I was in the baby aisle at Target recently shopping for some underwear and socks for my boys. As I tried to decide between Thomas the Tank Engine or Cars and boxer briefs or tightie whities, I was distracted by three women gabbing down the aisle. One was pregnant and the other two were helping her select things to put on her baby registry. One of them, clearly a self-proclaimed parenting professional, led the trio, pointing out all of the ‘must-haves’ the expecting mommy needed. ‘You’ll definitely need some of these,’ said Old Pro (O.P.), pointing to the selection of Onesies.
She moved ahead leaving the others in her wake, naively scanning this and that. BEEP. BEEP.
‘Oh, don’t forget this. You’ll die without it,’ says O.P., pointing to the all-new, super-improved, no-twisting-needed Diaper Genie. The others followed behind. BEEP.
Watching the scene (and it was indeed a scene) brought me back to when I was pregnant at 26 with my first baby. It seemed like anyone and everyone had something ‘ some piece of advice or recommendation ‘ to offer me. I must have had the deer-in-headlights, I’ve-got-no-idea-what-I’m-doing look, because the offerings ran the gamut from, ‘Do you have a birth plan? You need to have a birth plan,’ to ‘Make sure you play lots of classical music. It will make him smarter.’ By the time I went into labor, I was so exhausted from all of the meddling in my pregnancy and impending motherhood that the delivery room looked like a five-star resort to me!
It’s been nearly six years and two additional children since then, but I still get comments, suggestions, ‘you oughta”s and ‘you shoulda”s, as though I have a suggestion box hanging from my diaper bag and an ‘I’m inept’ sign around my neck.
What is it With People?
Why is it OK for a little old lady to beeline toward me while I’m enjoying a refreshment after church to tell me I’m being irresponsible by not covering my baby with a blanket? And worse, why did I feel the need to put this woman at ease, even engaging in conversation with her, to assure her that my child was just fine?
‘You really should have a blanket on that baby,’ she said. ‘He’ll catch cold.’
‘He’s very warm natured,’ I chirped, trying to pick my jaw up off the floor, stunned that she would actually say this to my face.
‘See?” I added sweetly. “His cheeks are rosy. He’s warm as it is.’
Go on, now, I thought. Get out of here. I’M the mother here. Not you. Me! I managed to eke out from behind gritted teeth, ‘Thank you for your concern,’ before grabbing my husband and making my own beeline for the nearest exit.
I don’t mean to sound mean, because I’m not. I’m always ready for a friendly comment about my kids. Count me in when it comes to handy hints and subtle suggestions that come from the good hearts of mothers who’ve been there and done that. But out-and-out “I-know-better-than-you” comments are different. Some people pay no mind to your feelings, they just need to be heard. They need to tell the next generation of parents what they should do and how they should do it. We’ve all got needs, but for an expectant or new mama, how do you manage meddlers without losing your manners, especially at this time when you have so much else to contend with? Here are some tips to tuck in your pocket for when an unexpected stranger decides to offer a frontal attack.
Operation: Shock and Awe ‘ When someone asks if you’re going to have an epidural or a natural delivery, kindly ask, ‘Did they have epidurals back when you were having babies?’ and split. She’ll be shocked and quite possibly awed by you.
What Are You Talking About? ‘ If a stranger rubs your pregnant belly and asks how far along you are, offer a deadpan, ‘How far along? I’m not pregnant,’ and walk away. Make sure to look back and give her a wink. She’ll feel like she’s entering the Twilight Zone, and you’ll have a funny image to draw on during contractions.
Kill ‘Em (With Kindness, of Course) ‘ Sometimes the high road (which is too often less traveled) is the easiest route. I say take it. Keep in mind that the key to a high-road response is to punctuate clearly. If someone says, ‘When I had my baby, we set the date and got induced. I can’t stand surprises. Are you planning to induce?’ politely respond, ‘We haven’t decided yet,’ and punctuate with a smile. Make sure the period on your sentence is loud, deafening even, so it’s clear you’re done with the discussion.
And, with that, my pregnant friends, I wish you all well. Oh, and I do have one more little, teeny, tiny piece of (yes, unsolicited) advice: Remember that sometimes nosy people have good intentions. If you don’t like the input, tune it out. Most importantly, though, stay confident ‘ you’ll be a great mother. Remember that, and you’ll be A-OK!
Ashley Driggs is a freelance writer and mother of three ‘ Happy, Sonny, and Ollie ‘ and the recipient of lots of unsolicited pregnancy and parenting advice.