike it when I or anyone else have a fussy child or other obvious pressing issue AND you are only purchasing one or two things AND the people in front of you with a billion don’t even notice or care. Our lives will all be much nicer if I get out of this store as quickly as possible with the fussy child!!

    Jenna Reply:

    This is a really nice illustration of what can be done (with several different people in the story having an opportunity to change their actions). Thanks Shannon!

  36. A bit of a tangent, but related- has anyone here ever offered help in a situation of possible personal danger, or heated emotions?

    I have intervened in a loud verbal fight on the streets, at night, between a man and a woman, asking if she was okay, if I needed to call for help, etc. The man then started to threaten me. I’ve also intervened and offered help to a small child whose mother was screaming at him in the store, and jerking him by the arm- he looked terrified. I told her she had no right to verbally abuse him, and if she didn’t stop I would call security. An old woman was yelling at a young Hispanic man in front of her on the Amtrak, using racially inflammatory language, and the car was packed- I walked from the back to the front, where she was, and told her she should be ashamed, and I got the conductor- he moved her, and the young man thanked me profusely- even as his seatmate, a stranger, hunched further into his book to hide his blushing cheeks- he was clearly terribly uncomfortable with the whole thing. I will add that in all of these situations there were many people standing around witnessing it, and no one did anything.In the case of the couple’s fight, many large, adult men stood by and didn’t back me up, even as the man began to threaten me. And in the case of the abusive mom, many mothers stood around, with their own children, watching, and doing nothing. I don’t think they were bad people, I think they were scared/confused/unsure of what to do.

    I think it’s easy to talk about how we should always help people, but when it comes down to it I know so many of my kind, loving friends and family probably would have totally walked the other way in all of these situations because they simply don’t have the kinds of personalities that are conducive to such a heated confrontation. That doesn’t make them bad or insensitive people, they just have a different comfort level or personality.

    Maria Reply:

    I totally agree! My husband has intervened in testy situations before because he’s a fairly out-going guy. I tend to be quite shy, and I can honestly say I would have only said something in one of the situations you described. I might have alerted a conductor or called the police, but I’m not comfortable interjecting in potentially dangerous situations. Although there’s definitely a difference from breaking up a fight and offering to hold the door for someone.

    Gogo Reply:

    Good for you, on all of these counts.

  37. Thanks for posting this. I often see women struggling with a baby and all the associated paraphernalia and I’m not sure what the appropriate thing to do is. I will most definitely offer help next time I see this happening! I guess I’m worried about coming across as a creepy. I have reached a phase in my life where I am aching to have children and I find myself striking up conversations with pregnant women or women with babies all the time, asking them lots of questions. I should at least lend a hand if I’m asking so many questions!

  38. I think it totally sucks that no one helped you. People are so into their own thing they just don’t think about others sometimes.

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I am about to be a mom (scary!) and one thing I DON’T want to be is an annoying stroller mom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been run over by a huge stroller in the mall! I know I should probably be a little more sensitive, but this drives me crazy. If one of these people alomst ran me down, then turned around and then wanted me to help, I would be shocked!

    (You were wearing your baby, and you don’t seem like the run-over-people-with-a-stroller type, so obviously this comment has little to do with you!)

    Jenna Reply:

    I try not to be too hard on stroller moms though. Especially because I have so many friends with several young kids. When that happens, and you have a double stroller with a baby, a toddler, and another hanging off, you can’t really be in control of everything, you know?

    But having a stroller definitely doesn’t make you entitled, which some women seem to think.

    Emily Reply:

    I don’t know, I think people are much nicer to strollers than wearers! Maybe because they are tired of getting run into! When it’s nice, I try to take my baby out for a walk with our dog – sometimes I wear, sometimes I stroll. When I am wearing her, people in my neighborhood will walk straight at me, not move to one side of the sidewalk, as if they want me to walk on the grass. I think this is because I’m with the dog, but I can’t see my feet and would rather not walk on bumpy grass, couldn’t you just scoot for a second? When I have the stroller, people just move right to the side and out of my way.

  39. Reading some of the regional differences is telling. Chicago is a lot of things: beautiful and busy and sparkling, but it is also a mean city. It’s why I don’t want to live here forever, because I’m a meaner person than I was when I moved here 10 years ago. Our weather is sometimes mean and our politicians are often mean and we, frequently, are mean: quick to anger, slow to help, keeping to ourselves unless we’re getting in fights with each other.

