The need of the hour is to be accepting of other parents’ choices.
I had a vaginal delivery. People call it a ‘normal’ delivery. It was an experience that has stayed with me over years. Normally when we have a very enriching/life changing experience, we feel the need to talk about it and share it. Every new mom is asked about her delivery. And i have made that ‘mistake’ more often than i would like to remember. The society around us has defined ‘normal’ for us. And when your body, which is not under your control, performs in a different manner than usual, you start feeling as a failure. And that is the last thing a new mother should have on her hands.
It is no one’s business if you took a load of painkillers to deliver your baby, or chose a home birth, delivered in a car, in an airplane, had a c-section, or some another innovative way which no one has thought of. When you go to meet a new mom, tell her how cute her baby is, how awesome she looks (lie through your teeth, if you have to) and get loads of food. If she ventures any details, or guilt, about her delivery- tell her and repeat whenever you meet her that a healthy baby and a healthy mom means a perfect delivery.
Keep a straight expression if you see a formula bottle in her hand. Whatever your beliefs, are yours. Ask her if she wants you to hold the bottle while she rests. Acceptance is the key. You may have different ways of raising your child, but this is hers. And fed and happy.
Support her if she chooses to work or stay at home. Or work from home (which i have no idea how anyone gets done!). The day and age we live in, having a choice over what you want to do, is normal and natural. And it is the way it should be. Do not tell her what you think will work the best for her. Tell her it will be tough either ways. Be the shoulder she can lean on.
You may have one kid, or four, or not have any. Do not tell her when she is planning another. Or tell her that she should. Give her a right to her life, her body, her finances, her struggles. They are as real to her as yours are to you. If a woman wants to trek the highest mountain peak and choose not to have a child, cheer her while she trains. Tell her how awesome she is. Your child brought you happiness, two kids brought you undeniable joy, four may have brought even more. But you made a choice. And she made hers.
Do not ask her how much she earns. This probably feels like a no-brainer. But i have had (elderly) relatives ask me how much money gets deposited in my bank post-tax every month! She may be on the Fortune 500 list and her kids may go to the best schools, but she has different struggles, a different guilt. If Indra nooyi is unsure whether she had it all, lets have realistic expectations to measure ourselves and others against.
Do not tell her ‘But it is worth it’. You do not know her struggles. Every child is worth it for the parents. I would like to believe that. But by using these words, you are belittling her tough days. My kids are worth every bit of what i put in everyday, but there are days when i want to hide in a corner and weep. Tell her she is awesome. Because she already knows that the kids are worth it.
If you see a baby who looks significantly different than the parents, or than their sibling, control the urge to ask if they are adopted or who their ‘real’ parents are, or if both have the same biological set of parents. Rather take it as an opportunity to teach your kids that there are more than one way to have a baby. And adoption is as natural as any other way. Encourage adoption, not as a second choice, but as a primary one. I recently read an article which talked about having one child as a means for population control. Best would be to have a biological one and adopt one more.
Do not ask a woman if she is pregnant. I was just asked at the airport security check if i was. My expression said it all. No one needs to hear about their vacation weight or weekend weight.
Do not ask an elderly lady who is walking a kid, if it is her grandchild. People choose to have kids late and having a kid ages you ten years. My son pointed out today that my hair is black and white and my stomach is outside my body (!!!) and i was walking my dog and kids in a regular jeans and t shirt and some really young girls came upto me and said “These kind of outfits make you look really pretty”.
I am still trying to sleep. wondering what i wear everyday in my zombie phase……
Sometimes we forget that what worked for us may not work for others. What we know now, is not what we knew earlier. Even the best meaning advice can sometime put so much pressure. Talk about your happiness, your struggles, bask in your glory and let other bask in their different glory.