Yes, I Am That Woman in the Supermarket

tantrum autism supermarket judgement parenting autistic sympathetic

We’ve all seen her. Many of us have even been her. The woman whose kids make you feel just that little better about your own spawn, who, thank Christ, seem to be behaving themselves. For once.

I’ve seen her myself. Maybe that was you. I was the one who offered a sympathetic smile as your toddler thrashed around on the floor because you’d just refused to buy him a chocolate bar. Did it help? Maybe not. Sometimes at times like that, you just want to disappear. When you’re on edge, even a smile from a sympathetic stranger can feel like judgement.

For what it’s worth, I hope it did help.

And of course not everybody is sympathetic. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you tut and roll your eyes, because how hard is it to keep your kids under control really? And if that woman can’t manage that, then maybe she should keep them at home, rather than subject innocent passers by to their brattish behaviour? Maybe you have kids and maybe you don’t, Maybe your children have grown up and you’ve forgotten what it was like to be that woman. Maybe you have never been that woman.

In our case, it’s the cafe. Every time.

I was that woman this Sunday. A quick trip to the supermarket after the weekly swimming session. We knew it was going to happen. We went in and straight away she was tugging on our arms, trying to guide us in the direction of the lifts. The cafe is on the 1st floor. We moved away from the lifts, and the crying started. We want to the checkouts without going to the cafe, and oh dear god the tantrum began. Tugging on my arm, trying to drop to the floor, crying like the world was ending because we had forgotten to go to the cafe.

How much of it is down to Wee Girl’s autism and her need for routine, and how much of it is just your everyday toddler strop? I have no idea. I do know that once we were out of the supermarket, it didn’t take long before she got over it and she was back to her happy self again. But those moments of standing at the checkout, trying to parent while feeling that everyone is staring at us, knowing that I am that woman?

Yeah, that wasn’t fun.

So the next time you see that woman, try to remember that you’re only seeing a snapshot in her life. You don’t know anything about her or her children.Β  Her children may be screaming, but that is not a reflection on her parenting skills. She may be tired, or angry, or impatient, but you don’t know what else is going on in her life to make her feel that way. Maybe she’s been dealing with an attack of the Whinge Monster for the last few days. Maybe she has a pounding headache, or is worried about money. Maybe her children have sensory issues that make visits to the supermarket incredibly hard. Whatever. You don’t know anything about her, and neither do I, but I do know that judging her parenting skills, tutting and rolling your eyes, will not help.

And if you are that woman, then know this; I understand.

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About allpastmidnight

Hi, I'm Alison, I am a mid-thirties mum to two children, Little Man and Wee Girl. Wee Girl is pre-verbal and has autism, while Little Man is the sort of happy chatty little guy who gets into everything and sings at the top of his lungs β€” until the moment he makes eye contact with a stranger and he goes silent. I am cynical, sweary, and a bit disorganised, and I blog about parenting, ASD, food and just about anything else I can think of. Feel free to follow me on any of my social media. I can also be contacted by email at allpastmidnight [at] outlook [dot] com.
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58 Responses to Yes, I Am That Woman in the Supermarket

  1. Simmsx4 says:

    Those moments are never fun. And while they may be just a blip on the radar in our parenting lives, it feels like an eternity when it’s happening. I hope you’re little one wasn’t too hard on you!

    • She was pretty good all day, as it happens. Just that one strop, and luckily I was in a good mood and able to deal with it without it shaking me up. But I’ve had other days where I’ve felt less able to deal, so I know how hard and unpleasant it can be. Thanks for visiting.

  2. Simmsx4 says:

    Your*. Autocorrect 😳

  3. kharroald says:

    Oh goodness that is rough! I tend to always be that mom in the store as well. Or I am the one who’s kids aren’t listening and I’m sounding like a crazy banshee. #TwinklyTuesday

    • Ha ha, there’s so many of us! If we all got together, I’m pretty sure we’d outnumber the judgers 100 to 1. There’s got to be an app for that; ‘I’m in Tescos being judged. COME AND BACK ME UP.’ Thanks for visiting.