    Take, for instance, the parking issue with your neighbor. I’m trying to imagine that happening somewhere other than in Chicago. It’s just mean for mean’s sake. (Granted, she’s got a very expensive car, so it’s mean + perceived privilege which is extra toxic).

    This is not to say that individuals aren’t nice around here, because they are sometimes, but there’s a pervasive attitude of “Where’s mine?” in this city, and it gets tiring.

    Sorry. That’s a rant with no good advice. I just got bummed reading about Canadians and East Coasters and Californians even Texans who are Nice People. I love this city, but man do I wish it was nicer sometimes.

    In the meantime, we all just need to ask for help when we need it. ‘Cause ain’t nobody gonna give it freely around here.

    Katie Reply:

    Really? This saddens me as a lifelong Chicagoan. I feel as though people here are “Midwestern” in the way that they’re open, relaxed, and friendly, especially in comparison to comparably-sized US cities. Now if you head downstate, people are really approachable, but there is a bit of hurridness/ short interaction with strangers when you live in a big city than in smaller town. I can very easily imagine that parking situation happening in NY or LA.

    Melissa Reply:

    schmei, I competely agree. I have lived my entire life in the suburbs of Chicago and people here aren’t very nice. I don’t know if I would say it is a mean area but it is definitely indifferent. In this area you just don’t talk to people you don’t know. I will hold a door open for someone or give up my seat on the bus but I do it without speaking. If they thank me, I say you are welcome but that is pretty much it. I am always caught off guard when I go to visit family down south. It is so weird to stop at a gas station and have people talk to you.

    Sunny Reply:

    I’ve lived about half of my life in each half of Illinois and the difference is so noticeable. Drive 3 hours south of Chicago and people are nice, will open doors, will talk to you, etc but the closer you get to the city the ‘meaner/busier/more interested in only themselves’ people are.

    My fiancee has lived his entire life in Southern Illinois and to see him interact with people in and around Chicago is just a bit funny. He opens doors and people just stare at him like he did something odd. He talks to them about something related to the situation we’re in and then they really look at him like he’s crazy.

    schmei Reply:

    Melissa and Sunny, you both touched on a good point – even when people are being kind in Chicago, it’s wordless: If you say anything out loud, it’s like you’re being a weirdo.

    I grew up in a small town in Southern Ohio, and this is a skill I’ve actually begun to lose: there’s much more chit-chat as part of common courtesy in smaller towns.

    Katie, I love Chicago. But I love it like Nelson Algren loved it: the place makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes.

  40. I really like the take you took on this topic. When you first mentioned writing about it, I was thinking it would be more along the lines of – this person isn’t helping when I need it therefore this person is rude. Which is true, sometimes. But, like you noted, there are more reasons someone would hesitate to help and you are also capable of asking for what you need. And I probably wouldn’t have thought of it like that myself, even though I am among those who hesitate to intrude with people.

  41. Okay, my take. It really seems that some days you just the truck load of whatever people or mood seems to be out and about. Some days people are so helpful – give kind, understanding glances when your kid screams instead of a dirty look or help you with all those little tasks mothers can use a little help with.

    Then some days, everyone you seem to meet is uber rude and selfish. As long as there aren’t TOO many days like the latter, I try to get over it and get home.

    People shouldn’t hide behind the ‘afraid to offer help’ nonsense – nothing is hurt by offering and the person always has a choice. Then, if the mom doesn’t want your help for some reason, fine – she can go it alone if she really wants to!

    L-O-V-E-D your paragraph about the difference between help and advice. Advice is incredibly annoying and old women seem to have the corner marketed on that. Yes, please let me know if you notice my son playing with a knife or something mortally dangerous, but if you just don’t agree with him playing with my keys keep it yourself.

    Oh, I also love the ‘Dr. Old-Lady Moms’ who diagnose your child in a condesending way everytime they sneeze. Grant has always had an unusual cough (thanks in part to his esophogus surgery). When he was still a small baby, people would hear him cough and cast me dirty looks as if I had this child dying of croup out in public. If they only knew that this was a normal sound for him and that I knew he was perfectly alright, they would have kept their judgement to themselves. Can you tell I’m still a little bit touchy about this? ;)

