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Meredith Hoffa: Everybody knows Babies "R" Us is a hateful place.

Mom Stalker
It is with fondness that I remember the good old days -- mere months ago -- when not only had I never been to Babies "R" Us, but I'd never even considered the existence of such an entity.

However, since becoming a mom ten weeks ago, Babies "R" Us has become one of The Places I Frequent (much the way "restaurants," say, and "the gym" used to be such places). In the past month, I've trekked there to purchase a breast pump, to return a Boppy slipcover in the fabric "Flutterby," to buy a glider, and, two days later, to return said glider after realizing the faux suede would get too much spit-up on it. And, without fail, each time I enter this nightmare of an establishment, I experience what can only be described as a CRUSHING ANXIETY ATTACK. It's truly amazing to me that I can walk in there feeling content, and then, in the time it takes me to wait in the customer service queue, have my spirit slowly smashed to panicky bits as I take in the parade of totally unglued moms all around me. There's always at least one mom drenched in sweat and panting whilst trying to spatula her screaming toddler off the floor. And always there's a mom with veins pulsating crazily out of her forehead as she wrests a toy from her babe's fist. Recently I stood in line behind a mommy who had her dress on BACKWARDS and looked so rocked with fatigue she seemed to barely know where she was.

And this is where the terror sets in for me. In these moments, motherhood looks so excruciating, so ungratifying, so selfless -- in sum, a job I am not capable of pulling off. Of course, the obvious solution is that I should just look away and mind my own business. But this is simply not an option. The scenes repel me, but stare I must.

I'm a mom-stalker, see. When I'm out in public, my head is on a swivel. I size up other moms and then -- in a manner befitting my off-the-charts self-absorption -- find myself relating what I see to my own life, in a what's-in-store-for-me kind of way.

Luckily, for all the heinous scenes I witness, my stalking also leads me to plenty of other moms who deeply calm and comfort me (note -- these moms are generally found not at Babies "R" Us). For instance, I always assess a mom's body. If she is fit, I am delighted. Clearly this gal has time to work out, I think to myself, which means that I will have time to work out. I check out moms' clothes; if there are no spit-up stains, I see this as great news for me. Also, is the mom wearing makeup? If yes, I know I'm going to be OK. I mean how grueling a job can motherhood be if you have time to apply mascara?

Other things I'm elated to see when I mom-stalk: pedicured feet, washed hair, smiling moms, laughing moms, moms enjoying a coffee treat, moms toting a bag that is not a diaper bag, moms out with their friends, moms out drinking with their friends. As far as I'm concerned, these are idyllic scenes. They fuel me with confidence. Really, what they do is provide me with the greatest gift: they allow me to think yes I can.

Hence I stalk. Onward ho!

So to all you L.A. mommies out there who venture out in public: I'll see you soon. And if you catch me looking you up and down really intensely, it's not what you think. I am not judging you. Well, yes I am. But I need to. So thanks, in advance, for understanding.

next: Fake Memories to Last a Lifetime
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
dean July 30, 2009, 7:45 AM

LOL! I do the same thing. I am proud of all the moms who still have the time to spend on themselves and look great. I have been guilty of looking very dumpy on some days and when I see someone else looking the same way, wow! It does not happen anymore! Ladies do not forget the women you were before you had a baby!

littlepeapie July 30, 2009, 8:18 AM

I so do the same thing…especially during story time when all us moms are seated with our kiddies and I really have time to sit in the back and get a good look…..and like you said, it is judging, but almost not…it’s more taking note, observing, seeing what all there is in store for moms, the different kinds of moms, etc, etc…

The Mad Mom July 30, 2009, 10:38 AM

YES you can, girl. And often! I’m living proof. I go for drinks with friends 1-2x per week to take the edge off. It’s a must.

Monica July 30, 2009, 3:09 PM

While I can understand what you are saying you can’t just judge a person by one day appearance. Somedays I’m all dressed up and other days I’m dumpy. Might not even have anything to do with whether or not I have time to look good because I’m dealing with the kid. Might just be what I wanted to wear that day. The point that I’m getting at is that for the most of us we are all these woman depending on which day it is. Some days I’m that mom in line sweating bullets trying to hold the toddler down while trying to pay (been there) and other days I’m that mani/pedi, hair freshly relaxed from the salon, mocha slurping, no diaper bag having, smiling, got it together with well behaved child at my side mom. Don’t assume that you can’t be a wonderful mom judged by the fact that you see some mother in disarray. That just maybe a bad day for them. Doesn’t mean they don’t have any “I got it all together days.”

Pamala July 30, 2009, 4:18 PM

Yeah you’d hate to see me on days that I go to the gym. I don’t wear my best to the gym so it literally looks like I rolled out of bed, but I’m not going to get fancy just to get unfancy during my work out.

Bradi  July 31, 2009, 12:10 PM

I’m much more inclined to “get dressed” now that I’ve started working. Feels good to have a place to go other than Target for a change… especially since I love what I do!

Dina July 31, 2009, 1:09 PM

It’s nice that some moms get to have some time to themselves or even do basic things like comb your hair or take a shower. But don’t be so hard on the lass than perfect looking moms. Remember, not all women have the luxury of dumping their kid off on someone else. Some moms are less concerned with appearances and more concerned with actually spending time with their children.

anon August 7, 2009, 1:59 AM

go to - and never set foot in a B’rUs again.

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