  4. Clare says:

    I love this. I too, am this mum. Actually i rarely venture out with all 3 for this very reason. My eldest is about to be diagnosed with Autism (finally!). So the- is this a regular 4 year old tantrum or a meltdown because we have gone against the grain strop? sounds all too familiar! xx

    • Yeah, it’s a tough one. I think the thing about autism is that a lot of NT toddler behaviour is amplified. We’re incredibly lucky in that Wee Girl doesn’t really have proper meltdowns, but I think when we do have this it’s 3 parts strop and 1 part down to the break in routine.

      Well done on almost getting your diagnosis. I wobbled a lot last year when we got Wee Girl’s, but the usual platitudes are true; it really doesn’t change anything.

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to venture out with three. Two is just about manageable, but only because I have the pram. We don’t get many bolts but it doesn’t happen and I live in terror of losing her. Actually, I should probably get one of those address bracelets just in case…

      Thank you for visiting. I don’t think I’ve come across your blog before, so I will check it out.

  5. helen@WLH says:

    Ah, yes the joys of going to the supermarket with a youngster. I’ve been that mum too – many a time. Great post πŸ™‚ Hx #TwinklyTuesday

  6. Julie S. says:

    Ah yes, you can’t ever judge a mom by the child’s tantrums, I have recently learned this. I thought tantrums were a toddler thing by my 9 month old is starting them full force out of no where and for very small reasons.

    • Ha ha, it sounds like he’s starting to know his own mind. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get him out of the habit early by not giving in and he’ll learn that tantrums don’t work. Good luck.

  7. Kaye says:

    I’ve been there! It is horrible when you can feel the eyes on you, surely everyone can understand the situation right? But obviously not! #wineandboobs

    • I think there are some who’ve never been in that situation and then there are some who have and have forgotten what it’s like. And then there are some who just relish the opportunity to judge another person. Either way, it’s not worth bothering about. Which opinion matters more: that of a kind and tolerant person, someone who stops to offer help, or that of a person who takes the opportunity to make someone who is clearly struggling feel just that little bit worse?

      Thanks for visiting.

  8. this is such a thoughtful post! I have seen those moms in the stores and I have had my youngest ask me “why is that kid crying mommy?” I explain to him some of the same things you mentioned like, “maybe he/she is just having a hard time today.” I add, “we all have our bad days, don’t we?” It sparks a short conversation with my ever curious son but what seems to happen is the people in front of me and behind me nod in agreement. I have also been one of those moms. Thanks for sharing on #wineandboobs

    • I think the majority of people are sympathetic, but there’s often that one person who isn’t. It’s nice that you talk to your son about it; hopefully he will grow up to be tolerant and understanding. Thanks for visiting.

  9. I have been that woman in the supermarket, cafe and most recently DIY store which was single handedly the worst. Nothing like a tantrum to make you look like utter crap haha #wineandboobs

    • Once when Wee Girl was acting up in B&Q, refusing to walk, I deliberately took her down the aisle with the hoovers, because and I quote: ‘If you don’t behave, the hoovers will get very angry!’ She has a fear of hoovers — it’s mild, so I’m not traumatising her, but still… Not my most sterling moment of parenting. It worked though.

      Cafe tantrums are the worst though, because 1.) the extra potential for judgement, supermarkets are one thing: everyone is miserable in the supermarket, 2.) you are already spending your hard earned cash on treating them, what more do they want? Oh yes. Another juice. And some biscuits. And cake. 3.) you just want five minutes peace to drink your sodding coffee. Is that too much to ask?

      • haha love that hoover trick! I will have to resist the urge to use it next time now you have planted the seed in my head. I basically never really go to cafes..or restaurants anymore because of the inevitable scolding looks brought on my the even more inevitable meltdowns!