  42. I, personally, don’t mind offering to help a mother in need… and please don’t take offense to this, as I have a lot of respect for you and your creativity… but I also think it’s really unfair to think that all people should cater to someone just because they have a child in tow… enough so to be offended when they don’t offer help. The point of someone being a gentleman or a lady enough to help is it is not expected, but they did it anyway, and that is what makes it special. No service is owed to someone just because they have a child. Choosing to get a bunch of large items with a baby and not bringing a friend or spouse to help, you have to find a way to speak up and ask for help, and not just expect for it to come to you. (As I see you’ve realized.) I do think, however, that if a person (mom or otherwise) is obviously struggling with something in public, that it is rude and negligent to just ignore it as if it’s not happening. I just don’t think it’s fair for someone to be upset that no one chose to help when they didn’t ask. Mom or otherwise. I think it’s great that you are going to speak up for yourself now, and I hope things get easier for you. I just wish you had someone to help you, so that you don’t have to get all of those things alone! Call a friend, that’s what they’re for!

    Jenna Reply:

    Although maybe you were speaking to my situation specifically, where I certainly could have asked TH to take time away from the million other things he needs to do, or asked a woman from the ward to come with me (thus putting myself in a position where I felt like I “owed” her something and would have to repay the kindness later), the problem I have with this attitude in general (and you aren’t the only one in this thread who expressed this idea) is that it assumes that everyone has people to lean on. Which they don’t.

    Ikea is an excellent example because it’s a place where people go when they are moving to a new place and redecorating. They might not have any friends in the area yet. Maybe they don’t have a church that they go to. Maybe their husband works 100+ hour work weeks and doesn’t even have time to sleep, much less go to Ikea with them. Or single mothers who are working or going to school full time who don’t have a husband at all to rely on. I have a lady in my ward who is recently divorced, has a 3 year old son, and constantly has to email the ward RS list asking for babysitting. She can’t afford to pay anyone because she’s trying to finish school in order to support her family now that she is single. Having to ask someone to go to Ikea with her would mean she feels like she has yet another person that she owes in return for the favor they provided.

    The easier solution in my mind is that we all just assume people didn’t have anyone to help them when they left the house. It would be better for the general public to become kinder, not for the people who need help to ask for more favors from their friends. :)

    But maybe you were speaking specifically to me. I guess I could have tried to wait for someone who was making a trip to Ikea as well, but I don’t like asking people to go out of their way to do things like that. I’m really busy, constantly stressed that I can’t get everything done, and I don’t want to ask someone to take time out of their life for me because I assume that everyone else feels the same way!

  43. Great post Jenna. As an expecting Mom I am really interested in all the stories and comments. My husband and I try to help people who look in distress when we can (mothers and others). But one reminder: Say Thank you when people help you! My husband carried a woman’s stroller up three flights of stairs once and she just walked away without a thank you. It was really dispiriting! Saying thank you will make the helper feel warm and fuzzy and will make him/her all the more likely to help the next distressed person he/she sees!

    Jessica Reply:

    p.s. I’m not implying you wouldn’t say thank you (I know you would) — I’m just putting out a general reminder! :-)

  44. I think part of it is people know very pregnant women have little mobility and are often strained by lifting even a moderate amount of weight- I know this is true of me sitting here at 37 weeks! Help is usually always very appreciated by women at this point, yet like others have mentioned many new mothers act as if you’re insulting them somehow my offering help. THe key is to ask for it- if people refuse to help you then they look like an arse not you!

  45. I agree that it’s important to speak up! I was at Walmart a few weeks ago with O strapped to my chest. I was trying to reach something on the top shelf without tipping over slash smacking his head into the shelf, and I clearly looked ridiculous. There was an older man in the aisle too, but he didn’t offer to help me.

    However, after trying to no avail, I asked if he would mind helping me, and he rushed right over with an “of course!” Long story short, I think if a mother needs help, she should just ask.

    Also, the other day at the grocery store, I was doing the one-handed cart unload while holding O in the Bjorn with the other hand, and the woman behind me told me to step aside and unloaded my cart for me. So nice!

  46. I’m glad you felt like people were willing to help you while you were preggers – I never felt that way! One time I had a bagger at the grocery store help me with my bags but that was about it.

    I feel like when I have baby with me that people almost seem annoyed that I may take longer. I try my hardest not to take him out to stores this time of year because he’s too young for a flu shot and I’d like to keep him healthy, but sometimes he has to come with me places and that should be just fine! We shouldn’t get rushed or looked at funny when they fuss. Did I tell you about the time an older employee at WalMart walked up to us and shoved a paci in my babe’s mouth? I was not very happy.

