I stood in the checkout line with a baby strapped to me in the carrier, a 2-year-old in the cart, and my three older children hanging around my legs. We listened to the beeps of each scan and answered small talk.
As one worker placed my groceries into the paper bags she said sweetly, “You know, you’ve just got a certain grace and patience about you!”
I laughed and replied, “Thank you, but you don’t see me at home!”
As a mom of five children, it never fails that strangers comment on the size of my crew. Sure, I get the “you have your hands full” comment most often as they smirk in pity, but this moment was by far one of the best comments possible.
It was a compliment by her observation in my many years of a customer at this store, but it also got me thinking, why would some strangers (and even friends) assume that I have more patience than another mom?
The truth is—I can lose my temper just like any mom. I get sleep deprived like the baby, lash out in hunger like my 2-year-old, and have a sassy attitude when hormones are hitting like my preteen 10-year-old.
Really, at times, I can be just like a child throwing a tantrum when I’m not getting my way after I’ve asked my kids to clean up for the 20th time. I yell more than I would like to in an attempt to take charge, and I respond in sighs and eye rolls at times when I just sat down to eat my breakfast and someone calls for me to help with something I know they are capable of doing themselves.
The compliment this sweet worker gave me helped remind me of a secret to help tap into that patient mom I want to be all the time—not just in public.
The secret mentality is that we parent better when we know someone is watching. So, pretend like someone is always watching.
I don’t want to put on a facade in public where people think I’m patient all the time and then feel like a monster mom at home. I want to be loving, gentle and genuine in as many moments as I can.
I know I can’t be perfect, but I do know that I can try harder.
I want to be the mom I am when I’m at my friend’s house, in the doctor’s office and in the grocery stores.
I want to use my voice that corrects in a calmer way and gets better results because they aren’t being attacked by my word daggers.
I want to stoop down to their eye level and lower my voice instead of loom over them to be bigger and louder and more powerful.
I want to be present and attentive to their stories and opinions.
I want to go over our boundaries so they know what to expect, just like we do before we head into the outside world.
That’s the kind of mom I want to be even when my doors are closed and shades are down.
It’s much easier being in that mentality and for me to put forth the extra effort when we know people may be watching and judging us nearby.
The reality is, though, someone is always watching: Our kids.
We are their models. We are showing them how to handle stressors and issues that arise.
They watch how we react, they see our flaws and our strengths. They are looking for clues from us to learn how to function in their little bodies with their big feelings that bubble up, exploding through their mouths and hands.
What do we want to show them?
Let’s show them how to filter our words so we don’t hurt other people’s hearts with our anger.
Let’s teach them how to use their words to ask for what they need instead of making demands and yelling.
Let’s model for them how to stop and take a deep breath before reacting to an issue, or walking away to take a break before a situation escalades.
Let’s show them how to problem solve and compromise just like we aim to do when we are outside our homes.
This “someone is watching” mentality keeps me in check—not in a paranoid way, but in a way that drives me to be a better mom.
After all, they are our biggest and most important judges of all. Their view of us matters most—much more than the clerk at the grocery store or than the mom down the street. It’s their view that forms not just their memories of us, but how they will grow and be present within the world.