Dear Mom Who Took Her Kids to McDonalds

Dear Mom Who Took Her Kids to McDonalds
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I watched you today at the park. Your kids ran around and climbed the slide and shot back and forth across the monkey bars. They giggled and screamed. There was nothing but pure energy coming from their lungs.

When it was time to go, you couldn’t get your kids off the swings and so you called, “How about we go to McDonald’s?”

Oh, the siren song of a Happy Meal.

It worked. They bolted for the car.

Then you and I made eye contact. You watched me at the picnic table as I unpacked my salad. Water. Fruit. Sandwiches made on homemade bread.

You watched me.

I knew at that moment I should say something. I smiled at you, which I now realize could have been taken as insincere or condescending.

That’s totally not what I intended.

It was a weird, awkward moment and then you drove away, bound for the Golden Arches, and I never got to say anything.

So, given the chance again, here’s what I would have told you.

Take your kids to McDonald’s.

Take your kids to McDonald’s. You don’t owe me—or anyone else—an explanation. See, here at the park in this three second passing, we could form all sorts of opinions about each other based on the fact that you bribed your kidlets with a Happy Meal and mine are eating sandwiches on homemade bread.

We could judge, but let’s not. Know why?

Because it doesn’t matter.

And because these three second judgments are almost always entirely wrong.

Take your kids to McDonald’s.

We know nothing about each other.

I mean, I know that you have two really cute kids. Obviously.

I also know that you look tired. And stressed. You look a lot like me. Like a mom who wonders if she’s doing it right. Who worries that she’s not enough or that she’s too much or she should try harder or just give up all together.

You maybe look a lot like a mom who feels she’s supposed to care about the germs in Playland but really, at this moment, doesn’t—because she just needs to have five seconds when her kids don’t hang on her.

I don’t know where you live. I don’t know if you have other kids or if you’re married or if you have a job outside the home. I don’t know if this is your last day with your kids before your ex gets them for a couple weeks.

Maybe you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re trying to get pregnant. Maybe you have no family around. Maybe your significant other is sick or dying or in jail or sitting at home working on your second vehicle that just. won’t. run.

I don’t know if maybe you were thinking today was the perfect day to get out of the house with your kids to run off some energy at this little park that no one knows about. You were thinking your kids could run and scream and no one else would be around to judge the volume of their giggles or the way they climb up the slide or try to build castles outside of the sandbox or that you’d try to pull them away from everything by suggesting McDonald’s.

Honey, you’re fine with me. The only thing I saw here today was a mom trying hard to be a mom.

Listen. Take your kids to McDonald’s. Enjoy it. And you know what? If you’re there long enough, you’ll see us later when we stop in for ice cream.

You bribed your kids away from the park with the promise of a Happy Meal while I fed mine sandwiches on homemade bread. Here is what I want to say to you.

Tired of the sugarcoated version of homeschooling? Read my book The Homeschool Highway: How to Navigate Your Way Without Getting Carsick.

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10 thoughts on “Dear Mom Who Took Her Kids to McDonalds”

  • Had to subscribe after reading this post.
    We fellow moms dont say it enough.

    I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I got judged either way. A hard lesson on human nature.
    Thanks for reminding us it doesn’t have to be that way.

  • While I appreciate the thought of this article, but it still comes off extremely condescending. The implication that she has to be in some sort of bind that we don’t know about, otherwise she would never take her kids to McDonalds. She doesn’t need to have ANY REASON other than she wants to take her kids to McDonalds.

    • Wow! You’ve gotta appreciate the irony of calling Amy condescending when she’s encouraging us moms to stop judging each other. Shaking my head.

    • Hannah- I think I get what you’re saying, but I read it completely differently. I felt like she was saying she couldn’t care less about someone doing the whole mom-bribe let’s go to McDonald’s, for any or no reason at all.
      I thought she was encouraging everyone, including individuals who might think there needs to be some reason to go to McDonald’s, to think outside the box-if you will. But instead of the writer saying “YOU don’t know…” this person’s story or what she may be experiencing, the author put it in a more personal and less ‘attacking the reader’ type narrative, by saying “I don’t know. …” Good teaching style I think😊
      Ps-I am not a writer, just a mom. ..sorry if I didn’t explain this right! ❤

    • I agree it sounds condescending. Maybe because she mentioned “homemade bread” one too many times, lol. The mom easily could have been looking at her and thinking “Oh those are nice shoes. I should get new shoes” or thinking “What should I make for dinner tonight?” or maybe “I’m going to get a McFlurry at McDonalds. But how will I eat it without the kids asking for some?” It seems terribly self-indulgent to think she cared *at all* what some mom in the park thought of taking her kiddos to McDonalds. Or that she noticed your homemade bread.

    • I felt the same way… an attempt to say ‘let’s all understand each other’ in the form of a humble-brag. The McDonald’s mom MUST be stressed, in a difficult family situation, tired, etc. Otherwise, if she wasn’t? If she has it all together like the writer? She would have packed a salad, water, fruit, and homemade-bread sandwiches. Trying to say ‘let’s not judge each other’ by pointing out all the ways to overthink someone else’s decisions is still judgmental, with a little bubble-wrap around it. There’s probably a counterblog out there by the mom who took her kids to McDonald’s for the first time in 3 months and got the stare-down by a salad-eating gal at the park who assumed she must be going through a bad time in her life. Your kids are going to love you for loving them, do your best and don’t sweat the minutiae.

    • The irony about this whole thing? That the next day we probably went to McDonalds or Dairy Queen or Pizza Hut and the day after that had brownies and Cheetos and Pepsi for lunch. 🙂 This blog post was a snapshot of a two minute encounter. I felt a sort of connection with a mom who was running around trying to get her kids to listen, (sorta like you do when another mom is dealing with kids throwing a fit in the checkout line). She looked tired and stressed out. She kept looking at our lunch. As she drove away, I considered all the things we moms don’t know about each other.

      My apologies to those who interpret this post as condescending bubble wrapped judgement. Oddly enough, one could interpret many things that have been said about the author and this post (on published and unpublished comments here as well as across social media) as pretty darn judgmental, too. It’s crazy how that works. But carry on, mamas. The wars only continue because we fight them.

  • I really appreciate this article. I feel like i have been on both sides of this. I’ve been that mom trying to herd the kids to the car, convincing them to ignore the siren’s call of the tire swing. Ive gotten the raised eyebrow when i mixed up a bottle of formula for my first baby, and equally wierd looks when i made my child choose a sugar free snack.
    And i could really not care whether someones kid eats organic, or nurses, or eats at McDonald’s, as long as that child is being cared for.
    It is sad that as mothers, we are so used to being judged that we see it everywhere and participate in it far too often.
    I did not find your thoughts condesending or judgemental. Saying you made homemade bread is not showing off. If someone feels lesser because they buy a loaf of sunbeam, I hope they can realize that they are only judging themselves. We are all moms. Lets stop fighting each other.

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