This is a bit of a retrospective post because this initiated right back when Darcey was a tiny Bug. But it’s something that I’m sure a lot of parents will be familiar with and something which has wound me up perpetually since falling pregnant (and even a little before!). *Health warning- this inadvertently turned into a bit of a rant!*
What is it about children that seems to make the world think that you’re public property? We married really young & had been together throughout most of our teenage years. We’ve just celebrated our sixth anniversary this weekend but still on the day of our wedding, as a 21 year old bride, I was asked by 3 of our closest family about when babies would be on the way. It was our wedding day for goodness sake; I was practically still a baby myself! From then on, it was constant questioning from many people (and boy, did we keep them waiting … How dare we enjoy being husband & wife for five years!?). It’s always something that’s baffled me … Imagine you’re asking these questions of a couple who can’t conceive, who have to put on a brave face every time the same question is asked. We were so fortunate in that I fell pregnant with Darcey very quickly but that’s relatively unusual in the grand scheme of babies and I’d never ever want to ask that question of anyone … Just in case.
Once we’d told immediate family that I was pregnant (we did a very funny reveal on Christmas Day when I was about 10/11 weeks – I’ll see if Nath can link the videos one day!) the amount of people who felt they had a vested interest in ‘announcing’ my pregnancy for us was staggering. We kept it really secret until I was about 18 weeks pregnant and were planning on keeping it off of Facebook altogether but had a variety of events where we knew photographs would be posted so I ‘announced’ it with a simple picture of me with a very pregnant bump at about 29 weeks. However we encountered lots of frustration along the way with people telling others before we were ready, or telling people we’d like to have told ourselves.
Then come the ‘bump touchers’. Seriously, if you are one of these people, please reflect on what you’re doing! You’re not touching a baby, you’re touching a woman’s stomach. And just because mine was filled with a small Darcey at that point did not mean that anyone was welcome to give it a magic rub! I think it’s a total invasion of privacy and luckily avoided it in all but 3 instances in my pregnancy because I made my feelings very, very clear throughout!
We’ve gotten really good at politely listening to and re-butting nonsensical & outdated advice. My favourites are from the people of your parents/grandparents generation who offer you anecdotal solutions to how you stop baby crying, how to wean, how to get them to sleep through the night, then you explain how you’re doing it and they say “well it didn’t do mine any harm!”. I’m sure it didn’t but things have advanced a long way since then and these guidelines are in place because clearly somewhere along the line, it did do someone’s child harm & these measures are now in place to prevent that happening again.
Particular things I have felt personally accosted by …
Breast vs. Bottle – I breastfed Darcey until she was 12 months old and she decided that she didn’t want to feed any more. This is the first I’ve publicly spoken about/advocated breastfeeding since having Darcey because when you announce to someone that you breastfeed, people assume you’re going to attack them if they’re bottle feeding. From my perspective they couldn’t be more wrong. I can’t stand reading self-righteous breast or bottle posts in any respect. Nobody else needs to know how you’re feeding your baby. Do what is right for you & her and stop concerning yourself with convincing the rest of the world that your way is the right way. It absolutely is the right way because you’ve decided that, and nobody else needs convincing of that, I promise. (The same goes for purée/BLW at solids stage!)
Sleeping through the night – don’t ever ask a tired mother (or father) of a young (or maybe not so young) baby whether or not their baby is sleeping through the night yet. Seriously; in what world is that a helpful question? We began lying in response to this question out of fear of the tirade of advice we inevitably got if we admitted that this little monkey woke every few hours (inevitably always blamed on the breastfeeding). Instead, ask them what you can do to help. Perhaps take them a pre-prepared meal, whisk the vacuum round or steal a pile of ironing for the new family. I promise you, it’ll be worth 100 times the value of the advice you might be about to give!
Going back to work – this one has been more of me beating myself up but hasn’t been helped by a few less than discrete comments along the way. I’ve already posted about my feelings on this but full-time working Mum, WAHM or SAHM, the situation works for you because you chose it. It’s the right decision. Don’t question or query why people are doing something because parenting is a learn-on-the-job vocation and it’s different for every family doing it.
We’ll get it wrong, we certainly already have. But we’ll also get it right. And we get it really right sometimes, when her face lights up in laughter and happiness & we know we’re doing a half decent job in that moment. Please don’t judge the way other people are bringing up their children just because it’s not the way you would/have brought up yours. Do what you can to make those unknown entities feel a little safer for the family and give them a pat on the back. Darcey has made parenting a breeze for us, by and large, but it certainly makes us smile when people tell us we’re getting it right. After all, we’ve never done this business before!