    Jenna Reply:

    Wait, WHAT?!?!? a stranger put a strange pacifier in your baby’s mouth? That is just so beyond appropriate. I think I would have reported them to management!

  47. Gosh, that sounds like one tough shopping trip! If it was me, I’d be crying at the end of it all!
    Since I had my son, I quickly learned that to make life easier for the two of us, I needed to avoid going on any shopping trips with him that would last more than an hour or so – it’s usually one store at a time and that’s it. I run for my money when I get in the door, I get what I need and get out! :) I also leave my big shopping for evenings or weekends, when my husband or someone else can come along and help, or for when I don’t have the baby with me. I don’t know, I really don’t feel right asking people for help – I always think that I’m dumping my problems on others, I feel that I shouldn’t be here if my baby is fussy or crying or if I’m buying a load of stuff that I can’t even carry to the car. Some people do offer to help and it’s so wonderful, but I don’t think that’s something to be expected. Expecting just gets you dissapointed, because majority of people, like you say, won’t think twice if someone needs help or not, they be too distracted, busy, running in and out of the store quickly, etc – that’s just how I try to think of it. So if I know I can’t do it with a baby in tow, I usually don’t go until I have help with me. It really does take forever to get things accomplished, but I find that it’s the mommy-life reality and I’ve come to be totally ok with it. :)

  48. I understand trying to help people when they need it. When I can’t reach things in the grocery store because I’m too short, I ask for it. And when I see people who need help (carrying groceries, opening a door, finding their cat) I offer if I notice it. Why would you expect help to be offered? If you need it, ask but don’t put yourself in situations where you know you’ll need it! I like to think that I’m fairly self-sufficient. I try not to bite off more than I can chew, especially knowing my limitations when I’m working with kids and on their schedule. If I’m in a store and the kids start fussing, if I can’t keep it together I leave. I hate to say this, but it’s just as unfair to force others to have to deal with my fussy kid as it is for me to expect help. I will offer if I think I can do anything, but I would be pretty pissed/feel used if the person I was helping EXPECTED my help. I don’t owe it to anyone to help, they don’t owe it to me, but I sure try to treat others as I would like to be treated.

  49. I just wanted to let you know that because of this post, I was much more observant of this with my friends and fam who have small babies.

    It really rang true for me – as yesterday I watched the very same thing happen to my friend, I then hustled to hold open the door, help her grab her wallet from her purse while she was juggling the diaper bag, baby and blanket. I helped put baby Ruby’s socks on as they were falling off (though this was due to a passerby making verbal note). Everyone else? They just went on their merry way – not opening doors for a mom carrying more than most could handle and a infant.

    It’s so darn true and it blows MY mind! I’m not a parent yet, but with my clock tick-tick-ticking away I am possibly more attuned to the scenario. However, I still just don’t understand how people can be so dumb!

    Jenna Reply:

    I really appreciated this. I admit I’ve been a bit… down? frustrated? about the response to this post. The suggestions that the women with babies are not the problem and not the people so wrapped up in their own nothingness (because really, what else is there to do in the checkout line of the grocery store?) boggled my mind a bit.

    So it was nice to hear that someone heard the message I was trying to put out there.

  50. I know this is an older post (just catching up on all my blogs), but had to comment on a bit of a tangent because we just got back from Ikea. We don’t go very often, mostly because Mr T hates it for all the reasons they talk about in Cheap. (I feel like I *should* hate it for all those reasons, but I just can’t resist colorful Scandanavian design on the cheap!!) Anyway, tonight’s trip was totally a revelation. That place is TODDLER (or older baby) HEAVEN. Fantastic play areas, kid-friendly foods on the menu, family bathrooms with a separate nursing area. We had to drag our girl out of there at closing time, and I’m already making plans to go back on some cold winter afternoon just so she can play.

    On the help front, because I never expect help I’m often surprised by how many people DO offer in our little neighborhood. Our neighborhood coffee shop is full of 20something hipster guys who always jump up to open the front door when they see someone trying to come in with a stroller. Totally warms my heart. But recent trips to the suburbs have me convinced that people in the suburbs are much less friendly and less likely to offer assistance. My theory is that their little bubble of single-family-home-to-car-to-parking-lot-to-store makes them lost the habit of noticing others. Urban neighborhoods may have their drawbacks, but sharing public space with neighbors/kids/dogs does encourage a certain community spirit.

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