The Harsh Stare of Judgment

Ten. More. Seconds… that's all I needed.

As the slo-ooww-w woman behind the checkout line tallied the total, my eyes pleaded with her to hurry – credit card in one hand and screaming toddler in the other.

"But Momma," whined interrupted my Kindergartner as he tugged on my shirt, "Just ONE piece of candy? Pleezzzee!"

T-minutes 5-seconds to breakdown (mine and kids). I tried to mentally prepare myself for my exit.

I struggled to pull five bags, a crying toddler and an angry Kindergartner out of the store before the breakdown occurred. And that's when I felt it – pounding through me and rushing directly towards my heart. I knew the sensation. I had felt it before (and will probably feel it again).

Amongst all the chaos, the crying, and my own panic and exhaustion, I felt the obvious gaze of disapproval as I exited the store.

"Do you think I don't realize that I am not at my brightest moment?" I wanted to shout out loud but didn't. "Do you think by making me MORE aware of how badly this split second looks that you are doing me a favor?" There are so many difficult things that parents have to deal with. Harsh stares of judgment should NOT. Be. One of them.

3 – 2 – 1…

I turned around to look back at the cashier, feeling my last couple of pre-breakdown seconds dwindle. She quickly adjusted her attention to the next customer in line when she realized I had caught her critical look.

What I wanted so badly for her to know is: looks can be deceiving and very rarely tell the entire story. And this specific story, on that specific day, during that specific moment – is a somewhat deceptive and unrepresentative moment of my parenting skills.

Sure, I could have shown a little more patience.

Yes, based on that one moment I wouldn't be nominated for "Mom of the Year."

I am fully aware that frustration and sleep deprivation are not the best looks for me.

People can be so easy to judge by just one small slice of life, but parenthood… parenthood is way more than just a single missing moment of patience. It's more than just one evening of exhaustion. And it is so much more than just this one painful moment here.


The count down reached zero, and the breakdown began. I pulled my toddler in closer (hoping a hug would bring me more patience) and simultaneously gripped my Kindergartner's hand tightly as we closed in on our van.

One moment. Just one moment after my long day of work, after a long day of school for my Kindergartner, and after a non-existent nap for my toddler… Yes, hindsight is always 50/50.

We should have stayed home.
But we didn't.

And that harsh stare of judgment didn't help our afternoon. All it did was leave me hurting and feeling more defeated, when what I really needed at that time (what many mothers need) was support.

Remember that.

Leave a Comment: Have you ever felt the "harsh stare of judgment" as a parent?



Kate Fineske is a busy, on-the-go, not-so-perfect, sometimes forgetful (yet well meaning) mom of 3. She is the author of On-the-Go Momma and also is a staff member for the National Association of Mothers Center (NAMC) and the primary contributor to Mothers Central – The Parenting Conversations Blog of the NAMC.