I warn you that this references certain stereotypes as part of a casual study that I completed with Sophia and Miles. Keep an open mind, think back on your experiences, observe people, and tell me what you think!
We sat by the window in the Target snack bar looking out at the exit door for an hour and watched the world go by. Every person leaving Target has to walk right by that window. My kids, aged one and two, gave an exaggerated wave and said bye-bye to every person that walked by. I would estimate we waved to about 500 people. After about five minutes, Sophia asked why some people did not wave to her. I started to pay attention.
Who noticed these two adorable children with their faces plastered against the window? What did people look like when they were leaving this store: approachable and friendly or mean, overworked, and busy?
Here are the age groups I use for my findings as well as my results. I have added race information only for women, as VERY surprisingly this was the only area in which race made a difference.
Now my kids are cute (as I am sure yours are) and have great waves (I mean real exuberance here, people) so I am not at all surprised by the number of smiles and waves we got from people of all ages and colors. However, as a woman, I was shocked at how few women, particularly white women, even noticed my kids or anything else around them.
Children (Under 10): (10-15 percent of surveyed) Almost all the kids were extremely friendly. They waved and smiled. They also looked at everything around them and were generally happy looking and very chatty. We could see them talking away. Kids are GREAT!
Tweens and Teens (10-17): (app. 5 percent of surveyed) Those that noticed us said hi in a very friendly manner and gave huge smiles. Miles is a big fan of girls this age so he was pumped when he got a good hand up against the glass. This was the age that I could see the kids saying “they are so cute” when they were paying attention.
Young Adults (18-24): (10-15 percent of surveyed) This age range included the most people who did not even look where they were going, to be honest.
The young guys—hot or not, fat or thin, black or white or whatever, overall noticed a lot of things around them. They said hi and bye to my kids, offered help to people on the sidewalk, made jokes with older people or just commented on the weather. These young dudes looked and acted friendly for the most part.
The ladies in this age range looked mean, pre-occupied and unable to enjoy a beautiful day. It did not matter what they were doing—these gals were not up for a friendly hello. The few girls that did say hi were super friendly to all so it was not 100 percent of these gals. I was just disappointed in the girls overall. Sophia kept asking why the pretty girls did not say hi. These young women, honestly, were sort of bitchy—and not just because they did not notice my kids—they didn’t notice anybody.
Grown-Ups (25-50 with kids): (app. 25 percent of surveyed): There were not many men in this category with kids in tow, but the ones who did were over the top into talking and looking around and actually stopped at the window to play around. These daddy dudes were super friendly.
Now—are you ready? Many women with kids looked unhappy and even angry. For the most part, other than those with only a baby in a carrier, these chicas looked like what all the recent talk shows are talking about—the overworked and overstressed mom. But really? I wondered why, even when their kids almost always said hi—the moms did not even look any direction but out and walked WAY faster than little kids would normally walk. Or they were tripping over their kids, very frustrated and trying to hustle them out the door. Do I do this? Is my life with my kids really so tough that I can’t be nice?
Maybe the first week of school is stressful. Maybe all these moms were just having a really bad day. The general pace and energy was frantic. I think we moms need to TAKE A BREATH, stare at our beautiful kids for a minute, and make ourselves smile. Then we should smile at other people too. We moms are blessed. There are lots of people who would give a lot to have those little kiddos around—smile and know how lucky we are! I know I need to work on this!
Just because I noticed—the Black and Latino women responded to my kids more often and other people more often and were much cheerier as compared to Caucasian and other races. I have no idea why. I just thought that I would point it out given that I did not expect any difference.
Grown Ups (25-50 without kids): (app. 25 percent of surveyed) Many of the men suited up and clearly working or busy (just like the women). Funny thing is – they did not look unhappy and they stopped to open doors and to generally look around. They almost all waved and smiled at the kiddos in the window.
To be honest, I think scores would have overall been in the 90 percent range for gals too if people noticed things around them. The guys walked slower in all age ranges. They looked around. They did not look like the world was about to end. Maybe this is because men are like boys and aren’t easily disturbed and are easily made happy? I don’t really think so. When I think about it though—my husband is more laid back than me—super freak that I am. Maybe being able to take it easy makes it easier to be open to the things around us?
Most of the grown-up chicks without kiddos in tow looked pretty ticked off. Like they were on their way to save the world and didn’t have enough time to do it. And you would think the opposite eh? No terrible twos tugging at you? Joy! Time alone—whoopee! BUT—when I am running around without my kids I think I might look mad too. I was so surprised to see so many lady crab apples that I called my husband and asked. He told me that I probably usually look like I have a million things on my mind and am distracted and sometimes, yes, I look annoyed. This made me sad, but I think it is true. I am sure that when I am running around I am thinking of what I have to do before I get the kids. I know that sometimes, when I see twenty-something’s, I miss going out and not worrying about a babysitter. Sometimes, when I see people on their lunch breaks, I miss working with grown-ups. When my kids aren’t around to make me smile—I don’t think I do it enough.
All Grown Up (50-plus): (app. 20 percent of surveyed) This should really be more like 60-plus. Forgive me on this one—think of this as completely past the school age years with kids either out of the house or already in the over teenage years group. The mature people that we saw were very nice. Some of the very oldest spent a minute or more at the window tapping it with Miles and playing peek-a-boo. I am never surprised by the elderly and the very young bonding in a very special way but it always touches me. These results are not surprising given that supposedly the child rearing years of our lives are the most stressful by far. Whoever has babies to save a marriage is crazy!
So—women are not so nice sometimes. And we don’t always pay attention. And we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. I don’t think we want to be seen this way and I don’t think we realize that we wear a scowl some of the time. We need to let it go. We need to smile.
Originally published by Mommy Words on September 1, 2009.