      • I figured it was a win win. If it worked, it meant she was behaving herself. If it didn’t, it meant she was getting over her fear of hoovers. I have to stress I wouldn’t have done it if I thought it would traumatise her though.

  10. I am that one too!! I am also the woman who will crash into anything or anyone with a trolley. I am also that woman (sucker) who will allow her three year old a ride on all the stupid Β£1 a go rides to avoid a catastrophic meltdown. I feel your pain. x #wineandboobs

    • I feel very lucky my daughter hasn’t discovered the rides yet. I’ve thought about encouraging her to go on them (because apparently I am an idiot), but I know if she did she’d be on it for all of ten seconds and then she’d want to come off. Are they really Β£1 a go now? Bloody hell.

  11. Becky, Cuddle Fairy says:

    Yes, I totally agree! Those terrible moments in the shop is a brief moment in time & often the child is fed up & tired by the time they get to the check outs. Plus there are sweets everywhere that they want…it’s just not a good place to be. It is nice when it’s not your kid throwing the fit though lol #TwinklyTuesday x

    • Ha there’s a weird switch when you become a parent. You stop caring when you hear the cries of other children. Why? Because there’s a child crying and you don’t have to do a bloody thing. It’s almost a pleasant feeling; it’s so odd.

      And the sweets. Sometimes I can get away with, ‘Oh, yes, look chocolate. Good pointing it out,’ but not always.

  12. Littleoandme says:

    This a great post! I always try and offer a sympathetic smile/nod but like you say I worry that they will take the wrong way. I have had some awful looks whilst struggling with Oliver, it’s so unhelpful and made me feel so much worse!
    Becky x

    • It’s the quick glances that get me. People who just glance your way. You can hear a child crying; why do you need to look? What exactly do you expect to see? Actually, now that I write that I think that might be me being a bit irrational, but it’s still annoying. Stop looking at me!

      People do like to judge, don’t they? Sod ’em. Luckily I was feeling very calm and collected on Sunday, so was in a place where I could almost find it funny (knowing about autistic meltdowns really puts everyday tantrum in perspective), but there have been days where I’ve felt much less able to cope, and those days are miserable.

  13. Catie says:

    Fantastic post as usual so intuitive. I am that woman frequently. x

  14. Sarah HP says:

    Lovely post I’ve totally been there – I have a daughter plus toddler twin boys so often feel one hand short if my little people want to go in different directions! I’ve had a mix of reactions sometimes people are lovely and helpful. Other times I want the ground to swallow me up.

    • Yeah, same here. Mine is a potential runner. She does it very rarely, but it means I can never be off my guard in case she makes a run for it. I really don’t know how I’d cope if I had three, but I suppose you just adapt.Thanks for visiting.

  15. So true. A bit more sympathy and less of the eye rolling would go a long way. #MMWBH

  16. So true..we have all been there and those who haven’t internet their food shop! xxx

  17. I think if most of us are honest with ourselves we have all been there. Being a mother has helped me be more open minded. Who knew how tough it could be and there are times when we wish the ground would open up and swallow us. Great post. so true.

  18. Brilliant post. I’ve been that Mum too. With a tiny baby who was SCREAMING. I was at the checkouts and didn’t know whether to abandon my full trolley and run baby out of the store, or just muddle through, as I’d already finished the shopping. The couple in front of me turned and tutted. Then a lady from the next queue rushed over and helped me load my shopping onto the belt. Some people are lovely πŸ™‚ #wineandboobs

  19. Nige higgins says:

    I think I am that man tough times great post x

  20. Ugh that’s so difficult when it’s a place they know and yet you’re deviating from the routine. And post-swimming when they’re tired? Tantrum city! I usually do the smile-and-shrug too! Most people I’ve met (not just parents) have been pretty understanding but there’s always the one who says something nasty and I’m too shocked to respond so I spend the rest of the day (week?) thinking of all the things I should have said! #mmwbh

    • She’s usually knackered after swimming, so it can be a bit of a flashpoint. I should probably avoid the supermarket, but sometimes you just have to get those last few bits and pieces and there’s nothing else you can do. Ideally I’d just go to the cafe (coffee? Yes please), but we can’t always be spending money out on coffee.

