We’ve all seen those moms that don’t seem to care about what their kids are doing. The classic mom who is too busy on her phone to scoop up her crying kid after he scraped his knee. Or, the mom who is constantly on her computer working, trying to advance her career, while her daughter repeatedly asks her to play dolls with her to no avail.
The thing is, no one actually knows why that mom wasn’t able to scoop up her kid when he skinned his knee, and no one sees the tears welling up in the working-mom’s eyes as she has to tell her daughter no, again. From a distance, it’s easy to judge and simply assume that a mom isn’t paying attention or simply doesn’t care, but, any mom knows that what is on the surface is rarely what is actually happening.
So, in defense of all the moms out there (no matter who they are or what they do) who love their kids dearly and are doing everything right, here are a few explanations for those moments that a bystander may jump to the “that mom isn’t paying attention to her kid” conclusion.
20 Working From Home
Working from home is one of the greatest things ever for full-time working moms. It can allow a woman to be a present parent and a present employee. However, it is also such a double-edged sword. Some employers scoff at the idea of a mom working from home because they are convinced she will be paying too much attention to her child to pay attention to work. On the flip side, mommy-shamers everywhere assume mom can’t possibly focus on her kid when she has a spreadsheet open on her laptop.
For those that don’t know, there is such a thing as multitasking and women, particularly moms, are pretty much pros at it.
19 Talking On The Phone
Scene: A mom at a restaurant with her daughter, having a little one-on-one time. Suddenly, her phone rings. It’s an important call, so she picks up.
Assumption: Mom does not care about her kid. Just look at her! She’s allowing that child to eat food without having a full conversation with her! What if that child were to choke?! Surely that mom would not be able to spring to action because she is too consumed by the phone call (despite sitting directly across from her child).
Reality: That phone call was from her child’s doctor, and mom knew if she didn’t pick it up at that moment she’d never get the pediatrician on the phone again before the end of the day. She’s still making eye contact with her daughter and smiling at her. Also, if her daughter starts to choke mom will pretty demolish anyone who gets in the way of her taking action.
18 Driving Without A Mirror For A Backward Facing Baby
There is nothing like a good car safety debate to really get mom’s everywhere pointing fingers at each other declaring they are right and every other mom is wrong.
It is standard for parents to put a mirror in the backseat when their child is in a rear-facing car seat. Just because it is standard does not mean it is necessary. How many things have parents registered for only to find out that a baby does not actually need that gadget to survive? The mirror is the same way. A mom can still pay close attention to her baby without strapping a mirror (that can be hazardous during an accident) to her backseat.
17 Resting Her Eyes
If you are a mom, raise your hand.
If you are a mom and also exhausted, raise your hand.
If that were asked in an auditorium, the same number of hands would go up for each of those questions. Here’s the thing, most moms don’t fall asleep the way men somehow can. A mom is never fully asleep, and very rarely can she sleep through even a cough over her baby monitor. So, if her kiddo is playing in the safe playroom, the door is closed, and she’s on the couch in the room and decides to close her eyes for a minute while her kid watches Coco for the millionth time, she’s still engaged and she's still paying attention.
16 Watching Her Own TV Show
Whether it’s TGIT, Real Housewives, or a guilty pleasure like Riverdale, moms still enjoy TV from time to time. It’s not that we don’t want our kids to necessarily watch the same shows we do, but Peppa Pig gets really old after a while.
So, if the kid is safely playing and mom decides to turn on an episode of Grey's Anatomy, it doesn’t mean that she’s not paying attention. It also doesn’t mean she wants to educate her child on the complexities of love triangles at Seattle Grace. She’s simply taking advantage of a quiet moment with one eye on her kid and one on Jackson Avery (he’s the closest we have to McDreamy now).
15 Paying Attention To Cooking
Two things that require a lot of attention: a little one running amuck and food on a hot stove. Combine the two and it looks like mom is ignoring one or the other - or putting her child at risk of bumping his little hand on the stove or grabbing a knife.
Sure, that’s how it looks, but that’s not the case. This isn’t mom’s first rodeo. She knows that if there is ever a time for (*gasp!*) screen time, it’s while she’s trying to cook for her kid. No one wants her baby’s hands burned or sliced with a knife less than she does. She’s not taking things lightly, she's just trying to make a nutritious meal her toddler will inevitably refuse before crying for mac and cheese.
