A couple weeks ago my husband was out of town. After a long day with my toddler (who was getting over a cold) I decided to take him to Whole Food’s for dinner. As I stood in line I noticed a man starring at me and the checker asked him if he needed anything. He said, “no, I’m just waiting to ask this lady a question.”
I was a little taken aback but when I finished buying our food I turned to him. And then he said it.
“Is your son mentally disabled?”
I must have turned completely white as the line of fellow customers looked at me for an answer. I replied, “NO…why?”
He said, “Oh he just has a certain look.” Which I replied to him “you probably shouldn’t ask people that question.”
Immediate tears started flowing down my face as I walked with my son to a table. How could someone be so insensitive?? While a lot of people over heard the conversation one kind woman came and found me. She told me little Coco-nib was perfect and that something must be wrong with that man. She said she could tell he had a cold because his face looked a little swollen (all true). Through my tears I told her that my son was not even two years old and people were often confused by his large size (he’s the average height of a 3 year old boy). She nodded and again told me he was perfect. Our conversation was like balm to my wound.
My horrible experience got me thinking. Maybe people just don’t know what they shouldn’t say to a mother? Maybe they don’t realize how we often feel inadequate, insecure, and alone in our role as a new moms? When another person in public gives you the glare because your kids are noisy or says something insensitive it HURTS. And I promise you IT DOES NOT MAKE US BETTER MOTHERS.
So I asked a group of my blogging friends and my fans on Facebook things people have said to them you should NEVER say. And here they are…
1. Don’t say ANYTHING unless it’s uplifting about her body DURING and AFTER pregnancy
Need some examples? “You’re huge! Are you sure you aren’t having twins”, “You’re so small for __weeks. Are you eating” and please make sure you KNOW someone is pregnant before asking them how far along they are…it can be tough to shed that belly after baby.
2. Don’t tell an expectant mother your labor and delivery nightmare stories
Now this is a tough one. I think a lot of woman suffer from very traumatic births and they DO NEED to talk about them. But a pregnant mama is probably not your best option. They need encouragement about birth and motherhood! So if your birth was incredible and empowering share away!
If you did have a tramatic birth you should check out this book.
3. Passive aggressive remarks that you aren’t taking care of your children well
This one was a biggie for other mommy bloggers. Here are a couple of their stories….
“Where is your child’s hat?! Bog off!”-Loula Natural
“Do not come looking for sympathy when you roll over onto your baby, and suffocate her while you sleep”. My auntie said this to me when my daughter was an infant when I mentioned that we were bed sharing. It really hurt my feelings at the time, since this was with Saylor, and I was a 1st time mother already terrified that I was doing it all wrong. Never suffocated her though (and her brother survived as well), ha.-The Moderately Crunchy Mommy
From a teacher. “I’m so glad you’re here first in line since she’s wearing a dress, I was afraid she’d freeze!”
It was 50F. And we’re from the Midwest. Atlanta is full of weather pansies.-The Veggie Converter
Oh, that’s a boy??? Cut his hair, he looks like a girl!- The Darling Baker
“Why on earth are you having a baby at your age?” I was 35 at the time! I told her ” because I still can, and don’t worry you won’t be delivering it!” –Beauty and The Foodie
“As we walked into the store, a woman threw a hat at me from a rack and said, “put a hat on your baby” then looked me up and down and gave a dirty look and walked away. I looked about 15, so I’m guessing that didn’t help. I felt so awful (and that I was doing a bad job) that I cried and bought the hat” -Anonymous blogger
“I was told by a family member that I wasn’t prepared enough to look after my child and that I was doing a bad job. I had been planning to have a child for 4 years before going for it and even went over to America to become a Cultural Care Au Pair so I could both travel and also look after children to see if I could hack it. I loved it and took away a lot of help. It’s fair to say she isn’t on the Christmas card list anymore. -Anonymous blogger 2
Unless you think the child’s livelihood is in danger (listen to your gut on this one) it’s not your place to tell her where you think she’s messing up. We’ve all be there before-whether we got in the car and forgot to put socks on our infant or had a toddler who simply refused to wear a coat. So let’s give each other some space..
