I know I’ve touched on it in the past, but I’m still struggling with the concept that the minute you fall pregnant you are legally exempt from the usual day-to-day rights when it comes to your body and your personal life…what? wait? A voice in my ear is informing me that in fact that isn’t true. That the minute you announce your pregnancy you do not give up your right to privacy and it’s not ok to be told what to do.
Ok – perhaps I’m being a little bit dramatic, but I am still baffled by why so many people think it’s ok to tell you how to run your life, and pry into what you’re doing.
Admittedly it starts early on, when you reach a certain age and you have any long term relationship people ask when you’re going to be tying the knot. Then when you do they ask when you’re going to be thinking about the pitta-patter of tiny little feet, but it’s when you finally announce you’re going to have a baby something clicks in peoples mind, a switch is flicked which turns off the ability to think before you speak.
Coming into my sixth year of motherhood, you’d think I’d be immune to it, that I’d learn to ignore it, but actually it’s really starting to cheese me off a lot more. Perhaps now I’ve realised it doesn’t just happen when they’re babies, that with two children who aren’t classed as even toddlers anymore, and it still keeps happening, that I’m never.ever.ever. going to be free of it.
I used to think there were a specific group of people – grandparents mainly. But to be honest, it’s everyone, from the little old lady who’s trolley is parked next to yours in the supermarket to a mum that you don’t even know on the school run, to your gay brother-in-law after a pint too many. Whoever they are, they seem to think that as a parent you become de-sensitised, that these questions, or blatant judgements or comments don’t impact you or your self-esteem at all. Either that, or they just don’t think, and right now I think it’s about time they do. So idiot people who think it’s ok to speak without thinking of peoples feelings, read on – here are the top five questions or comments you should never say to a parent. If you do, I hope whoever you say them to stabs you in the eye with one of their children’s surprisingly sharp finger nails.
1. These are the best years of your life. Don’t waste them.
The comment on it’s own is not necessarily a bad thing, but the timing is 99% of the time wrong. Why? Because it’s usually said while a small child is being held – with some effort – in your arms while they’re kicking and screaming. Probably because you haven’t let them kill themselves.
I appreciate you’re probably right, old lady in the locker room at swimming. In fact, I don’t doubt it for a second, but at that moment in time, while I’m attempting to dress a naked child who is still angry at you because I won’t let him stay in the pool any longer (we’d already been in nearly two hours and the session was over – aqua-fit was about to start), I really don’t need to hear your rose-tinted memories. All I want, is for the ground to swallow me up, and transport me back to my warm house. Said tantruming child can be snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of milk and a biscuit watching Despicable Me and I can be snuggled up next to him, cup of tea in hand, eyes closed ready for a nap. Because, lovely old lady, as you just rolled your eyes at me because I’ve reminded him he’s making bad chocies, this is the third tantrum today, and it’s only 11.30am.
What you could say – if you really felt the need to comment – is I promise this doesn’t last forever. Trust me, you won’t get me wondering if it’s a valid reason to kick drop a banana skin in front of you.
2. He’s cold/hungry/bored/tired
I got this a lot when The Beast was a baby. Often from mums with slightly older babies (not old enough to reach the terrible twos yet) with an air of authority.
You know what – he wasn’t actually. He had colic and reflux, and generally was a newborn who was screaming while I tried to battle on and breastfeed him every hour and then get covered in acidic sick. But thanks, for shaking my confidence. It might have been the first time I’d tried to go out in days and now I’m regretting it and feeling even more incompetent then I did when it took me 10 minutes to work out how to plug in the car seat – but really thanks.
What you could have said – if you really felt the need to comment – was how old is he? or it’s hard when they’re that little isn’t it? Or You know, I promise the cry sounds worse to you – not that that makes it any better! It might just calm those flaming red cheeks of embarrassment and fear, and give a bit of reassurance.
3. So when are you having the next one/Are you having any more?
Just step back and think about this one for a second. Fertility is a tricky subject. Bringing additional people into a family is a tricky subject, by asking this question you could be opening a can of worms which isn’t really any of your business. People could have trouble conceiving, it could cause arguments in the home. Saying ‘but next time you could get a pink/blue‘ doesn’t make it any cuter by the way. Do you want us to start talking about the process of actually we have been trying and it’s not working out for us? Or the fact that actually it kills one of us, but we’ve got enough? Or perhaps that fact that having a baby has seriously impacted your health and conceiving is no longer an option? Do you want us to talk about periods? Bleeding? Not bleeding? Hormones? No. Didn’t think so.
What you could have said instead? – Nothing. Seriously, keep your mouth shut, it’s none of your business. Oh – and it’s bloody rude and inappropriate.
4. Fancy going to the pub tonight?
I know it might be hard to understand, but having a small thing that is now dependant on you does make things a little tricky just to ‘pop down the mucky duck for a quick drink’. First of all, YOU wouldn’t want said small person there, and second of all WHAT DO YOU EXPECT US TO DO WITH THEM? Drag them along, or do we just click our fingers and a magical baby sitter appears as if from nowhere?
What you could have said – We really missed you last night, do you think you could get a baby sitter any time soon for a quiet drink? Simple.
5. It only gets harder.
Parents of older children…I know you’re probably trying to help, but when I’m mid-karate chop (no matter how natural and practiced it looks), telling me it’s going to get harder is not what I want to hear. I know you’re probably right. If I can pull my eyes away from the disaster of my child trying to pelt into the middle of the road at 100-miles-an-hour, I would see that all around me are stroppy teenagers. However, Mother Nature tries to keep the next stage hidden. While we’re trying to struggle through the newborn years (it’s ok, they’ll sleep through when they’re weaned) the terrible twos (don’t worry they’ll be fine once they start school) the early school years (the older they get the less tired they’ll be at the end of the day) we don’t want to know that actually, each step is preparing us for the inevitable. HORMONES. We all know it’s coming. We all know that these are THE GOLDEN YEARS (remember, we’ve been told see point one), but if we didn’t have the hope that it got easier, I’m not sure how easy it would be to carry on loving the little rat…cherubs.
What you could have said – I used to have to head-butt my son into his car seat when he was two-and-a-half. He’s thirteen now and I’ve managed to keep him alive! Yes, you’re suffering too…but don’t tell us that it goes on that long. PLEASE.
Other comments to avoid Is he/she good? He’s a baby. They aren’t ‘good or bad’ or ‘Are they always this grumpy?‘ ‘Terrible twos starting early?’ and my favourite ‘are they sleeping through yet…mine was at…” the list is endless.
I’m not asking you to be afraid of talking to us, I’m not asking you to step on egg-shells…all I’m asking is that perhaps before you’re going to say anything out loud, you think about it. After all, isn’t that one of the golden rules we try and teach our children? Otherwise the woman three doors down will know we think she’s a nasty w…itch and Uncle Keith drives like a banker.