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Mean Mommy Goes to Brunch

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Mom•Logic friend, Tracy McArdle, takes on moms who are mean to their kids.

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"We’ve heard from the Childless Bitch (in fact, er, some of us may have been her at another time in our lives, ahem) but have you seen the Bitch with Children? You know the one who publicly / beats / humiliates / screams at her brood, reveling in her power?

I saw her this weekend, which was ironically, my childless weekend getaway. I’d jetted (okay, bussed) to New York City to eat and shop my way through the Big Apple for two days with a long lost girlfriend who also left her three tots at home. Baby and Daddy were home bonding and hopefully, repairing the downstairs bathroom.

We were halfway through our second gluttonous brunch in as many days when we heard a terrible voice hiss, “How am I supposed to spread this butter?!” We looked across the counter. She was redheaded and fatigued, not unattractive. Her daughter, no more than four or five, was breaking apart a blueberry muffin the size of her head (that’s how they serve them at the Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street.) The Evil Mother was snapping her question at the poor waiter as she snatched the muffin from her daughter’s tiny hands.

“What did I tell you?!” she growled at the girl. “If you’re not going to eat it, why did you order it?!” The girl picked at the giant baked item, accessorized with two large squares of frozen butter pads (that’s how they serve them at the Brooklyn Diner). “If you don’t stop it, I’m going to beat the crap out of you!” And she wasn’t talking to the waiter.

My friend and I stared at our smoked salmon benedict in disbelief. The Evil Mother reached over to knock the little boy, who was sitting next to his sister, on the arm, telling him, “And you better eat yours!” The father was seated next to the boy (as far from his wife as the counter seating would allow) and wearing a pained expression and a sweatshirt that claimed, Life is Good! My friend and I exchanged another glance.

By the time I got back from the bathroom, the little girl was crying in her father’s lap. Then I heard him say something hideous. In a soft voice, he asked his daughter, “What did she do to you now?”

How does a family get here? And what should we, the viewing public, concerned parents, do when we witness such a scene? I know, I know - we all have our moments, and all of our kids are uncontrollable brats at one time or another. But to threaten your child that you’re going to “beat the crap out of them?” And it’s not like the little girl was having a meltdown or even doing anything really awful. If I got a blueberry muffin the size of my ass, I’d pick it apart before eating it, too.

Evil Mother and family collected their things and left, jerking on coats and hats and shoving their way to the door. And we thought, what happens when they get home? Should we have said something? Have you ever been in this situation? Tell me this is a rarity and not commonplace. Is the Evil Mother only present in New York during Christmas shopping or does she lurk in all parts of the country…?"


next: Nigella: Holidays are Peachy Keen
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
sue December 23, 2007, 1:54 PM

First of all why wouldn’t the mother cut the muffin in to quarters for the little girl? If I was there listening to this crazy woman ( I’m trying to be nice here) I would have went over to the table not saying a word to anyone and cut the muffin myself and put the butter on it give the little girl a hug. Then look at the Mother in the eyes give her a big smile and say TAKE SOME PROZAC!!! Tell the husband to try to have a better day…
But I would really be concerned about what this crazy woman does at home behind doors… Think we need to turn her in to children services.. and why doesn’t the husband do or say anything? is he that much of a wimp!?!?!?

Tigger December 23, 2007, 2:17 PM

WELL….let’s not be so quick to judge the “mean mommy”. MAYBE, JUST MAYBE her husband IS that much of a whimp and that’s what is pissing her off!!! Maybe he has absolutely NO IDEA how to handle life with wife and children, so he just sticks his head in the sand and hopes it will all go away. I mean c’mon, the poor man is obviously delusional if he is wearing a shirt that says “Life is good”, but the actions of his family are stating otherwise.
I have seen these women in other places as well. And dare I say, have raised my voice myself when the children are getting on the last nerve, (which is just as frayed as the others). We sit here and judge these women, but turn around and do the same thing. Do we ever stop to wonder what THEY are thinking of US?????
The bottom line is this; we don’t have a CLUE as to what is going on in the lives of these hurried and harried women, whom we share the title of “Mother” with.
The human life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. And as a mothers ourselves, our first instict is to feel sorry for the children. But what about the mom????? Who is willing to overlook the “bitchiness” and see a woman who may be hurting, sleep deprived, on the verge of divorce, mourning the death of a loved one, WHATEVER. Wouldn’t we be less pleasant in such situations as well?