      I think some people just relish the chance to be cruel, particularly to women who are already clearly struggling, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

  21. Mrs Tubbs says:

    I’ve been there and it’s grim. I never minded the odd person who gave me a wry smile as I knew they’d been there too. The tutters annoyed me no end! Hope the next trip is less eventful.

    • It’s been almost a week now, and on the whole it has been a very pleasant week. Just the odd whinge session. It’s not so much the child’s mood that matters, but your mood. I wonder if the tutters think they’re being helpful in some way, like if they show how disapproving they are, you’ll try that much harder. Thanks for visiting.

  22. Yep β€” we’ve all had them haven’t we? Both the tantrum-fests in public *and* the eye-rolling and tutting from an ignorant stranger. Some days are just best swept under the carpet and forgotten about! πŸ˜‰ Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday β€” hope to see you again next week! x

    Caro |

  23. I am definitely that mum anytime I enter some kind of public space together with my kids! Supermarkets are probably the worst… However, when I see a mum with a screaming toddler I look at her and think “oh that poor woman” or “thank god that it’s not my kids screaming this time…” so it’s not always that other people think we are bad parents. And why do we care what other people think anyway?! Lovely post πŸ™‚ #wineandboobs

    • Well, exactly. I’m busy working on my thick skin. It’s not quite there yet. Some days are better than others, and I’m unflappable (probably not the best choice of words, given this blog is about autism), and then there are the other days…. Supermarkets are a major flashpoint, all that chocolate piled high. No wonder it sometimes kicks off. Thanks for visiting. πŸ™‚

  24. I too do not know if my three and a half year old son is just having a tantrum or if he is having a melt down due to his communication problems and so far we have been ‘lucky’ in that he has most of his melt downs at home, but one thing I can tell you is that I no longer judge the parents who’s child is kicking and screaming on the supermarket floor. I know better and I learnt the hard way. I admit, I used to be that mother that would think ‘crikey, how hard is it to control your child? But now I am the mother giving the sympathy smiles and using sentences like “You’re not alone”.

    • It’s tough, isn’t it? Especially if you’re not expecting it to be so hard. Some days are easier than others, and other days you’d be better off not going out at all. Thanks for your honesty; it’s nice to know you’ve realised your mistake, although I’m sorry that you had to learn the hard way, πŸ˜‰

  25. oh hun I know exactly how you feel. Sorry it was a rubbish shop for you. I have it in town. Daighter has had some freedom and needs to go back in buggy = meltdown and then I have to force her in with everyone watching! I always feel so judged but I KNOW others have been in the same spot. The ones who roll their eyes drive me mad. It is so rude and judgemental. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst lovey and see you soon xx

    • My son is like that with the buggy, especially when he’s overtired and the buggy really is the best place for him. He always wants to get out and run around, sometimes okay, not so great when you’re on a busy train and he wants to charge around and climb on seats, and you need to get off at the next stop and can’t do that unless he’s in the buggy. Kids, eh? Who’d have ’em?

  26. yespeasmumma says:

    If my son decides to throw a tantrum, I never make eye contact with anyone else. I pretend me and him are the only ones in the store. I do this purely because I don’t want to make myself feel worse by peoples ‘looks’. And vice versa. If I see a Mother struggling with her child, I don’t make eye contact. It might sound rude, but I don’t wan that Mother to feel judged (I would always empathize with her obviously). I just pretend I can hear nothing, and get on with my day πŸ™‚ #wineandboobs

    • That’s fair, and I can understand. I do the ‘ignoring’ thing myself, if a sympathetic smile isn’t easily done. What baffles me are the people who glance around? Why? What do they think they’re going to see? Thanks for visiting.

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