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A Judgey Mom Meets a Judge Free Mom

By: Marissa Healy

I had my first “JFM Moment” in public today (at the dollar store, of all places!) It took me 7 years and 4 kids, but I was finally subjected to Mom Shaming - a horror I had previously heard about but believed was extremely uncommon. As such, I didn’t have a response prepared for the critical commentary I received, and was forced to reply to the Mom-fender (Mom-offender, get it?) right there in the middle of the Dollar Tree checkout. Given that I had 3 impressionable little girls next to me at the time, I wanted to ensure I maintained some semblance of grace and integrity when responding, while also leaving no room for further discussion.

The scene: Dollar Tree, 10am, when apparently everyone else in the greater Cleveland area likes to get their dollar shop on, too. I’ve got my 7yo, 3yo, and 4 month old girls with me (which actually feels like a little break from the usual chaos of 4 kids, because one was at Safety Town.) We’re standing in a long line at the checkout register, and my 4 month old baby girl is Not. Having. It. I’m simultaneously trying to help my 7 year old count her birthday money so she can buy herself a bunch of random junk she doesn’t need, while also reminding my 3 year old to place the half-eaten bag of donuts we snacked on during our shopping trip onto the belt so we can pay for them. 🤣 We’re kind of a hot mess, but we’re making it work, and then...I did the unthinkable. I stuck a bottle (filled with formula, mind you) into my screaming baby’s mouth.

And that’s when the shaming occurred.

The perpetrator, a middle-aged woman buying an excessive amount of glass votive candle holders, chimed in with her opinion:

(Also, why couldn’t it have been a cute little grandma? Criticism is so much easier to accept from women who raised kids in the era when whiskey was considered an optimal treatment for teething babies.)

But alas, it wasn’t a cute grandma. It was basically your mom. Her comment, and I quote...

“That poor babe is too young to be drinking a bottle. I breastfed all 5 of mine. That’s the best thing you can do for ‘em at this age.”

There it was again. That damn word. BEST.

Without hesitation, I looked up and smiled at the snide woman whose appearance resembled a combination between Martha Stewart and Sarah Palin. This award-winning Mom who exclusively breastfed her 5 children and lived to tell the tale (or at the very least, rub it in to the rest of us.) I must’ve been subconsciously channeling you JFM’s, because this is what (unexpectedly) came out of my mouth...

“Girlfriend, do you see me right now? I’m wearing yesterday’s yoga pants, and my kids are eating powdered sugar donuts we haven’t paid for in the checkout line at Dollar Tree. Do I look like I’m trying to be the BEST at anything today??? You can go ahead and keep your gold medal. I’m just shootin’ for a Participant ribbon.”

(I’ve never experienced a mic-drop moment...or maybe I did?)

Not surprisingly, Martha Palin gave a downward glance to her votive glasses and silently continued her judgmental monologue inside her own head. If she were my mom, I’m pretty certain she would’ve followed up with a, “I hope someday you have a daughter JUST. LIKE. YOU.” for good measure.

I wasn’t entirely certain I had responded appropriately to the Stewart-Palin Mom Shamer, until I noticed a fellow second-day-yoga-pants Mom following behind me as I left the store and walked over to Target. She had been standing a few people behind me in line at the dollar store, and overheard the entire conversation. Out of appreciation for my “incredibly real response” (her words), she handed me a Starbucks gift card and instructed me to treat myself. She disappeared before I could even grab her name, but yoga-pants-giver-of-Starbucks-gift cards, if you’re in this group, thank you.

Keep on keepin’ on, mamas. At the end of the day, a gold medal and a Participant ribbon still end up on the same bedroom wall or in the same bottom drawer. 😉

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