On Smug Moms And Epic Meltdowns


“Oliver, look at my eyes.” 

“You need to stay beside me, or hold Owen’s hand, you’re not allowed to run away, okay? Otherwise you have to sit in the cart. “

Ahhh. Shopping at Costco with the rest of the pre-dinner rush. I would  have preferred throwing myself from my patio, but alas, I had no choice. Days of procrastination had left my home out of  milk, cream and coffee, creating a state of emergency.

Half-way through our trip I had reminded Oliver not to run off. He was now too big for the cart, and enjoying free bird status.

But, he wasn’t listening. My repeated attemps to get him under control were failing.  I felt frustrated, why is parenting so impossible at times?.

Each time I scolded Ollie, I kept seeing the same woman. Pushing her cart in her yoga pants. Looking a bit too relaxed, while her four kids behaved. I had begun to feel self-conscious about Oliver’s performance. Feeling his lack of control, was a reflection on me.

Oliver and I waited in an aisle, while Owen, my ten-year old,  ran back to grab a forgotten item for me. Owen is at an amazing age.

I checked the cart. Almost done.

I was examining a new black bean pasta. It had a fantastic recipe on the back, which I thought sounded very posh. I was having a happy fantasy about hosting an amazing adult dinner party, all my guest praising my super fab black bean pasta curry dish. We would raise our glasses of chilled Sauvignon Blanc to toast my culinary genius…

Oops, I had forgotten about my free bird. He was running full speed ahead of me.

“OLIVER, get back here!”

He rounded the corner at the end of aisle, almost getting wiped out by another cart.

Jesus, if he dies it will be my fault, cause I was having a dinner party in my head.


Owen arrived just in time to witness his brother’s anarchy and started after him.

Owen is way faster than me. And I had a five hundred pound shopping cart with a gimpy wheel.

I tried to cut Oliver off at the next aisle, but only managed catch a brief glimpse of him tearing around the next corner.

As I came up to the next aisle I saw Owen take his brother down as a cart stopped just short of them.

There were my boys, in a crumpled heap on the floor of Costco, Oliver laughing hysterically.

I looked up, and there was the mom with her perfect kids, looking at my dog-pile of children.  She had a faint smile tugging at her lips as she observed my offspring. I knew that look. It was smug mom. It was the “my kids would never end up in an uncontrolled dog-pile in Costco” look.

That look has the power to make you feel a little smaller in weakened moments. And it was working.

I grabbed Ollie and braced myself for the near certain storm that was to come. With one hand I tossed food from the cart seat to the basket, while he did the death roll in the other.

It was an Oscar performance. Humiliating.

Finally I had him seat belted into the cart.

And. Then. He. Screamed.

And cried.

The primal kind that scares the crap out of me.

I tried to summon any dignity I had left and walked to the check out.

I glanced at the lineup next up me. Of course there was smug mom, face palm. She would witness the grand finale. I broke eye contact and began unloading my cart.

Oliver was screaming:

“I WANNNA WALK!” Over and over and over.

And a small piece of me died.


I have been smug mum.

On those rare occasions when my kids have been behaving perfectly and I’ve come across another mom in the midst of an equally humiliating scene, I have judged. In those moments I have felt deep satisfaction, delighting in my own parental perfection.

But smug separates me from others.

Smug has the power to make someone else feel a little smaller.  

That makes me a little smaller.

Why do I have it in my nature to one up? I thank God for the humbling moments at Costco to serve as a reminder, that I too can fall.

Perfectionism has served us moms a great big Costco-sized shit pie. I have a wealth of knowledge and opinions to compare myself too. And so does everyone else. Except we all have different pieces of knowledge and definitely different opinions

This can be crippling if not filtered. If I allow every standard I hear to rule me. I lose. I lose my identity, discernment, and sometimes, my common sense. I begin to feel like I will never be enough.

When I lose control of my kid for all the world to see, all those voices and feelings flood my mind. And I hear, what if I am doing everything wrong?

This is who is watching me when my child is melting down.

Social Media:

“I just took my kids to a learning place, and then we all hand knitted hats. Then we told each other how much we love each other, and gave one another words of kindness. Then they ate my vegetable-only organic dinner.”


“If we do not teach our kids self discipline they will become convicts. But be careful, because if you discipline them, you’ll crush their spirit, and then they will become sociopaths.

Well Meaning, Unsolicited Advice:

This is an interesting group, I am pretty sure this group has selective memory or are blatant liars.

“My baby was potty trained by one.”

“My kids behaved in public; they never disrespected their elders.”

“If you don’t give you kid sugar, he’ll be able to control himself.”

All of this, could be encouraging. It could be helpful, but there is no cookie cutter kid.

I think there are kids that can be potty trained at one, or who never blow a gasket. But those kids are born, not made.

My three year old is now happy, he broke into the cookies. Sugar solves everything.

Exit Costco.

It is interesting how a meltdown of epic proportions can start you thinking. I feel very “called out” on my stinky smugness.

And the best way to conquer stinky, is with love.

I don’t want to make anyone smaller, I want to make people I meet feel bigger.

It’s simple. The next time I see a mom barely surviving in public, I will use a little courage and step into her moment.

I will hand her a pre-purchased $5 Starbucks Card. With a note.

“Thank you for surviving an outing with melting down kids. I saw you and I know how hard that is.

Have a coffee on me. With no kids around. And know that you are appreciated, and amazing, just as you are.”


A Mom.


Will you join me in an anti-smugness movement? Cause, ladies, we are in this together. Maybe you won’t have a card, or a note. But you can fight smug. Help a sister out. Offer to unload her cart, tell her you have been there. Say something encouraging.

Be Awesome.


Daniela Schwartz © 2013. All Rights Reserved.