Help from a Stranger

Did you read Suzanne’s post on Parking Lot Judgment? It was excellent and so were the comments, but it got me thinking. More than a few people mentioned in the comments that they would help a mom out. Which is awesome. Yay! Go team. But think about how you are offering that help. Also? You might want to approach a stranger-mom like you would a rabid dog – especially is she has a newborn.

Have you ever been approached from behind while bending over inside your car, trying to put your kid in a car seat? I have and it scared the hell out of me.

There was no warning. I guess I didn’t hear his approach over the screaming and thrashing of a toddler fighting the car seat, but then I heard a man’s voice and it felt like he was inches from me. Inches. I didn’t even hear what he said, I just went in to full panic mode and thought this person was going to kill me and steal my baby.

It was a TJs employee. He meant no harm. He wanted to take my cart back to the store for me, as they are wont to do. But seriously, if I had mace or a taser? I would have used it in a heartbeat. My hands still shook when I pulled in to my driveway a few minutes later.

In my previous life as an employed person, I sat through endless training videos. Annually. And then there was the baby-napping training and do you know what was hammered in to my head? The person most likely to take a baby? A female 25-40 who probably already had children. Is this correct in all situations? Probably not. Are YOU going to take my baby? Probably not. I can’t get it out of my brain, though.

And that is what I think about when people approach me in parking lots. My first thought is never, “Oh, this person wants to help me.” I tend towards the paranoid and panicky, so I am sure this isn’t the case for everyone. Just something to think about.

Call something out before you get too close. Have your friendliest face one. Don’t be on your phone. Make sure the mom sees you approaching. Don’t make it seem like you are helping because you think she is doing something wrong. Most of all, don’t startle ME. I will cut you.


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10 Responses to “Help from a Stranger”

  1. TMae says:

    I.WOULD.HAVE.DIED. Right then and there. Hopefully after I tried to KILL.THE.HELPFUL.STRANGER.

    I usually think that people are generally helpful and friendly, but I can be incredibly jumpy, and tend to startle easily. Helpful stranger + startled me = can’t be responsible for pain caused.

    (I’m glad no one was trying to steal your baby.)


    Amy Reply:

    My panic/jumpiness/whatever has increased a thousandfold since having a child.


  2. Cole says:

    Mommy startles easily too – and she DID used to carry pepper spray… She figured it wasn’t a good idea to have it laying around with a toddler into everything, but, yeah, helpful TJs guy would probably be sorry he tried to offer assistance…


    Amy Reply:

    Agreed. Toddlers and pepper spray are a bad combo. Too bad…


  3. Holly says:

    Oh, yeah I probably would have punched that TJ’s employee in the face. Sometimes the cart dudes at the grocery store I shop at (one of the few in Brooklyn with an actual parking lot) help me load my groceries into the car, but they never approach until after I have Ivy strapped in her seat. Maybe they got punched/ maced/stabbed once by a mom who thought they were trying to kidnap their kid.


    Amy Reply:

    I think moms need a blinking approach with caution sign.


  4. Natalie says:

    I love the last sentence, because that’s how I feel too.

    I’ve had that happen to me before, and while I appreciate it, you’re right, there is a way to do it where you won’t scare the crap out of me.


  5. Brigid Keely says:

    Well, the person most likely to grab a baby or kid is someone that baby or kid is related to.

    Dudes in general need to be very wary of how they approach women, whether there’s kids involved or not. 1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted, and while most of that is done by family members or current or former romantic/sexual partners, dudes on the street also contribute to it. I was sexually assaulted by a co-worker I barely knew, and I’ve been harassed by strangers on the street who start off with asking directions or making small conversation.

    So it’s not just a moms with babies thing. It’s existing as a marginalized person where sexual assault and rape aren’t REALLY prevented or prosecuted thing.

    I’m sorry you went through that. It’s a really rough situation to be in.


    Amy Reply:

    You are so right. I meant in regards to a stranger taking the baby. I was pretty unclear.


  6. Dyanne says:

    When my new baby was wailing in Target once, I was so overwhelmed and felt embarrased that other people would think I was a bad mom. Afterall, I was brand new at this job. I only had a couple of items and was in line, but my baby was freaking out and I couldn’t soothe her. I am so NOT a cryer, but I started to sob quietly bc I felt so inadequate in front of the women w their Starbucks cups, handling their kids with ease and enjoying their shopping. But several mothers came over, looked at me with nothing but understanding and warmth, and offered to carry my things and push my stroller while I held my baby in my arms to comfort her on the way to the car. They told me it was ok, that they remembered feeling the same way, and made me feel SO much better. I’ll NEVER forget that. So now when I see moms struggling with their kids, I do try to offer the same support. Carefully, bc you are SO right about the wrath of a momma who feels cornered with her young!


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