Commentary: Mama Bear
I was at the very back of Costco around 3 pm on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. If you’ve never been in Costco, it’s massive. So massive that your eyes tend to glaze over and you feel engulfed by shelf after shelf of shrink-wrapped “stuff.” Everything from toilet paper to 50 pound bags of sugar to tables with assorted clothing items. Wiper blades and kitchen faucets and dog food and mixed nuts. And if you’ve got your cart full of items, it’s pretty heavy and hard to maneuver up and down the aisles, turning corners as if your boat is about to capsize. And it was packed. The checkout lanes were full and the single feeder line to them stretched halfway to the back of the store. People were moving at a snail’s pace, trying not to hit anyone else with their cart while making their way to one of the sample kiosks to taste something or other with cheese on it. And then, all of the sudden, my almost 4 year old softly spoke the dreaded word that I barely heard above the din of the crowd: potty.
My heart actually sank a little bit. My sweet girl does not know what a pain it will be to make our way to the front of the store, moving as fast as we possibly can. Dodging carts, dodging people, dodging displays, we zipped right then left, then right again in a zig-zag pattern toward the checkout lanes. I’m sure I cut off an older lady at some point. And then I hear someone yelling at me, “Ma’am! Ma’am! You haven’t paid for your items! Ma’am!” I was trying to go between the checkout lanes and then park my cart, a mere ten feet away from the bathrooms; a mere ten feet away from victory. I stopped the cart as I sensed a worker walk up to me. I proceeded to pick my daughter up and I said rather rudely, “My daughter is about to pee her pants. Watch my cart if you really want to!” And I ran her to the bathroom.
At that moment, my Mama Bear came out. I didn’t care who I was talking to or how I was talking to them. I just didn’t care. I was hyper-focused on getting my daughter to the bathroom so I wouldn’t have a mess on my hands. So I wouldn’t have wet clothes or a sobbing little girl who would be so embarrassed and sorry that she peed her pants. Luckily there was a stall open and I sat her down.
Now, when my daughter says she has to go potty, she will usually sit down, take a few seconds to settle in, and then promptly pee. But this time, it was very, very loud in there. Constant toilet flushing, constant water rushing, constant hand dryers going off. So loud that she was a combination of both nervous and scared. She had what we adults like to call “stage freight.”
My heart was pounding and the sweat at the back of my neck was getting hotter and hotter. I sure picked a great day to wear my long hair down. You mean to tell me that I just raced all the way here and now you won’t go? Again, my heart sank a little more. I took a big breath to calm myself down. I looked into her little blue eyes and I smiled at her and I said, “It’s okay, honey. I got you. You can go pee. I know it’s loud in here.” And, reassured, she let loose. Thank you! I felt so relieved. I’m sure she did, too.
As we exited the restrooms, I looked for my cart. It was nowhere to be found. After all of that, they took my cart? I stood there looking for a good three minutes and then finally decided to find someone to complain to. A worker in her mid-twenties came up to me and said, “Are you looking for your cart? We put it right over there.”
I suddenly felt like such a horrible person. The chaotic-ness of the situation washed over me. I had been on a rampage a few minutes ago to get where we needed to be and I hadn’t cared about who I trampled on along the way. I was stressed out and tired and hot and sweaty from running my heavy cart to the front of the store. And I just wanted to find a corner and cry.
A day later, I find myself analyzing the event. I find myself asking questions: why do we, as moms, put so much stress on ourselves in these kinds of situations? How could I have handled it differently? Why did I have to be so rude? Why is it that this time of year all the ugliness seems to seep out of us at the most awful, inappropriate times?
You have to have really thick skin to work in retail or food service, especially during the holidays. And I know how it feels because I used to work in both during high school and all throughout college. I know how it feels to have a rude customer say mean things with a horrible attitude. Things that you definitely don’t deserve and that you definitely shouldn’t take to heart…and yet, you do. It does hurt. It does make you cry. It does make you feel like you don’t know how to do your job or that you really aren’t good at it.
But, on the other hand, my daughter, my baby, needed a basic need met. Right then and there. If there is one person on this planet that I absolutely cannot fail, it’s her. So, to all the workers at Costco on the Sunday before Thanksgiving around 3 pm, I’m sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for my attitude and my words, for the ugliness. But I’ll never be sorry for busting out my Mama Bear if needed. And please, for the love of all the moms who shop there, install some bathrooms at the back of the store.