The ‘Nice’ Mom Gesture That Kind of Irks Me

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I know I’ll probably come off as a petty you-know-what here, but I also know that other women have complained to me about this seemingly-benign mom move, so I’m going to proceed with this post, despite the consequences…

The backstory: I rolled up to the drop-off lane at my son’s elementary school the other day (we missed the bus, naturally) and I was a little frazzled. It wasn’t even 9am and we’d already had several wardrobe meltdowns, a first-grade homework crisis, a bath-required baby blowout, an egg smashed on the kitchen floor and a time out resulting from a certain four-letter-word (the bad one) coming out of a certain four-year-old’s mouth (my bad one). I also had a work deadline fast approaching and my sitter had just called in sick — or rather texted in sick (kids these days). It was…one of those mornings.

I jumped out of the car to say goodbye to my son and while I was racing around I bumped into a mom of one of my son’s classmates. She had clearly already been out for a run, and she asked how I was doing. “Ugh, rough morning,” I said, and then, before I could stop myself, I was giving her a synopsis of my nightmare. I kept it brief — just the lowlights — but I was failing so hard it seemed worth sharing. I figured we’d laugh it off together and I’d return to said nightmare feeling bolstered by a sister in arms. It always feels good to commiserate with other parents in the trenches, right? But what happened next was, well, I’ll let you decide:

So this mom who has four — four! — of her own kids looks at me very sympathetically and says, “What can I do to help? Seriously, can I take something off your plate?” My response: “Oh, that’s sweet but no, I’m good. I’ll be fine. Thanks.” Nice lady, right? Maybe, but here’s the rub: I got in the car and I felt worse. Having this other mom flaunt her have-it-all-togetherness by offering to help me in my hour of complaininess wasn’t exactly the solidarity I was looking for. She has more kids than me AND time to workout before school AND she wants to take on my to-dos, too? And what is she going to take off my plate? Is she going to come to my house and plunge the guest toilet that keeps clogging up? Scrub the now-congealed egg yolk off the floor? Put away the three loads of laundry that have been taunting me all week? Write my article for me?

Obviously, she was trying to be nice. And I’m being a petty, you-know-what. “How can I help?” is just a knee-jerk response a lot of moms have to other moms’ woes. I also realize that some of my annoyance stems from my own parenting insecurity in that moment (Why didn’t I have it more together?!) and feeling a little defensive. I get it. I need to work on that. I also need to work on just saying, “Great!” when other moms ask me how I am. They don’t want to hear my crap because they have their own crap. But I kind of wish the let-me-help moms would just say, “Ugh, I had one of those days yesterday” or “Been there” or “Deep breath, you’ll get through it.” At the very least, it’s more sincere.

I know, I know, moms are all too sensitive and we need to grow a thicker skin and blah blah blah. I’m not saying this derailed my day (that deed was already done), I’m just saying I’ve noticed that some moms do this and it kind of irks me. Especially when it’s not a mom I know very well who very well knows I won’t be taking her up on the offer. I mean, what would this woman have done if I said, “Actually, yes, here’s my baby, can you take her off my plate for a few hours so I can go to spin class and then post my blog?” Maybe next time I will.