Strangers Say the Darndest Things…

We’ve all been there. You’re standing in line at the grocery store, minding your own business, maybe scanning the tabloid headlines as you think about what to make for dinner. Suddenly, you see someone, usually either a much older woman or a childless woman, smile knowingly and start to spout unsolicited advice about parenting. “Your poor baby”, she begins as she grabs your baby’s tiny fingers with her goodness-knows-what infested hands, “No shoes on those sweet little feet, just those thin little socks. He must be freezing!”. You ponder an icy stare, perhaps a lecture on pediatric podiatry and the fact that your baby does not yet even stand, or a note about the 80 degree temperatures outside, but take a breath and laugh it off.


There are some things that strangers say to moms of young children that I just cannot figure out. I’m not talking about discussions between friends with children of similar ages where you’re bouncing ideas off each other, I’m talking about complete and utter strangers who feel it’s their duty to share little pearls of uninvited wisdom with you about what you might be doing wrong in your job as a mom. Here are my least favorite ones:

1. Are you nursing or feeding formula?

Um, why do you care? I guarantee I am indeed feeding him. Look at those chub rolls! From what I’ve seen, perfect strangers seem to really care quite a lot about what I’m doing or not doing with my boobs.

2. Wow, he’s so tiny! / Wow, he’s enormous!

My first son was, and is, a big guy. People constantly told me he was huge, and I constantly wondered if they were implying that I was overfeeding him. My second son is average, and I’ve had several people comment on how incredibly tiny he is. Both have shaken my confidence.

3. How is he sleeping?

When I was a bit greener in my job as a mommy, I would answer this honestly when strangers asked (and they do, often!). I’d say “Oh not that well yet, still up a few times at night”. I once got a 15 minute lecture from a woman in a bagel shop about how I was ruining my child for life (who was 5 WEEKS old, by the way) because I didn’t let him cry it out. I’ve since come up with the stock answer “Like a baby!”. If you have/had a baby…you know what this really means 😉

4. What percentile is he in?

Not kidding. More than one time I’ve had women ask what growth percentile my child falls into, as if this is normal, every day chit-chat.

5. He seems like a mamma’s boy.

No, he’s smart. Just because my 3 year old refuses to talk to a total stranger staring into the window of his little grocery store car on the front of the shopping cart doesn’t make him a mamma’s boy (not that there’s anything wrong with mamma’s boys, by the way!). He just doesn’t talk to people he doesn’t know and who are in his personal space for no good reason.

6. Anything that starts with “What you really need to try is…” and finishes with parenting advice.

An older woman in the check out line, who I had never even seen before mind you, once asked why my then 9 month old was so small. I answered, “He’s actually dead-on average sized, so I’m not worried.” I thought this was a pretty polite yet clear “Let’s discuss something else” response, but she followed up with lengthy advice about how, “What you really need to do is buy the pureed meats and vegetables and put them with a little formula, and maybe even some rice cereal, into a bottle. Just enlarge the hole in the nipple a bit, and let him have that so he can grow a little faster. He’s much too old to be nursing.” I was speechless.

What are your obnoxious stranger questions? I’d love to hear them!

28 thoughts on “Strangers Say the Darndest Things…

  1. I recently brought my 8 yr old daughter out for a little mommy daughter carefree Sunday afternoon trip to get frozen yogurt on a hot summer day. As we entered the shop she stopped dead in her tracks, and looked up at me with a look some of you may know..its the “uh-oh, Im gonna puke, and I’m gonna puke now Mom”, look. It’s a mixture of utter surprise with a healthy dose of terror. I quickly told her to run out the front door, (much closer than the bathroom) which she did and I followed in full sprint. As she got outside she proceeded to ummm…let loose. A man attempting to walk into the shop, said, “huh, dont think Ide take my kid out for yogurt when they’ve got the stomache flu.”….really? …really?…Thank you so much for sharing with me your wise words kind stranger man…if only I had been blessed enough to learn this valuable lesson you have bestowed upon me BEFORE enterring the yogurt shop with my sick daughter….Oh, I’m sorry, SHE WASN’T SICK UNTIL THEN YOU NINK-UM-POOP.

