I ran into someone I used to work with a long time ago today and we started the inevitable debrief of what’s been going on. Now for me, the biggest thing that’s changed is that I’ve had baby number 3 and am loving being a stay at home mum. So naturally I opened with this and got met with the phrase “what did you want to do that for?”.
And it wasn’t just the question that was offensive, it was the tone she used as well. As if, clearly, I must be a fucking idiot to have ever have thought another baby was a good idea.
This isn’t, sadly, the first time that someone has thought that this is an appropriate response to “I’m pregnant” or “I’ve just had another baby”. But why anyone thinks this is a good thing to say to someone is, quite honestly, baffling!
Let’s break it down for a sec.
Assume I wanted, planned and deliberately tried for another baby. To ask me “what did I want to do that for” is basically saying that I made a stupid choice or didn’t think it through. Rude.
Or assume that it was an unplanned pregnancy and I decided not to have an abortion. Again it’s implying it’s a stupid decision (rude) but also risks upsetting me if it wasn’t an easy choice (also rude).
Furthermore, why ask it at all? What is the point? I either wanted another baby in which case assume that I actually like my children and being a mum. Or I didn’t want one but chose to continue with the pregnancy. In which case don’t piss me off by suggesting it was a bad decision!
So why ask it at all?
Having reflected on it, I have come to the conclusion that the question says more about her than it does about me.
Her question “what did you want to do that for?” was quickly followed by “kids are horrible and hard work”.
In short she was projecting how she’d feel about another baby onto me.
She then proceeded to moan without a break for the 10 more minutes that we were speaking. Even the lady in the shop felt sorry for me and tried (valiantly) to turn the conversation more positive about having kids but to no avail! It was exhausting!
Plus the problem with this is I suddenly found myself going along with her and pretending that my life was a lot worse than it really is just so I could fit in with her notion that having another baby was a terrible thing. Why???? I started to find things ‘wrong’ with my life as a mum just so it felt less awkward. I wanted to agree that yes, it is awful having children, just so she had someone who agreed with her.
Maybe deep down I picked up on the fact that she couldn’t hear that I love being a mum because she, herself, finds it hard. And that’s OK. Sometimes it is hard. But what isn’t OK is when we try and subject our own views on to someone else. It’s unfair and just plain shitty.
What do you need to take away from this?
Today was a reminder that we can really piss off other mums if we’re not careful. If we come at things from only our point of view we risk upsetting them because they aren’t us! Who are we to question someone else’s desires or decisions? What gives us the right to assume we know what is a good or bad thing for someone else? Whether it’s having a baby in the first place; feeding them from the breast or bottle; how we wean them/get them to sleep/chose to care for them or many many more of the difficult decisions we face as mums every day, we are all allowed to do what works for us (and you can read this post on why I hate people who shame other parents to find out why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others).
So next time you start to make a negative comment to someone else, for whatever reason, just stop and think for a moment. Think about whether or not you are about to say something that might upset them or just downright offend them. Just wonder for second whether or not you are projecting how you’d feel or what you’d want in their position. Can you put yourself in their shoes and then decide what they’d want to hear? Most importantly, say whatever you need to to be supportive and caring. After all, it’s hard enough to be a mum, let’s not make someone feel worse for the choices they make!
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