I am a new mom and I am about to lose it. It seems like everywhere I go with my baby, someone has something to say about her or what I’m doing and it’s driving me crazy. It’s okay when people tell me she’s cute or beautiful or whatever, but when they criticize me or tell me I should do something differently, I am shocked that they don’t keep their opinions to themselves. This happens with family, with friends, and even with complete strangers! What should I do to put these people in their places so they will leave me alone?
I hate to tell you this, sister, but you will never be alone again. Oh sure, it’s true that being a new mother can feel like one of the loneliest jobs in the world, but you have just joined a club that is so old I expect it to show up in the next episode of Cosmos. Once you cart your baby around, you are inviting people to scrutinize, judge, pick apart, criticize, and speculate about your parenting methods, what you ate during your pregnancy, the worthiness of your baby, even the very air you are allowing her to breathe. And if you never take your baby out in public, those judgements will still be made, but in this case it will be behind your back. Basically, you’re screwed.
The good news is, who cares?
When it’s a stranger or casual acquaintance, the best possible thing you can do is ignore them or blow it off. Do NOT engage. That will only keep your blood boiling and that’s not good for the baby. Haha, I kid. It’s not good for YOU.
I remember being at a barbecue and chatting with a couple. We all had toddlers, and I had just taken a full time job and enrolled my son in daycare. The husband looked me straight in the eye and said “Oh, I could NEVER put my child in daycare. Why have kids if you’re going to have them raised by someone else? Blah blah and so on judgy blustery judgement.”
I blinked and looked at his wife. She just blinked back. We were both speechless. Instead of retorting, I simply let that conversation die and wandered off to mingle with someone else in the crowd.
Luckily I barely knew those people. I could let them just wander out of my life. But like you, I am also still shocked when a stranger is so obnoxious. Whether or not you think you are right or wrong, sometimes it is just plain rude to force your opinion on another person, and I say that is especially true when it comes to new mothers, who are struggling to find themselves now that their lives have changed.
But what about your friends? Your family? You need them around now more than ever to support you as you get used to this new life of yours. If you can’t let their comments roll off their back, you should indeed address them.
Ask for support. Try appealing to your judgmental mother-in-law’s sense of sympathy. Tell her “I’m really struggling here. I am exhausted, and doing the best I can. I really need your kindness right now as I learn how to be a good mother.”
Draw the line. If someone is continuously pushing your buttons, you may have to get firm with that person. Say “I appreciate your trying to help, but I have decided to do this my way. Of course nobody has my baby’s best interest at a higher priority than I do.”
Misery loves company
The ancient parent club is not all bad, of course. Sometimes the best comfort for what ails you is the company of other parents. To show you how not alone you truly are, I asked the Savvy Sassy Moms community to share their experiences. See? Strangers can be awesome too.
What is the rudest thing someone has said to you when you were out with your kids?
Once I had an older couple at a coffee shop keep asking my children if they were freezing. Over and over and over again. It was horribly condescending and I think I finally snapped at them a bit.
Someone asked if I was the nanny.
I don’t even hit 5’0” and my husband has a baby face (sans beard, haha) – we have gotten many a dirty look in public!
The security guard at my son’s school said, “it’s okay, my wife had trouble losing the baby weight too.” It was three weeks after I had my son. No joke.
“She’s so pretty! She looks nothing like you.”
File under offense is the best defense: I’m usually pretty quick on the loud pre-emptive strike to prevent commenting.
When my daughter was just a year old she was obsessed with the biggest, tallest, curviest slide at the park. Every day she’d climb up a bit, look down and then climb down. Each day she went a little higher. She reached the top, peered into the tunnel slide in front of her, looked down at me and climbed back down. The routine was the same the next day – with one exception. She climbed all the up and onto the slide and came shooting down. I ran around to catch her when she came sliding out – laughing. Another mom standing nearby told me I was irresponsible in letting my tiny girl take on that big slide. What was I thinking? I explained to her in very precise terms my daughter’s trajectory up the ladder and down the slide. Then I turned my back to her and walked away with my gleeful kid.
I would say more it’s what they do. Like cut in line or maybe not let us go ahead in the bathroom line. I believe there was a time or two when the woman would just ignore my plea that my kid was going to piss in her pants.
How about the 50,000 times I was asked “How old is he?” Really? She is dressed from head to toe like a pink court jester. I know she looks just like her Irish daddy, but it’s America, people – girls wear pink when they’re 2 months old!
One guy was particularly rude when he saw the triple stroller.
Man: How can you look so happy with 3? (He had 3 dogs.)
Me: You look happy with yours.
Man: Well I can lock mine in the yard.
When my daughter was born, she lacked a fold in the cartilage of both her ears so they didn’t just stick out, they also sort of scooped forward like Fritos chips. While we were at the park one day, someone actually looked right at her, laughed, and said, “Oh my GOD look at HIS EARS!” …being mistaken for a boy is no big deal – it was the ear thing that got me. This stranger was not TRYING to be mean – – but it was like she thought we were in on the same joke. But my baby girl wasn’t a joke to me.
“Why aren’t you breastfeeding? It’s so much better for them.” And of my c-section, “so sorry you didn’t get to experience birth.” Ummm, what???
Send in your problem for Sassy to solve, whether it’s a parenting question, relationship dilemma, or a snafu with social etiquette and it may get answered in a future column. Sassy is here to help! Submit your question for Ask Sassy here! (Or just email me, darling. We can keep it between us. AskSassy@savvysassymoms.com) You can also follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page, where I share pro tips on life every week.