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When Is It Okay to Critique Another Mom?

I just did something that maybe I shouldn’t have done.  I told a new mom (by the looks of it) that she was doing something wrong.  And I watched as her face went from confusion-to-horror-to-tears.  And then I walked ran away. 

But if given the chance, I’d do it again. 

I was just shopping at Walmart when I noticed this beautiful new mom shopping with her tiny newborn in his car seat.  But the car seat was balancing on the top of the shopping cart.  The front part of it.  And I’ve just read too many articles online about how dangerous that is.  I’ve read the statistics on how many babies get seriously injuredHow moms just didn’t see it comingHow babies have even died from that fall. 

car seat injury

I noticed this new mom shopping and I immediately panicked.  I wanted to say something but also hate butting in on something that is not my business or my job to police.  Maybe she already knows the risks.  Maybe she was planning on never taking her hands off that car seat.  Maybe she hadn’t slept the night before and my judgement would be too much to handle.  So I walked away with a lump in my throat.  Maybe she didn’t know the horror stories.  Maybe she was just doing her best and 5 minutes later something bad was going to happen and I could have prevented it. 

So I turned around, took a deep breath and mustered all the courage I could, put my hand on my heart and said “Hi, I am so sorry to butt in when it’s really none of my business, but I just have to tell you that I’ve read so many articles online about how dangerous it is to put a car seat on the cart like that.  The whole seat can fall and babies have gotten seriously hurt or even died.  And maybe you already know, but maybe you don’t and I just wanted to make sure you knew.  You can do whatever you want.  Obviously.”

I said all of that as quickly as I could and watched as she went from confusion as to why I looked so scared, to horror as she realized I was practically scolding her, to tears as she processed what I said.  I don’t know what she did.  I felt so awkward that I practically ran away. 

I really wish I would have also told her that I’m sure she’s a great mom.  And that you just don’t know something until you know it.  And that not 5 minutes earlier I knocked my baby girl’s head on the top of the car just getting her out of her car seat — I am definitely not perfect and I wasn’t trying to judge her, I was just trying to help.  (And just how much I love my Maya Wrap!)

But I didn’t say any of that and I didn’t see her in the store the rest of the time I was there.  And I had a pit in my stomach about it the rest of the day. 

Car seat in cartSo I asked some other DMB contributors what they thought.  One told me that she wondered if it’s a real problem and had asked a Target employee, who said that they have had three instances recently where they had to call an ambulance for that exact reason.  Another said she saw it happen 10 years ago and made sure to never put her car seat on the cart again. 

Several others said they have wanted to say something before but didn’t know what to say, so didn’t say anything and regretted it. 

And it sparked an interesting conversation — when is it okay to critique another parent?  There are so many dangerous things out there, some well known and others not.   For example – we choose to co-sleep with our baby even though I’ve read the risks.  Sometimes I even go down the slide with my little one on my lap even though I read this article about the dangers.  But while I take precautions because I do know the risk, would I be offended if someone saw me and told me it was dangerous? 

I’d like to think no because realize their good intentions.  But I don’t know if I did offend that new mom in Walmart.  I sincerely hope I did not. 

If I could go back I might say a few things a bit differently, but I would definitely say something again.  Because the risk of having a stranger think I am a total jerk outweighs the guilt I would feel if I’d have to call 911 a few minutes later. 

Would you say something?  What would you say differently??  I’d really love to hear!

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23 Responses to When Is It Okay to Critique Another Mom?

  1. Christi January 5, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    I think you were completely appropriate, kind and diplomatic about it. Hopefully she took it in the spirit it was intended – you were trying to keep her child safe and warn her about something about which she may not be aware. I think that was your inner voice telling you that you should say something. And if she or anyone else she passes this onto helps in avoiding an accident or if nothing ever comes of it, you did what you felt was right. Bravo, sister!

    • Amanda
      Amanda January 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

      Thank you! I really wish she could read this post and know that my intentions were good! But thanks for responding!

  2. Rachel January 5, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    I think you’re strongg for speaking up. I’m not sure if I could have done it. But I do think that trying to not run away afterwards would have made the situation better – like you said in your article, maybe telling her that you made the this take in the past and nearly had an accident – or knew someone who did. Even if it wasn’t the case, it might have made her feel a little better to know she wasn’t the only one.

    • Amanda
      Amanda January 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

      Yes, I thought to do that, but didn’t want to stumble over words that were not true. I was probably just over thinking it though. I will most likely do that in the future.