    1. HAHAHAHAHA! I don’t mean to laugh, because puking is rarely funny (especially when it’s your kid!!!) but that is hilarious. Thank goodness he was there, right?! 😉 hahahahahaha

  2. Ava was having a fit the other day in the grocery store and besides the “Make the kid stop crying” glares and judgments, this older lady in line looked at her and says, “Oh, someone’s not happy,” (no sh*t Sherlock) then seeing her red face and running nose from crying she says, “Oh, she looks sick! Are you not feeling well, honey? She looks sick, you should get her home.” What I wanted to say was, “No, she is not sick. She feels trapped in the damn stroller and is mad that I won’t pick her up. She also is a bit pissed that she could not have the entire cake that we passed 2 minutes ago.” But what I really said was, “No, she is just fine.”

    1. Isn’t it awful when people give you that “look”? Like you somehow derive pleasure out of carrying/pushing a screaming child through a store while you do necessary errands? UGH!!! I vow to NEVER do that, however old I may live to be. And the sick comment?? I am with you. When we were on vacation, Nate was totally wiped out and curled up in a shopping cart (necessary orange-buying stop on the way to the airport to fly home from FL), and a woman looked in and said “What is WRONG with him? Is he sick or something???” and a million things ran through my head. He wasn’t sick, but what if he were?? How horrible would I have felt? And what if he had a disability of some sort? I just calmly said “Nope just too much vacation, haha…”. People need to think before they speak, especially in front of children..sheesh!!

  3. When my first son was about six weeks old, I was carrying him in a sling while walking around a Hallmark store. A little old man came up to me and proceeded to read me the riot act because how dare I have that little baby out in the cold (it was January). Ummm, we’re inside! I just walked away because it didn’t seem appropriate to throw down with an elderly man, especially while holding a baby. I totally coulda taken him, though. Just sayin’.

    1. Hahahahahahaha! Yes, what a bad, bad mommy to carry your peaceful, sleeping, cozy baby in a gift store 🙂 (sarcasm, there, of course!). People are certainly not shy when you have a baby with you, that’s for sure…

  4. People are strange and nosey…… I homeschool and my Fave is the How do you socialize if you homeschool?? LOL We spend more time out of the home then in……. I just laugh and reply…..We homeschool not lock her in a closet!!! I mean really…… Oh and I have been asked.. How will she learn to read?? Erm my 5yr old reads at the level of a 9yr old and basically tought herself to read beacuse our house is full of books that are looked at regularly. :0)

    1. Books…what a novel idea!! 😉 Hahahahhaahha…I think Kate Street (above) is right. We need a list of good responses!

    2. Yeah, what bothers me about “how will they read?” is the presumption that school is the only way to make this happen. It’s ignorance. You know I don’t homeschool from my previous post on this, but this comment would make me crazy too. I feel similarly when I tell people I homebirth and they say “but is that safe?” Um, no, it’s incredibly dangerous, that’s why I’m doing it – I love the rush. It’s like, why don’t you educate yourself on the topic first before critcizing me?

  5. I have twins and am 25 weeks pregnant, so I get, “you’ve got your hands full” and “are you crazy”? My favorite is when people ask me if twins run in my family. Sometimes that question seems a little personal to me, but I’m over it now 🙂

    1. I can’t even imagine the nutty comments you must get with twins! I think having a baby with you is like wearing a sign that says “There’s no line…ask me ANYTHING!”

    2. I would find the “are you crazy” especially hurtful. Like you can control whether you conceive twins or not? And you shouldn’t be happy or excited about it? I think people try to be cute but it’s probably best to just say “congratulations” and leave it at that.

  6. LOVE the “like a baby” response to sleeping AND the “let her out of the cage” re: crawling! lol! We need to make a list of smart, sarcastic responses to fall back on!

  7. Not really parenting advice but, no matter what we dress our son in – everyone thinks he is a girl. I mean, he is really cute, so I have been told that is why, but COME ON! He is wearing a blue shirt, jeans, has a blue blanket, and a blue pacifier. One lady even said “She.. oh I mean he – he is almost too cute to be a boy.”

