As long as there’s unsolicited advice, good intentions, cluelessness and insensitivity… as long as we are required as a human race to interact with one another, there’s bound to be angst. And as I’ve discussed before, when it comes to Motherhood, everyone has an opinion. Because everyone’s either had a mother, knows a mother, or is a mother.
Which is why there’s heaps of pregnancy/new mother blogs which dedicate at least one post to a Top 10 list on Things Never to Say to a Pregnant Woman. Even I had started a draft (but abandoned it because really, I haven’t had too many colossally silly things said to me yet so I’d just be rehashing someone else’s material.) And these lists are all valid, because people do say the darndest things without thinking. Read another one today forwarded by ElilyMommy, and #10 has got to be one of the funniest horrible things to say to a woman who’s just given birth. I’d give any woman Godiva chocolates for decking the clod that said it first.
HOWEVER… there is a HOWEVER…
Pregnant women and n00b Moms are equally guilty of saying and doing obnoxious things. We can be equally insensitive and clueless, equally self-absorbed and hurtful. People CAN want to throw things at us that aren’t compliments. It’s probably slightly worse for them actually, for while we seem to get away with crazy hormonal outbursts “because of our condition”, it’s rather un-PC to seethe at pregnant women and babies.
So. Here’s my list of top things not to say/do as a new mother.
1. Insist others share in your joy. Literally.
A friend once hopped online and without much preamble, insisted that Tony and I started spawning because “it’s just the best thing you can do – giving life! It’s so beautiful! Nothing beats it!” etc etc. He was bubbling over with excitement because he was a new dad. Which is lovely to watch. But by the nth hyperbole on how “there’s nothing like it” and I was “missing out”, I was starting to feel like he believed Tony and I could never imagine real happiness as a family until we had children. Which is just unfair and untrue.
Takeaway: Parenthood isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for everyone right this minute. So remember that.
2. Jump on the baby express and get tunnel vision
I am getting very guilty of this, because I’m starting to become The Most boring conversationalist – if you’re not interested in the whole baby thang. Remember the life you had before you fell pregnant, and don’t knock it. There are people in your life who share that version of you, and you have to remember that they won’t all know or care about the pregnancy or the new bub. As much as they love you.
Takeaway: Step away from the baby stuff every so often and be generous. You ARE capable of being interested in others, and what’s going on in their lives and in the world at large.
3. Information overshare
Related to the previous point, although in this instance I refer more to the delightful way pregnant women and mothers seem to delve into the gory details. We’re talking blood and mucus and puke and vaginal secretions and tearing and stitching and piles and poo and pee and breasts engorging and nipples cracking and stretch marks and flatulence and constipation and nausea and vomiting…
Get my drift?
It’s like a filter has been removed, and suddenly we lose our mystery. The men don’t like it. Non-pregnant women don’t like it. And who can blame them? Because when you play it all back with your pre-pregnant ears on, it’s not elegant dinner conversation, is it.
Takeaway: You may have changed, but the audience around you probably hasn’t. Don’t gross out your friends and colleagues, because you may need them for babysitting later.
4. Expect congratulations
It’s quite arrogant really, but I think as expecting or new mothers, we suffer from a serious entitlement complex because we get majorly offended and hurt when the receipt of our happy news is muted at best, or even hostile. We stand there with our fancy baby announcement, tap-tapping our foot for the inevitable avalanche of gushing, and are gobsmacked if someone had the temerity to say something snide or – worse – be completely indifferent. Especially if they’re people we like.
The thing is, having babies ISN’T everyone’s cup of tea and some people really aren’t excited about them. Alternatively, your baby news might be the very last straw for someone who’s been trying for AGES while you just tripped over a door stop and fell pregnant.
Takeaway: While this joyous time is all about you, it also isn’t always all about you. Profound, huh.
5. Offer unsolicited advice
Just as it’s annoying for someone to tell us how good parenting ought to be, it’s annoying to be given unsolicited advice about labour, fertility, the importance of getting married/getting a job first/getting a house first before starting a family… you name it. There always is some sort of weird pecking order in the world, and being pregnant or becoming a new mum sometimes gives us the illusion that we now have the right to tell someone else how things ought to be done.
Now, I’m not saying there is never a place and time for good advice. But providing a listening ear and an open heart is probably heaps more helpful than shoving our newfound opinions and experience down their throats.
Takeaways: “Pay it forward” isn’t always a great policy. Make it about what they need, and not about you feeling needed.
And remember: don’t be a dummy. Be a yummy mummy. <cheesey wink>