  3. Denaye
    Denaye January 5, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    I think you were in the right. Actually when my little guy was a newborn, I actually thought there was some sort of design element or “snap in” on the carseat for carts–because I see this so often! After failing at trying to “snap my car seat” in to the cart, I gave up and stuck with using a stroller with a big basket.

    Although indeed I am sure you felt awkward 🙂 This makes me think of how I often see photos of babies on Facebook in carseats that are inappropriately fastened, wearing big jackets, forward facing too early, etc. I never reach out to those parents but I often wish I had the nerve to do so.

    • Amanda
      Amanda January 6, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

      Oh gosh, I read a blog post on that recently. A mom lost her baby in a car accident and said she wish someone had told her! I think I may just link to that post any time I see a car seat picture that makes me nervous… if I’m feeling brave enough that is!!

      • Kaitlin January 13, 2015 at 8:11 am #

        I see kids not in a car seat well often. It makes me so nervous to say something. I don’t want my friend to think I’m judging her. My dad is an EMT and worned me of the danger. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known so early. If someone dosent know, is it my place to tell them? Is it better to have her think I judge her then to see that her child was ejected from her car seat?

      • Janna Law January 13, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

        I saw this page on FB called Cameron’s Story is Saving lives, I think it is probably the same one you saw. I read the whole story teary eyed and it made me wish that I had been brave enough to speak up when I saw photos of kids incorrectly strapped in their car seats. You did a great thing by informing her of the risks of having the ar seat there. I did that with my first son frequently because I had no idea the car seat clips that clicked in wouldn’t actually hold it down. I know I would feel guilt about doing the wrong thing if a stranger approached me to tell me. I probably would tear up a little as well, but I would be forever grateful to that stranger who cared enough to go out of their way to help me protect my child.

  4. Judy cote January 5, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    I’m glad you said something. You know as parents we are all on the same team.. We all want to keep our kids safe. Only thing I could add is if you can give advice on what to do instead of having the car seat on the front of the cart. Tell her to Put the car seat in the basket area and then it’s safe. Put your purchases under the basket or in the baby seat area, or in a reusable bag hanging off the cart. Just keep baby safe. Long ago I saved a toddler who was standing in the basket of a cart. He tipped it over and I happened to be standing on that side of him. He fell right into me and I grabbed him and tried to steady the cart with my hip. The cart fell over anyway. I pulled him out and away and put him down safely. If he had gone over with the cart he would have had a bad injury to his head. The mom was a little alarmed at first because she was in front of him and not watching. But she figured out what happened and then thanked me profusely. I was wing mom to a stranger. I have had other moms help me instinctively and I have been thankful. It does take courage to say something but since you may be saving a life it is worth saying.

    • Amanda
      Amanda January 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      That is such a good story!! And a great point – at different points in our lives we are either being helped or helping someone — and if us moms just stick together it’ll help make this job a lot easier. I have such a hard time letting other moms help me, I like to be the helper. But that’s probably for a different post. 🙂

  5. Jesse January 12, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    I think you were only trying to help yes you could of done it more prepared but you were trying to help.I think everything is a “risk” and unless a child is being seriously injured I keep my opinions to myself. Many people feel the need to tell mothers things Bcuz they feel thier way is the right way and most of what people have told me i completely disagree with.

  6. Mother of 2 January 12, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    First, you sound very caring and that you have a generous and loving heart. And how wonderful of mothers wanting to help mothers instead of bashing them. However, as you asked in the headline, when is it ok? In general, whether it’s cultural or it’s been instilled in us because of our siblings and other family members, most women become the mother hen type- used to taking car of, telling how to do something, being the police, wanting to fix and “help”. But should we become the mother hen to other families? Should we tell other families what to do and his to do it? Should we want to fix people? My sister asked me how she could help an older teenager that she cared very dearly for. In our eyes there is always something to be fixed in other people. There is always some great advice we have that they should apply in their lives. Why do we feel the need to be in charge and take care of others has if they are helpless children? Why do we feel guilty and like we will be for ever shamed for not saving everyone? Everyone has free will, we are not the savoirs of everyone. Let the people rear their children. Some will do amazing jobs and some will not. But at least they will get to choose how to do it.
    Women will never stop offering advice or telling others what they have read and how they should apply it, but hopefully they do it as nicely as you did.