14 Chatting With Friends
Play dates are little drops of heaven. Not only are the kiddos occupied and (hopefully) playing nicely, but two moms get to spend some time together to talk about something other than The Incredibles. It’s even better when there are more than two kids/moms involved in these playdates because it gives moms a sense of normalcy, especially if they are stay at home moms who don’t get as much adult interaction through the day as they’d like.
What else is great about spending time with other moms or friends? That means there are multiple people watching out for the kids while they are talking. No one hangs out in a room of little ones expecting them to act perfect and not get into anything they shouldn’t, so everyone keeps watch on all the kids just in case. There is a reason they say it takes a village!
13 Ignoring Temper Tantrums In Public
Before kids, when I would go to Target and hear a child screaming, I’d wonder if he was okay because my goodness the screaming was lasting a while. Post-kids I now know that the screaming is simply a toddler getting his tantrum out of his system while his mom browses the latest Magnolia home collection.
This doesn’t mean she’s not paying attention to her kid. It just means that she’s not giving him the kind of attention he wants. He’s not screaming because he’s in pain, he’s screaming because she wouldn’t let him pick up the glass candle holder that happened to be in arms reach.
12 Texting, Ever
In most states, it is illegal to text and drive because you simply cannot pay attention to the road and look at your phone at the same time.
The same is not true for parenting and texting. It may look like mom is ignoring her kid at the park while she sits on her phone texting, but she’s not. She’s looking up every few minutes to make sure he’s okay and she’s constantly listening for his cry or for “mom, look!” Just because mom isn’t soaking up every second of her kid climbing on the jungle gym for the 8th day in a row doesn’t mean she’s not paying attention, it just means she’s having a really funny conversation with her sister over text and, honestly, she’d like to be entertained a little too.
11 Sitting Poolside in a Loungechair Instead of in the Water With Her Kids
Water safety isn’t a joke. You can’t skim social media or the news without seeing an article about how easy it is for a kid to drown despite knowing how to swim. It’s scary.
Even though it’s scary, it doesn’t mean parents should be hovering over their kids’ every movement near the water. If a child is big enough to swim solo, knows how to swim, and a lifeguard is on duty, it’s okay if mom is not in the kiddie pool alongside him because she can still keep an eye on him from her lounge chair next to the pool.
Just because you can’t see her eyes behind those cute sunglasses she’s wearing doesn’t mean she’s not watching her kid very closely.
10 Putting The Baby In A Bouncy Seat While She Cleans
There is a very small sliver of time when a baby can play in a bouncy seat. During that time, as moms know, that baby can spend pretty much all day in one of those things and have the time of her life. Also, this phase comes not long after the gruelling infant stage where mom can’t so much as enjoy a bowl of cereal without a baby in her arms.
So, if mom wants to put her baby in the little jump-a-roo while she cleans the house, or even just reads a magazine, let her. She’s not ignoring the baby, the baby is having fun, and mom is getting a few things done around the house. Win-win.
9 Not Participating In Preschool Spirit Weeks
Working moms have a lot to juggle between life, kids, work, the house, and finding time for herself. Every morning she's likely responsible for not only getting herself ready and out the door but also for getting her kid(s) out the door. It’s pure chaos and, truthfully, the kids are lucky if their clothes even match.
So, when a kid shows up at school or daycare on “wacky hair day” with their everyday style, it’s not because mom isn’t paying attention. It’s because mom isn’t paying attention to the things that aren’t important. The fact is, her kid is at school, clothed, probably bathed, with a lunch, and on time. If the worst thing she does is forget an obscure spirit day theme, she’s still doing a fantastic job.
8 Focusing On The Younger Kid
Adjusting to life with one child is really tough. Adjusting to life with two kids is near-impossible. All of the sudden, attention has to be divided, and the truth is the big sister is likely more capable of doing her own thing than the little brother. So, when it comes down to deciding to either help the little dude take some wobbly steps on the playground or watch the big sister go across the monkey bars, the little one will probably win.
This doesn’t mean mom isn’t paying attention to her daughter. She’d probably love to be sitting right next to those monkey bars cheering her daughter on as she conquers them, she just has other responsibilities too. Give her a break, she needs it.
7 Enjoying Her Meal Out
We’ve all sat in a booth at a restaurant and had a little kid slowly rise up from the booth in front of us and just stare at us. It’s funny and cute at first, until about five minutes have gone by and you’re simply trying to enjoy your cobb salad but can’t focus on anything but the toddler peering into your soul.
In those moments, it would be easy to assume that toddler’s mom isn’t paying attention because what parent in their right mind would let their kid just stare at strangers like that? A hungry parent, that’s who.
