Family life

Back off!

Katie speaks for new parents everywhere as she unloads on people who offer unwanted advice

By Katie Dupuis
Back off!

On Saturday afternoon, I was standing in line at the postal outlet in the Shopper's near our house. I needed to get a package in the mail ASAP — gifts for my in-laws in northern Ontario — to ensure delivery before Christmas Eve. I wanted to have the errand crossed off of my list weeks ago, but I've been a little preoccupied what with the new infant living in our house, so I was in a do-or-disappoint situation. Unfortunately, I had my daughter in tow. She started off fast asleep in the stroller but the longer we waited in line, the more she squawked. Like many other babies, she just wanted to be moving.
Most of the people in line just laughed and commented on how young she was (or how pretty she is, if I do say so myself) but one woman turned back to me, trying not to show her exasperation, and said "Someone's hungry, don't you think? She just wants to go home for some lunch." Um, no, actually. Besides the fact that I had just fed her, I also know when she's hungry. This was just fussing because we'd stayed in one place too long. I said as much, but this woman just rolled her eyes and turned back to the counter.
I wish this was a one-off situation, but of course it isn't. And, I have to say, this is something I did not expect from pregnancy or motherhood. When I was just a party of one, or even with Blaine as a party of two, people didn't feel the need to chime in with their unsolicited two cents. No one ever looked at Blaine while I was shopping and said, "I think your husband wants to go home." What's the difference? What about having a child is an open invitation for dissenting opinions?
Now, that's not to say that I don't appreciate discussion and advice from the community of women at my disposal. As I've said before, I work with some amazing mothers who have given fantastic suggestions. I also have new-mom friends who are working through the same issues as me, and I enjoy hearing about what they are trying or what has worked for them. I have called my mom more times in the past five weeks than possibly in all of last year combined (and we already talked a lot, so that's saying something). But I don't appreciate comments from people who just throw things out there when I didn't ask, when we were not engaged in a related conversation or from strangers who don't know me or my little one at all.
For the record, while this mommy thing has a definite learning curve, I'm doing OK. I know I'm not doing everything right, but we're getting through it and figuring new things out every day. To address some of the comments from the peanut gallery so far, let it be known that a) Sophie will take a bottle of pumped milk as easily as she takes the breast, which was OK'd by two lactation consultants and her paediatrician; b) I don't always sleep when she's sleeping because that would mean I'm sleeping 15-18 hours a day and not ever doing laundry, tidying up or making supper; c) I don't want to hire a cleaning person because I'm a neat freak who finds catharsis in scrubbing sinks or vacuuming; d) I answer emails and phone calls because I feel isolated if I go too long without talking to the outside world; e) I know when Sophie is hungry because she has this weird hoarse cry that breaks my heart (so take that, Post Office Lady). I don't know all of her cries yet — after all, we're still getting to know each other — but I'm starting to recognize when she's in need of something versus just fussing.
I could go on and on, from the early days of my pregnancy to these first days of new motherhood, but the bottom line is this:
Your two cents will be worth a lot more (five cents, maybe a dime) to someone who wants them. I have learned so much from the women in my life, when they can see that I'm struggling or when we're chatting about something in particular. The difference is that they are happy to be there when I need to debrief. For the throw-away comments, your opinions do nothing but make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Sometimes, like the woman on Saturday, they just seek to embarrass. And that's the last thing a new mama, who is likely already second-guessing herself all over the place (I know I am), needs from the world. Just smile, tell her that the baby is pretty and mind your own beeswax.

This article was originally published on Dec 20, 2011

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