  7. Jonie January 12, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    I totally understand your apprehension about talking to her. That would be hard. Especially this day and age when there is so much mom shaming going on I am so afraid to come across that way.. When in actuality I’m just trying to help! I was in target a year ago with my toddler and there was a woman(grandma) who had her 2 year old grandson with her in line in front of me.. And she was talking to the check out lady not realizing her grandson was now standing in the front part where they are supposed to sit!! I immediately went to him and was telling him to sit and had my hands around him (not touching) but able to grab in case of a fall! All while screaming Mamn Mamn etc! I honestly was worried I was going to get punched for interfering! She seemed irritated with me but I knew I would feel terrible if he had fallen and busted his head when I could have prevented it.

  8. Julie January 12, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    I say something every time because sadly I was the mom who thought it was ok as long as it had the click in part. My daughter was buckled in her carseat, lunged

    • Julie January 12, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      Forward and crashed to the floor in Walmart. Thankfully she’s fine. But from that day on I have made other moms aware

  9. ashley January 12, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    There are so many times I want to offer a safe alternative to a sweet mom friend. You were brave to say something to this stranger. I think its easier to say something to strangers, than to say something to friends you will see again. I posted a question about this on facebook once. It was the question of if the car seat is strapped into the metal part, and still the overwhelming response is NO. But then you have moms with kids that are over 10, and they’re like ” it didn’t kill my kid”. I always have a hard time trying to find the balance of extremes.

  10. Sarah January 12, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    I’m a preschool teacher so I get a lot of training and exposure to the newest research as well as tried and true approaches on the early stages of childhood. My teacher nature wants to inform. I get so excited about new information and I love learning things from others then sharing what I’ve learned. I also find it hard to break out of the teacher mode when I’m with my own kids on the playground outside of school and I really have to edit any tendency towards stream of consciousness parenting or speaking. I discipline (positively) other people’s children all day long. I have an appropriate forum with parents where I am in the position of confronting areas that need to be addressed for success in a classroom. I’ve thought a lot about this boundary and there are two things I have chosen to prioritize in all of those moments.

    1. When it comes to a child’s safety, it is always worthwhile to speak up.

    2. Align yourself with the caregiver and the child. (Use your language to position yourself alongside them instead of across from them. You want to present yourself as someone on their side. Try to avoid making the caregiver feel like you’re protecting the child from them.)

    In my opinion, you met both of those criteria. Sure you could have done some things differently but you were out of your comfort zone and next time, you will. You’re right to reevaluate what you said and did because it will inform your actions the next time you’re in this situation but don’t let that criticism extend to yourself. In my opinion, you did the right thing out of a good place.

  11. Twinmom January 13, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    For us moms of multiples this wasn’t really a choice when they were infants. If anybody had ever said anything to me I’m sure I would’ve broken down crying because those first few months with twins are all about survival. Of course I would never have wanted to put my babies at risk, but when you have more than one sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Maybe instead we should rally for safer carts that do allow for the carriers to snap in or be strapped in.

  12. Shelly January 13, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    I don’t consider addressing a life threatening issue to be a criticism at all! How would that mother feel if the baby had fallen out? She would most definitely choose tears for a few hours over a perceived failure over a potentially fatal injury to her child. In other words, she’ll get over it. You were incredibly diplomatic and not patronizing at all – I can honestly say that I would not have been offended. (Of course with postpartum hormones raging, I might have chased you around with a meat cleaver.)

    Anytime a helpless child is at risk, it is an adult’s responsibility to prevent possible injury – whether the parent is offended or not!

    Rant over….you did the right thing!

  13. Brenda January 13, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    i think being judgmental vs. helpful/concerned lies in the words and tone you use in communicating with the mom. It’s up to them how they decide to interpret it but I would guess that said in the best way possible, you will always risk offending but surely that is better than the risk to that baby if something happens. So kudos for trying to help and speak up–hindsight is 20/20 and next time, now that you have thought about the best words, you may know better what to say and so will all the people reading this!

  14. Rach February 1, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    I believe this commercial says it all:

    (Link won’t copy, so goggle ScaryMommyFormula commercial)

    In the end mommy wars don’t matter…. we all cry when children are hurt or killed in accidents & we try or best to prevent it. Even if she was offended, chances are that she went home & read up on it and paid you a moment of thanks.

  15. manda May 18, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    I saw a lady the other day with her car seat on top of the seat part of the shopping cart. I have a 4 month old and just thought she must have a more expensive car seat that “snaps” in (they should work on that maybe :)) and I had one that doesn’t. I always put my little one in the big part of the cart, but didn’t realize that none of the car seats can snap in. I will say something next time. I see this ALL the time at Target.

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