Chances are, that mom is very much aware of the fact that her kid is staring at you and that it's uncomfortable. She’s probably asked her daughter no less than five times to sit down to no avail. At a certain point, she gave up and decided if this is what will give her a few minutes to enjoy her cobb salad then so be it. In the end, she’s going to scoop that kid up and go home while you get to further enjoy your dinner, and maybe even dessert.
6 Letting The Little Ones Play In A Separate Room
There is a reason so many homes have bonus rooms in them - because “bonus room” is code for playroom. A room devoted to kid toys, cartoon movies, and Crayola markers. A room with a door that can be shut so mom doesn’t have to see the mess every time she passes by. More importantly, it’s square footage devoted entirely to her kids' play.
That room is not housed with knives and scissors or crazy sharp corners. It is designed to be kid-friendly and kid-safe. So, if mom is in another room while her kids are playing, she’s not ignoring them, she’s simply allowing them to play independently in a safe space. Not to mention, if all of the sudden the noise stops, you can be sure she will race right in there to see what those kids are up to.
5 Reading A Book Or Magazine While Her Kid Plays
Look, moms are not superhumans, they are grown women who decided to procreate. Making the decision to procreate and raise a tiny human comes with the expectation that at some point mom will have to get on the floor and play with her kid. It’s a given.
However, if she’s done her due diligence and her kid is good at playing solo, she should, by all means, catch up on the backlog of magazines she has or actually read a book that wasn’t written by Dr. Seuss. She’s not ignoring her children or taking away the joy of having a mom who plays with them, she’s simply deciding that she’s had enough shapes and colors for the day and wants to do something for her. Plus, she can hear everything going on and simply has to move her eyes over the book to check on her child.
4 Answering a Work Email During a Playdate
Whether she is a corporate executive, a part-time administrator, or an Etsy Shop owner, a working mom sometimes has to deal with work outside of “normal” work hours. Sometimes, those hours come during a playdate.
This is not her way of saying that work is more important than her daughter or the little girl who is over to play. Her answering an email is simply her way of saying “my job is also important.” She is not ditching the children to go to work, she’s answering an email. She’s still watching the kids and is still engaged. Plus, the whole idea of a playdate is for the kids to entertain each other so mom can do things like this, so really, she’s just taking advantage of what playdates have to offer.
3 Allowing Her Kid to Play on a Tablet at Social Functions
Screen time is a hot-button topic. Honestly, the parents who really keep their children away from the screen every day until 18 months and then are able to limit how much screen time they get from there on out deserve major kudos. I truly don’t know how you do it.
For the rest of us riff-raff, we know that screen time gives us bribing power and allows for some quiet time. So, if my family is invited to a cookout and I know my child will be a complete terror unless she has her tablet to play on, you can be sure I’m bringing it with me - and it’s charger just in case. I am still very much paying attention to my kid at that gathering, in fact, it’s a lot easier to do because she’s likely just sitting in one place while she watches Frozen on a loop. I’m still very much aware of the professional recommendations, but recommendations are just that, they are not law.
2 Giving her Child a Chance to Correct Behavior Alone
Have you ever picked up your child from preschool and had to sign an incident report that tells you another kid bit your little one? You probably giggled, signed the sheet, then called your partner on the way home because your kid wasn’t the bad one for once!
Every kid goes through a bit of a jerk-phase at some point. When they get to the age where they understand their actions and understand that those actions can hurt people, they start to understand that they need to apologize and make things right. So, if you’re at a birthday party and your daughter is pushed by another little girl and you notice that her mom isn’t leaping to action, don’t assume she doesn’t care. She may be giving her daughter the opportunity to make it right on her own before having to be told. At some point, every kid needs to be given a chance to grow up a little, so give the other mama some grace because you may need it yourself in another year.
1 Letting Her Child Test The Boundaries
The only way for a kiddo to learn how to do things is to try. It’s frustrating to have to clean up another glass of water because your toddler insists on using a real cup despite her inability to actually use it, but she’s never going to learn if she can’t try.
As a bystander, watching something like this can be puzzling. Why does the mom continue to fill up that cup? Doesn’t she see that the child clearly can’t do this and is just spilling water all over the table at the restaurant? Well, bystander, mom can see what is going on. In fact, she’s probably the one cleaning up the mess. She’s just giving her little one a chance to try something new even if it inconveniences her in the process. What is more attentive than that?