There are things that need to be said, and there are things that don’t. As adults, by and large we learn tact and the ability to keep quiet or subtle about things. Some people miss this chunk during their education of being a Grown Up. Kids? Sure, they have zero filter when it comes to saying what they think – Princess once announced very loudly at the supermarket that “that lady has a big baby in her tummy” while pointing to a clearly not pregnant (thought rather large) lady. However, I think some adults, whether entirely unaware or just genuinely not nice people, could take a leaf from the Filter Book.
There are a lot of things that people say to Mothers, and while some are well meaning or good intentioned, they hurt. Or sting. Or make us feel less confident. Or ruin our day. Yes – when you have had very little sleep, you are fighting the willpower of a 4 year old and juggling the well being of two other kids, a simple comment can make us cry.
Here are a few comments that people need not say to people in general, but more specifically, mothers. Who are doing their best, probably.
- “Control your children!” or “People these days have no control” or “Would your child just be quiet“.
No. Just, no. I mean sure, there are situations when kids are running amok, and going crazy, and loud. But, sometimes it is not for lack of trying to control them on our part. Sometimes, crazy as it may seem, we lose control. Who knows what has happened that day – perhaps they have been awake since 5am (along with us) and perhaps they have been particularly feisty that day, and perhaps we are just not in the mood. Please don’t remind us that, for that particular moment, we have lost control of these little people we apparently own. You might as well slap us and call us a failure. Chances are we are fully aware that our kids are going crazy. Chances are we just intend on getting the two things that we must get from the supermarket, then getting the heck out of there. Chances are, we are already on the brink of tears. Consider the peripheral of the situation before judging/glaring/commenting.
- “Oh, you have a boy and girl, your family is perfect” or “Two girls? You must want to try for a boy?” or “Four kids? Wow. Was that deliberate?”
No. NO! My family is perfect now. Perfect for us. Two boys and one girl. My best friend’s family is perfect for her. Two boys. I grew up in a family of four girls. Yes, it was deliberate that my parents have four kids! Perfect for me is not perfect for you. Or you. Or that guy over there with three cats. Also, you may not know the situation. Maybe someone has one child because they suffer from Secondary Infertility (it’s a thing!) and cannot get pregnant again, despite years of trying. Maybe someone really likes boys and loves the fact they have three. C’mon.
- Continually talk about “mum” stuff. Only Mum stuff. Breeze past general topics like current events. Or, worse, talk down to someone because they are a stay at home mum, implying that they “probably aren’t interested”.
Here’s a novel thought. There was a time once where we didn’t have kids. What!? You crazy. No, I mean it. I survived in the Real World for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS before I had my first child. I was a bank teller, an airline check in agent, a manager. Sure, I’ve decided not to return to work but that doesn’t mean I hung my brain at the door the day my daughter was born and left it there to gather dust. I still watch the news every night (albeit at 10:30pm once the kids are asleep), I check the internet every day. It’s true, I may know a fair amount about Frozen and Princess Sofia and Mike the Knight, but I also am interested in current events. I like to know what is going on in my country and abroad. I am still a FUNCTIONING ADULT. When we get together, us mums, we talk about poop and school and behaviour and food but we also talk about politics and topical news items and things unrelated to the home or the children. I’m a Mum, I’m not a moron.
- “Hasn’t your son walked yet?” or “Isn’t she talking” or “My son was a bit slow – he is toilet trained now at 2. Oh, is your son not?“
This is one that other parents are well guilty of. The comparisons. The “yets”. This one is particularly frustrating for me as our son is a late talker, so we practically got convinced by those around us that he was either autistic or suffering neurologically. If he was, that would be ok, but my point is that he isn’t. He talks fine, he just does it quietly. I took BabyGirl out last week and she was walking around – another mother was looking at her and forcing her own child to stand. She said to me, “I can’t make my child walk, she should be, yours is much younger”. But, it turns out mine isn’t younger, merely smaller. Chill out, lady. You don’t see many kids starting school who don’t walk/go to the toilet/talk. Relax and let your kids do things in their own time. And don’t press it with other mums. All kids are different, for goodness sake.
- “You are going back to work?” or “You’re NOT going back to work?” or “Your child is in daycare?” or “Your child ISN’T in daycare?”
Different strokes for different folks. Some people need to work. Some people choose to work. Some people don’t need to work. Some people can’t work. Some people choose not to. Just, different. Not better or worse, different.
- “You aren’t married? Can’t you tie him down” or “Have you convinced him to marry you yet” or, to the father, “Why won’t you marry her already?”
This one really bites my bottom. The assumption that all unmarried women with kids are sitting there, gazing out the window on a rainy day, chin on fist, hoping/wishing/praying that today, oh I hope today, he comes home and asks me to marry him! Oh, I hope, I hope! Sheesh. Here’s a crazy thought – sometimes, it’s the woman who doesn’t want to get married. Perhaps she would rather the kids be older. Or perhaps she can see the money better spent elsewhere. Perhaps he has asked, time and time again, but she says not right now. Or maybe not. Maybe they are both happy being de facto. Mr T and I were together for 8 years before we got married. We had three kids. We got married when it felt right for us, and it was the best timing. We couldn’t be happier for it. My friend got married when she was pregnant with her first. It was the best timing for them, and they couldn’t be happier for it.
I think the general pattern here is the same – what works for you mightn’t work for your friend. What works for your friend mightn’t work for that lady over there. And, consider the peripheral situation. I say that a rude comment can ruin a day? Well, a lovely comment can make a week.I still remember the day I was shopping, the kids were whining, I was gritting my teeth and a lady came over, placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “you are doing an excellent job. Keep up the good work”. I nearly cried. In a good way. I will never forget her, even though she has probably long forgotten me. Consider that next time you find yourself commenting to a mother about their situation. Be remembered for being lovely, not for being a cow!