We moms are a tough crowd. Questionable working conditions will do that to a gal. Despite the long hours, the limited vacation time, and the ungrateful bosses, most of us wake up each day determined to do our best. We work while we are sick, we work while we are on vacation, many work while they work. Most of us have had days when we’re happy we’ve made it to bedtime without using profanity and others when we’ve gone to bed thinking, “Hey! Maybe my kids are going to be ok after all.”
It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, a young one or an older one (during my second pregnancy I almost passed out when I saw geriatric pregnancy on my file). It doesn’t matter if you breast-fed or bottle fed, if you had a natural birth or a c-section. However we got to where we are, we’re all mothers, and no one understands what it’s like to be a mother more than a mother. So chances are you’re going to find your social circle expanding to include mothers or reducing to include only mothers. You’re going to encounter them at school, in the work place, in the supermarket. They’ll smile at your kids when they are being cute and hopefully smile in sympathy when you are carrying them bodily out of Toys R Us. If you’re smart, you’ll take advantage of the been-there-done-that advice of the ones who are a few years ahead of you. But if you’re determined to go it alone, there are a few easy ways to make sure you achieve the status of “Cootie Mom”.
Here are 10 easy ways to make sure you alienate yourself from the one group of people who know what you’re talking about, sometimes before you even know you’re thinking it.
1. Use another mother’s child as an example of how not to behave. Never. Not even at home. Why? Because it’s rude for one thing. For another, all kids misbehave at some point, and because it will always, always, always get back to the person whose parenting skills you are badmouthing, one way or another. Your mother was right. If you don’t have anything good to say…..
2. Use the word never in conjunction with your own child’s behavior, as in “My son would never throw sand at another child” or “My daughter would never be mean to another child.” Why? Because parenting fate has a funny way of stepping in just when we’re getting too cocky and giving us a good, swift kick up the ass to make sure we stay on our toes.
3. Proclaim that you would never allow something or that you only do something. See: Famous Last Words. Smart mothers know that you always leave room for improvisation, that never is a long time, and that moderation and balance is the key to sanity. That and wine.
4. Give unsolicited advice regarding nutrition or behavior modification to another mother, particularly one who seems stressed out or at the end of her rope. Why? Because we’ve all been at the end of our rope. And you know what we want to hear? We want to hear “Hey, I’ve been there, it’s ok, it gets better,” not “Have you tried a reward chart?” or “Perhaps Johnny has too much sugar in his diet.” There’s a time and a place for advice. If you offer it at a time of crisis, you could end up with a sugar-coated reward chart shoved someplace uncomfortable.
5. Comment on the number of offspring a mother has to that mother. One mother of five I know told me that she routinely had another mother tell her that it was irresponsible to have more than two children because it was impossible to give them the attention and love they deserved. Go ahead. Spout comments like that and see how many people hang around you at the sandbox.
6. Assume that all boys are X and all girls are Y. I’m never quite sure what to make of it when people say to me, “Oh, I don’t know what I would do if I had a boy.” Err…raise him? It is true I only have boys and I have friends that have only girls. But it is dangerous in the extreme to make assumptions about either sex based solely on their sex. If you want to alienate the mothers of one half of the population, go ahead and start bad-mouthing one or the other.
7. Talk about how your labor wasn’t painful, how your baby slept through the night by one week, or being back in your size 4 jeans when you left the hospital. Why? It doesn’t matter if those things are true or not. No one wants to hear them.
8. Don’t judge a toddler by its cover. Never compare the behavior of a baby to a toddler or a toddler to a pre-schooler or a pre-schooler to a kindergartener, and so on and so on and so on. I never thought my sweet baby boy would pick up a stick and beat the ground with it. Then he turned three. All those giant four year olds running around like wild things on the playground? You’re going to have one of them someday too. The same way that soon enough I’ll probably have a sullen middle schooler. Parenting is relative. We only know what we’ve been through, where we’ve been. Assume you know nothing about any age that is more than three months older than your oldest child and keep your mouth shut.
9. Always talk down about your own kid. We all complain about our kids from time to time. In fact, I don’t trust women who don’t complain about their kids sometimes. But when you never say anything good about your kids, it’s draining, and heart breaking, and you will eventually find yourself an island in the Sea of Motherhood; the one place where you don’t want to be an island.
10. Always one-up the person you’re talking to. Their child didn’t sleep through the night until a year? Yours didn’t sleep for two. Their kid doesn’t like fruit? Yours doesn’t like fruit, vegetables, bread products or meat. Why? Commiserating is fine, but when you have to one-up someone at every turn, it makes their own struggles or complaints null and void.
Parenting is tough. Even the easy parts are tough sometimes. While you may be in a good spot, a sweet spot, if you’ve been a mother long enough you know they don’t always last and it doesn’t do you any good to go around mouthing off about it.
So there you go. If the thought of alienating yourself from the one group of people who truly get you doesn’t make you stop and think, I’ll leave you with one more word.