11 Things Not to Say to a New Parent
I’ve written about the things you should never say to pregnant women , Scottish people , pale girls and.. .well, everyone else , really. It’s surely time for new parents to have their say, right?
The thing about parenthood, you see, is that everyone has an opinion on it, or a comment to make about how you’re doing it: and while not all of those comments or opinions are necessarily offensive or annoying in themselves, once you’ve heard them 7,000 times, they can get just a little bit grating. I’m talking here about comments like…
“It only gets worse!”
Hands-down the MOST annoying thing you can say to a brand new parent (or a prospective one) is that, no matter how hard things are now, they’re only going to get WORSE. No, I don’t care if it’s true, or if you’re “just being honest” / trying to prepare us: when someone’s already struggling, telling them there’s no hope of them ever feeling better is unhelpful at best and unkind at worse.
(I got to the point with this where I just started adopting a deadpan expression and saying, “Oh, right: I think we’ll just send him back, then!” when people said this to me, to demonstrate just how unhelpful it is: I mean, what else CAN you say to it, really?)
“When are you going to have another one?”
I will have another baby at the exact moment that society in general realises how intrusive it is to ask someone about their reproductive plans. So, NEVER is the answer to that one, then. Never.
“Are you disappointed he’s not a girl/ a redhead / anything other than what he actually is?”
When Max was born, I was really shocked to be asked if I was “disappointed” by his hair colour, and also by the number of people who went out of their way to “reassure” me that it was OK: there was still hope of it one day changing! I have no idea what made those people assume that I was desperate for my baby to have the same hair colour as me, but, whatever it was, it was weird – and honestly quite hurtful – to have people suggest that ANYTHING AT ALL could possibly “disappoint” me about my beautiful boy. I mean, AS IF!
So, no, I wasn’t disappointed by my baby’s hair colour, but I WAS disappointed by the manners of the people asking about it… (And also SCARED by them, really. Like, people who think it’s normal to have a healthy child, but be disappointed because their hair is the ‘wrong’ colour are scary, aren’t they?)
“You look so tired!”
I mean, sure, it might be true (And, in my case it most definitely IS, even two years later…): does it really need to be said, though? REALLY?
“Well, we didn’t do it like that in MY day and we turned out just fine!”
This just in, people: TIMES CHANGE. WHO KNEW?
The thing about this one is that new parents get SO much contradictory advice. On the one hand, we have midwives/health visitors/doctors etc telling us we MUST do things ONE way, and then, on the other hand, we have other parents telling us to just ignore all of that and do it THEIR way instead. It’s honestly so confusing, and also quite exhausting to have to keep on defending your decision to go with the current medical advice… which is, after all, given for a reason. Parenthood is confusing enough, people: let’s not make it even more so…
“Why are you/aren’t you breastfeeding?”
I dunno: why aren’t you minding your own business?
However you choose to (or end up) feeding your baby, you’re going to be judged for it: and how sad is THAT, seriously? While some people who ask this question are just genuinely curious, though, there’s no escaping the fact that many others are asking purely to find out whether they should be judging you, and how much: no wonder it makes new mums feel just a little bit defensive…
“He looks too cold/warm/otherwise unhappy”
I remember when Max was just a few weeks old, someone commented on my Instagram to say that he should be wearing more clothes, because he looked cold. I was still full of post-partum hormones at the time, and took this as an accusation that I wasn’t looking after him properly, and was therefore a terrible mother: cue tears. And then more tears.
Now, I’d like to think the person who left that comment wasn’t trying to say anything of the sort, but the fact is, they had absolutely no idea what the temperature was in my house at the time, or whether my baby was appropriately dressed for it. I, on the other hand, DID know those things, but, having my judgement questioned like that really shook my confidence, and, well, made me feel like crap, really: and for no good reason, either.
Unless you DO have a good reason to be worried about a child’s welfare, please keep those kind of comments to yourself, and trust the person who’s actually with the child to have more/better information than you can possibly have from the other side of your phone/computer. We’re all just doing the very best we can, after all…
“Is he not sitting / standing / walking /talking yet?”
This is a great way to make a new parent worry about something they probably weren’t actually worried about, so, if that was your goal, congratulations! If it wasn’t, on the other hand, try to bear in mind that babies all develop at different rates, and parenting isn’t a competitive sport: well, not YET, anyway.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps!”
I will only do this the baby agrees to do his bit and work when I work, clean when I clean, etc. Well, it’s the only way things are going to get done if we’re all sleeping 20 hours per day, right?
“You need to look after yourself, too!”
Trust me when I tell you that new parents KNOW this: it’s the BABIES you need to be talking to, here. Tell THE BABIES. Tell them to give us just five minutes to look after ourselves… and, if they don’t (And they WON’T…), don’t rub it in by constantly badgering us to go have a bubble bath or read a good book.
“Enjoy every moment!”
I’ve written an entire blog post about this one , so I won’t repeat myself here other than to say that, while the sentiment might be well meant, and seem innocuous enough, it can actually be quite damaging, in that it encourages the belief that any negative feelings you might be having are abnormal or invalid, and that everyone else finds parenthood a breeze. And that’s just not true, is it? No one enjoys every moment, so lending a sympathetic ear to someone who’s struggling is kinder than dismissing their worries by telling them they should be enjoying it.