3. Don’t question the way another mother feeds her baby….
This one might get me a lot of backlash so let me just say that I think when possible breastfeeding is ALWAYS best. One of my favorite bloggers Ariana from And Here We Are very graciously shared her story and I think she does a better job than I could with this topic.
” Now, I would never ask a woman if she breastfeeds (how is it my business anyway?) And I will always be supportive of the choices a mother makes for her baby. If she wants advice on homemade formula and ASKS, I’ll help, but otherwise my job as a woman is to SUPPORT. Period. A lot of people make assumptions about moms who are not breastfeeding. I was and am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but I could not produce enough milk. Took all advice, tried all remedies, nursed constantly… And my baby was not thriving. I started making formula at home for her ala WAPF, and she did well with it. However, quite a few women approached me in public, would chat with me about my beautiful baby, and then ask me point blank if I was breastfeeding– like it was their business! I had a lot of issues with feeling like my body had failed in this regard, and somehow felt like I owed them an explanation– of course this was always super painful.” Ariana from And Here We Are.
4.You are still nursing? Isn’t she over __ years old?
It’s not a competition so if you breastfed your baby for 3 months or 3 years that is your personal decision. Women who choose to breastfeed their children longer then “normal” take a lot of flack. Here’s a little confession…my son still nurses and he’ll be two this week. Because I fear other peoples comments I don’t share this information…not even with my mom friends. Extended breastfeeding might not be up your ally but please keep the negative comments to yourself.
5.To a stay at home mom ” So what do you do all day?”
Several moms on my fb page brought this one up. I’ve actually gotten this one a lot from people very close to me and it’s hard not to take it to heart. On one hand it could simply be genuine curiosity-they simply want to know what it’s like to be a stay at home mom. But quite frankly, I don’t think it’s often meant in a kind way….
6.“Oh My! You have your hands full!”
My friends brought this one up. It’s another one of those ones where people MIGHT have the BEST intention but…we hate it. Let me tell you what we hear ” You have too many kids.” “You look like you have more than you can handle.” Bottom line-it’s just not helpful. Instead we would rather hear, “You are doing a great job!” or “Your children are lovely.”
7. To a working mom “How do you handle someone else raising your child?”
Now this one is a tough one for me because I was raised by a stay at mom and now I am also a stay at home mom. However, one of my best friends is a working mom. And you know what? She is one of the most amazing mothers I know. And she is not “letting someone else raise her child.” Just because she works full time does not mean she is not fully engaged in her son’s life. Working moms and stay at home moms LOVE their children. PERIOD.
We’ve had enough!!!
One of my favorite sayings goes likes this “have thick skin and a soft heart”. Since becoming a mother and a blogger I’ve felt more attacked than any other time in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to brush it off but somedays it feels overwhelming and exhausting. I was telling my best friend how much stranger’s words were affecting me and she encouraged me to try and figure out WHAT WOUND their words hit inside of me. It’s a powerful question. And I encourage you all to ask yourself the same question when a stranger says something hurtful to you.
Most days I don’t feel like I’m artistic enough, fun enough, talented enough or creative enough to even attempt to write a blog. So when I wake up in the morning to a mean comment it validates ALL OF THOSE negative emotions. The same goes for my parenting-when someone says something hurtful-it validates all of those worries that I’m not a good enough mother. So instead of being deeply hurt and offended by these strangers I am TRYING to cut to the heart of the issue. I don’t feel good enough. And right now I’m just asking myself why I feel this way. I hope this resonates with you on some level. Does it?
Have you had some experiences you’d like to share? Do you have one that’s even worse? Please share in the comments below so that others can benefit from your experience. Or maybe you just need a good vent. Either way I’d love to hear from you!!!