Mom’s viral grocery shopping photo reminds us why parent shaming isn’t OK

May 19, 2020

Life looks different for most people, thanks to COVID-19, but it seems one thing that hasn’t changed are society’s impossible standards for moms and dads. When mom MaryAnn Resendez, from McAllen, Texas, needed to make a crucial run to the grocery store last month, she was sure she’d be met with judgment from other shoppers. The reason? The single mom had no one she could rely on to babysit her 5-year-old daughter.

After a failed attempt at getting groceries delivered, Resendez tells CNN she had no choice but to head to the store herself with her daughter in tow. In anticipation of mommy-shaming, Resendez taped a sign to her daughter’s back. “I am only 5,” the sign reads. “I can’t stay home alone, so I have to shop with mommy. Before you start judging, stay back 6 feet.”

🤣🤣🤣The sign I made her wear cuz i just know some dumbass will take a picture & talk shit on social media not knowing all...

Posted by MaryAnn Fausey Resendez on Monday, April 6, 2020

Resendez posted a photo of the sign on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. The mom did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but she explains in her post that she made the sign because she had a feeling someone might “take a picture and talk shi*t on social media not knowing all the facts.”

Throughout the U.S., many stores are implementing policies that prohibit people from shopping with their kids. Menards, a Midwestern chain of home improvement stores, has banned kids under 16 from entering stores. Costco has announced that stores won’t allow more than two people per membership to shop at one time. And an emergency mandate in the cities of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, says only one individual per family may enter a retail store. Kids have to stay home, unless there isn’t “a person of suitable age available to supervise the child elsewhere.”

As a result of these pandemic restrictions, some people are taking it upon themselves to police parents’ behavior and make assumptions about their choices. On Renendez’s Facebook post, one commenter writes that she was side-eyed by strangers on a recent shopping trip with her two kids.

“The looks I got in Walmart today were unreal,” she writes. “I’m supposed to either leave a 1- and 5-year-old home alone or starve them and not go to the store? We kept our distance, I sanitized everything and the baby sat in a buggy cover … Everyone’s situation is different, and you have to do what you have to do!”

Another person adds, “My husband was talking to someone last week who was talking trash about how many children were at a store he went to and implied parents just don’t care about their children. I was LIVID. If everyone is supposed to social distance (meaning no babysitters), what is a single mom supposed to do?”

That’s the question a lot of single parents are asking themselves right now. Nearly a quarter of U.S. children under 18 live with one parent and no other adults, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report. Additionally, many people are social distancing from friends and relatives, and child care is difficult to come by. The stress of trying to keep children safe and worrying about judgment from strangers has a lot of moms and dads on edge.

Madeleine Somerville, a single mom of one from Calgary, Canada, tells Care.com she ended up in tears on a recent grocery trip because she was so overwhelmed. “We took every precaution possible to protect ourselves and others,” Somerville says. “We brought masks to wear, sanitized our hands before putting them on and wiped down the cart before touching it. But I still felt so guilty walking past the signs requesting only one person per family in the store at a time. I felt like I needed to explain myself and the fact that I wasn't just being blase about it; I really had no other choice.”

Somerville lives across the country from her ex-husband and has custody of their daughter 10 months out of the year. She’s not seeing her extended family right now because some relatives are at high risk. As a result, she has no other care options for her 8-year-old. 

Like a lot of kids, Somerville’s daughter also hates wearing a mask, which only adds to her mom’s concerns. “At the store, she was constantly touching it and readjusting it, blowing hot air into it to fog up her glasses,” Somerville adds. “I was constantly telling her to stop touching it and readjusting it, and the whole thing was so nerve-wracking that I was flustered and in tears by the time we got back to the car.”

It’s wise to look out for each other during hard times. But it’s important to remember that not every family looks the same, and not every parent has help. For some, the ability to leave kids at home is a privilege they simply don’t have, and shaming them won’t change that. “As a single parent, you have to bring your kid with you to a lot of things you wish you didn't have to, and that doesn't change in a pandemic,” says Somerville. “It actually gets worse because you can't access child care, even if you could afford it in the first place.”

Parenting in a pandemic means many people are being forced to make tough choices, and they shouldn’t have to tape signs to their children’s backs to defend themselves or cry in the car after every store trip. In the midst of an already difficult time, the last thing parents need is the added burden of having to prove to total strangers that they’re doing the best they can.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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