Tigger December 23, 2007, 2:18 PM

WELL….let’s not be so quick to judge the “mean mommy”. MAYBE, JUST MAYBE her husband IS that much of a whimp and that’s what is pissing her off!!! Maybe he has absolutely NO IDEA how to handle life with wife and children, so he just sticks his head in the sand and hopes it will all go away. I mean c’mon, the poor man is obviously delusional if he is wearing a shirt that says “Life is good”, but the actions of his family are stating otherwise.
I have seen these women in other places as well. And dare I say, have raised my voice myself when the children are getting on the last nerve, (which is just as frayed as the others). We sit here and judge these women, but turn around and do the same thing. Do we ever stop to wonder what THEY are thinking of US?????
The bottom line is this; we don’t have a CLUE as to what is going on in the lives of these hurried and harried women, whom we share the title of “Mother” with.
The human life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. And as a mothers ourselves, our first instict is to feel sorry for the children. But what about the mom????? Who is willing to overlook the “bitchiness” and see a woman who may be hurting, sleep deprived, on the verge of divorce, mourning the death of a loved one, WHATEVER. Wouldn’t we be less pleasant in such situations as well?

shekinah December 23, 2007, 6:07 PM

The people watching (and judging) the “mean mommy” is on the outside looking in. The mom probably is dealing with other issues. She does appear to over react to situations since she was angry over cold butter pats and her little girl tearing apart a muffin that was too big to eat. I wonder why she didn’t order just one muffin and cut it in half to be shared between the two kids.
The dad seems to be ignoring the situation and then playing the “nice daddy or parent” against the “mean mommy”. Sounds like he needs to step up to the plate and be both more of a support to his wife by presenting a united front and perhaps giving his wife a breather by taking control of the situation until she is able to calm down.
By the way, there are lots of “good parents” who sometimes lose it by repeating the same things they grew up hearing such as telling their kids they are gonna beat the crap out of them. It does not mean once they get home they actually do beat them.

Kasi December 23, 2007, 8:19 PM

we all get frustrated from time to time…but it is never ok to threaten or belittle your child…hopefully their day got better…

Tigger December 24, 2007, 12:55 PM

Yes, we ALL get frustrated with our children from time to time. BUT….which one of us can claim that we have handled it perfectly EVERYTIME??? Dare I say, not one of us!
No one is saying that it is ok to do these things. What the point is,is that it DOES happen, even to those who claim to be perfect.
Think about this, would YOU want someone threatening to call CPS on you just because you were having a bad day???
In closing, I reitterate my point. Yes, it is NEVER ok to yell at or threaten a child. HOWEVER…when is it ok to sit in judgment of someone when we ourselves have, more than likely, committed the same crime?

Tweety December 24, 2007, 8:17 PM

I agree with Sue on this one!

Amanda December 26, 2007, 8:57 PM

As someone who once was the little girl with the big muffin in this story, judging from the dad’s comment “what did she do to you now?” I think it is a safe bet that the woman was not simply having a bad day. The dad is not a wimp, he’s married to a crazy person who treats him and the two most important things in his life like crap. Holding and comforting his daughter is the best he could do, and his daughter loves him for it. Yes, when you see this situation you should be scared for the kids and what goes on behind closed doors.

amanda February 4, 2008, 11:41 AM

ok, while i agree that maybe she wasn’t just having one bad day… we don’t know what is going on in her life. Maybe she DOES need prozac, but neither her, nor appearantly her husband, have recognized that there may be a treatable problem underlying her situation. Also traveling with two children under the age of 5… well… frankly blows. I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old and the grocery is a chore.

I have been on the recieving end of these glares before. I have been the bad mommy who yelled at her children in public. Plenty of people commented but not one person bothered to ask how I WAS, or if I COULD USE SOME HELP.

I am a full time student (I carry 12 credit hours at an “outer” Indiana University campus) and work a full time job to support my family. At least 3 nights a week, I don’t get home before 9 PM. Since there is only one car and the babysitter can’t drive. Groceries, errands, etc, have to wait till than. Often i come home to find that on one day’s notice i have to secure something for my child’s kindergarten class. Which, ineveitably results in a late night wal-mart run with my children.

My son is a handful (we are evaluting him for autism) which makes me even more tired. So, on this walmart trip they are both asking to buy this and that and my boy wanted to be carried the whole way, but i couldn’t do it.

we had made it to the toothpaste aisle when finally i just had to let it out. At the top of my lungs i screamed “SHUT UP!” NOt AT my children as many suspected. But just in general. I was not facing my children- in fact i was turned away from them. I simply couldn’t handle the noise anymore. Not my proudest moment, i assure you. The lady the next aisle over (who saw fit to inform me that she had 4 children and NEVER yells at them) comes over and doesn’t even have the courage to get close to me, but says from the other end of the aisle “you are a terrible mother.” and walks away before i can say anything.

I had worked 2 - 12 hours shifts in a row, was exhauseted, and found myself getting very angry at my children. I personally felt that yelling was much better than the alternative, and as i didn’t have the option to leave and return later, it was what it was.

Now that said, while i get angry with my children, i can barely bring myself to spank them. Aside from it being ineffective, there is no point, unless the child is in immediate danger and you must get their attention- which is usually easier done by grabbing them. While an outsider would have saw a phsyco who probably beats her children, that was the furthest thing from the truth. What was really there was an over tired mother who felt hopeless and without an alternative. A little understanding (maybe even a hug) from the mother of four would have gone a lot further than the nasty comment i recieved. Sometimes you just need to know that someone else has been that frustrated too.

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Elizabeth March 10, 2010, 8:12 AM

You observed this woman and her family dynamics for one meal on one day and know nothing else about her. Maybe she mouthed off in anger for reasons you had no idea about. Hopefully there weren’t in her mind or her family’s any actual fear associated with the angry mom’s outburst.


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