    1. Hahaha!! Oh that’s funny…but he must really be a cutie!! 😉 I was once told my sons have “girly” eyes…what?!?!

  8. Oh man! That is why I avoid people like the plague… Seriously. Or the best is when you give them a seriously but extremely sarcastic reply. “Oh is she crawling yet?” “Sure… when I let her out of her cage” The looks are sometimes priceless! AHA!

  9. Oooooo these both would have made me so mad. I’ve actually had someone once ask if my baby can breathe in the Ergo. Really? Is this necessary?? AH!! And as for feeding…such a pet peeve of mine. Drives me nuts!

  10. Ugh. I cannot understand why people feel they have a right to comment on everything baby/kid related! I had my son outside in his car seat when it was 75 degrees and a little old lady was shocked he didn’t have a hat to keep his head warm. Then in the grocery store I was carrying my son in the Ergo (with a hat on his head!) and another lady made sure to point out how cold his little fingers must be without gloves. Also the way your baby is sleeping seems to be some sort of measure of your parenting skills – so I love the ‘sleeping like a baby’ and plan to use that next time someone asks!!

    1. For the LIFE of me, I cannot figure out why sleep seems to be the be-all and end-all of “good” mothering. Drives me nuts!! Glad my suggested response is helpful 😉

    2. I think the obsession with it being cold out is an older person thing, lol. No disrespect to the elderly, but my mother is in her 70’s and does this to me too. She thinks it’s freezing in the middle of July. I think when you age your circulation slows down and everything feels colder. Also, it is normal to an extent for babies’ hands and feet to sometimes feel colder than the rest of their bodies; it doesn’t mean they are actually cold. But try explaining that to my mom – she just assumes I’m wrong – I have to say “the pediatrician told us that” to convince her, because she does not trust my judgment. Amazing how we all manage to keep our kids alive somehow, eh?

  11. Thank god I have not encountered most of these, I don’t know what kind of snappy remark I would reply with but I can tell you it wouldn’t be pretty. I don’t understand why people without kids always seem to think they know it all.

    The only one I have gotten a few times is “Oh, you not feeling well are you” to my daughter when she buries her face into me when strangers try to talk to her. I usally reply with, “No she is fine, she just doesn’t talk to strangers.” They usally either give me the stare down or say, “No, I really think she just doesn’t feel well right now” really, I think I would know her better then you.

    The other one that go me once was a woman behind me at BabiesRUs with her daughter who was around 3 or 4 years old. I had my daughter who was around 6months at the time and she was holding her bottle. The little girl pointed out to her mother, “Look that baby has a bottle.” To which the mother replied, “Ya she does” which was then followed up with (in an even louder voice to make sure I heard) “you never had a bottle, I made sure of that.” I was ready to turn around and ask, so you are critising me for giving me daughter a bottle in the largest baby store in the US and you don’t even know what is in the bottle, could be formula could be breast milk, either way its none of your buisness. She is healthy and was off the bottle before a year old. I just bit my tonunge because I always wantd to ask her, “so you are telling me there was no time in your daughters first year or so in life you left her alone for a period of time where you would have had to have someone feed her a bottle?”

      1. Arlene, so sorry that incident in BRU happened to you. I want to take women like this and shake them and say … do you really think you are promoting breastfeeding with comments like these? We’ll never know if her comment was motivated by the presumption it was formula (and I agree, who cares?) or the whole “breast not bottle, even if pumped” thing (unrealistic for many of us esp. working moms), but it was b*tchy and inappropriate either way. I try to promote breastfeeding to anyone who shows interest (i.e., if that person initiates the conversation, not the other way around), but insensitive comments like that are so not the way to do it. Another thought is that maybe this mom has experienced criticism from the other way around … kicked out of somewhere or nasty stares for nursing in public (i.e., “why can’t you just use a bottle?”), which is just as heinous. But even in that case, two wrongs don’t make a right and it’s no excuse to speak to you that way.

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