While my little one is in morning Pre-K, I often work from a Starbucks close to the school. Usually I’m frantically trying to get whatever task(s) I need to get done while time seems to speed by for 2 and half hours. I put my head down and focus on what’s before me. I try to spend very little time getting distracted. However, today, I was completely preoccupied by this mother and her two sons.
I watched her come in, holding her older son’s hand (he looked like he was about 4) while carrying her younger son (maybe about 1.5/2 years old) on her hip. She looked tired already. It was only 10am. She set her youngest down and he waddled to the food display yelling something over and over again. I heard her calmly try to explain to him that she was getting him food and they can sit and eat it soon. Her older son grabbed a chocolate milk box and asked her if he could have it, his voice raised trying to get her attention over his brother’s continuous yelling.
She had picked a table towards the front of the coffee shop. She sat there with her Venti drink, watching her two sons eating their morning snack. The older boy was sitting quietly drinking his chocolate milk and playing with his toy dinosaur. The younger boy was still saying the same thing he was saying before but this time he was now full on screaming his words and slamming his hands on the table. I saw her lean in closely and say something to him with a stern look on her face, followed by a “shhhhh”. She seemed uncomfortable and looked around the store.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one watching her. There were many glances in her direction. The 2 women next to me kept making comments about what was happening.
Why doesn’t she just tell the kid to stop?
She should’ve just done a mobile order.
How can anyone even think with that noise? She needs to go.
My blood started to boil. Did they honestly think that this woman wanted to go out this morning and have to deal with a meltdown at Starbucks? Were they implying that because she has children she couldn’t go out in public with them unless they behaved pristinely? Was she now limited to only ordering via her Starbucks app? “You don’t have children, I take it.” I interrupted as I couldn’t help myself. The one woman politely smiled and shook her head no then quickly followed her friend into the parking lot.
By the time the older boy started to put his dinosaur in his mouth after his mom asked him not to, she called it a day. She packed up the food and toys, slung her still screaming toddler on her hip, grabbed her other son’s hand and headed for the door. Before she was completely out of the store, she turned around to make sure she didn’t leave anything at the table. She caught my eye and I smiled at her gently. She gave me a half smile and immediately looked at the ground as she let the door close behind her.
After she left, I felt a sense of relief and sadness for her. Being a mom definitely runs the gamut of emotions. One of the things I felt at various times since having my daughter was invisible. Almost as if your identity is now just Mom. The you that existed before you became a mom turns into someone no one sees anymore. And while you feel like everyone is watching you because your child might be having a meltdown, you are still invisible. They see the situation that is happening before them, not the woman who just came in for a cup of coffee. I felt relieved for her because when my daughter would act up in public (I must admit I am lucky in this area as my daughter’s meltdowns are few and far between), my face would feel like it was on fire. All I wanted was to flee the scene. I felt sad for her because those times are really lonely. Those times are very isolating. I wondered if she heard the horrible things my 2 neighbors had said. So I just want her to know a few things….
To the mom I saw at Starbucks today, I see you. You aren’t invisible. I know you just wanted to get out and enjoy a cup of coffee. I know you probably thought it would be a nice treat for your boys to pick out which muffin they wanted. I saw the games and toys you brought for them. Good thinking! I’m sorry it didn’t pan out the way you wanted. I hope it doesn’t stop you from continually trying to take your boys out with you. You deserve to go to restaurants with real utensils and trips to Starbucks when you feel it suits. You don’t have to hide in the house or feel like your only outing option is Chuck E. Cheese or other venue that is made just for children. You’ve given everything for children and your family. It is okay to take for yourself once in a while. You aren’t invisible. You are still there, just now more awesome. Because now you’re a mom too. Motherhood isn’t all giggles and fashionably dressed kids like the movies or “celebrities” portray. Everyday might not be perfect. Things won’t always go the way we plan. However, there is always tomorrow. I hope that one day at this Starbucks, when I’m not frantically working on whatever the task of the day is, I will look up and see you and your boys again. And I hope next time you can enjoy that Venti beverage. You’re not invisible. I see you.