Why are you staring? — Am I a spectacle?

I am getting really sick and tired of being stared at when I am out with my kids. Does anyone else have this problem or is this just an English thing? Here is an example:

I decide to go to the coffee shop with the kids which is one of the only places I can go around here with the kids that is indoors without going to a full-fledged restaurant. It’s pretty pathetic actually — that’s my little outing for the morning when I am really stretched for ideas with the kids and I am on my own. For those of you who wonder why I can’t take them to playgroups alone, you have to imagine trying to monitor my three kids under 4 in a room full of little kids and play equipment. It’s nearly impossible without one of my kids hurting themselves or someone else. So I usually have to stay at home on the days my nanny doesn’t work or go somewhere like the coffee shop where I can buckle the little ones into the high chairs and hope like hell my eldest, Will, behaves. Now back to my point…

I wheel my double stroller and pre-schooler into the coffee shop with some difficulty, navigating the door and a step with Will struggling to push the door open and no one coming over to help but lots of them watching (including another mum with a baby of her own — COME ON!!! Where is your mum solidarity??) So I finally get inside, get in line trying to push the stroller as close to the counter as possible so that people can get by while trying to rein Will in from bumping into people, grabbing the treats on display, and chattering away at full volume. Uh-oh, and now the twins start fussing because we’ve stopped moving and we’re in a stuffy room. I finally get my order and I scan the room for a table with space around it, and navigate around people’s tables to get to our spot. It takes me about 5 minutes to get everyone set up. Jackets off, two high chairs, push the stroller to the side, get snacks out for the little ones, get Will seated and eating his snack, and finally I get to sit down with my coffee. Ahhhhh. The three children are momentarily occupied so I scan the room. Right next to me I see an elderly couple and the man is openly staring at me. I glance away and a minute later look back again. He’s still staring at me and not averting his eyes!! I get distracted by fussing at the table, fighting among the children about snacks, the usual chaos, and I know my time is getting short. I try to drink my coffee quickly. I feel the stare on me still. I look again and this time I don’t break my gaze. How obnoxious — he won’t stop staring with a slight smirk this time!   I have to look away because the kids are getting restless so I get them ready for leaving — faces wiped, picking up food off the floor, coats on, into the stroller for the twins and Ellie starts to scream because she doesn’t want to get into the stroller. Right about this time, the old man who hasn’t stopped staring has the nerve to say, “It is only going to get harder” with that damn smirk on his face. I’m about to lose it because I am already feeling self-conscious and I’ve been desperately trying to keep everyone calm the entire time just so I could enjoy one fucking cup of coffee outside my house. Instead of snapping at him, which would probably play right into his condescension, I hold everything in and give him a sunny smile and say, “Oh really? I don’t find them any trouble at all. They are wonderful lively children and I love every minute with them.”  I feel really proud of myself for not giving him the upper hand.  Who would say that to a mom who is clearly struggling and trying to not create a scene.  Is that supposed to make me feel better?  What an asshole!! I pack them all up and stroll out of the coffee shop.

This is just one isolated incident but basically this happens to me all the time.  Usually without the comments thank goodness.  But everywhere I go people are staring and it usually is the elderly who are the worst.  Is having three young children so unusual?  My twins are not even identical!  Maybe there is something flamboyant about how I go about my business — who knows?  I just get sick and tired of feeling like I stick out like a sore thumb over here.