To the portion of the population not already encumbered with children and/or expecting them soon, parents probably seem like a pretty cantankerous group. Peruse the internet on the topic of parenting and within a few minutes, you’ll undoubtedly happen upon a slew of posts to remind you just what you can never, ever say to parents (or parents-to-be).
Upon a quick Google search I just learned some things I should never say to: a pregnant woman, an overdue pregnant woman, a new mom, a breastfeeding mom, a formula feeding mom, a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, parents of multiples, parents of toddlers, parents of adopted children … It’s a pretty long list, so I’ll just stop there.
I get it. People say annoying stuff sometimes and a lot of the time it’s the same annoying stuff, but that’s just part of life. I think it’s just contributing to a general feeling of not being able to speak our minds authentically or have real conversations. Everything has to be nice and sweet and it’s all just so twee sometimes that it makes me want to barf. Sometimes people saying annoying/ignorant things can lead to great discussions!
For example, as a mom who has nursed and formula fed, I’ve been on the receiving end of many of the usual comments on the “X Things You Should Never Say to a Breastfeeding/Formula-Feeding Mom“ posts. I remember when my daughter was 16 months old and someone asked me with surprise if I was still breastfeeding (totally on those lists for things not to say/ask). I told them I was and we were able to have a good conversation where I was able to educate them on the benefits of breastfeeding beyond the age of one and explain why it worked for us. Sure, I didn’t owe that person an explanation, and depending on the day I might not offer one, but that day I was able to drop a little knowledge bomb and it felt good.
Another time when I was out with my daughter, mixing up some formula for her bottle, someone commented on what a shame it was that I wasn’t able to nurse. I was able to step in and share that I actually was nursing as well, but that I was never able to get my supply up enough to breastfeed exclusively. I told her that I supplemented with donor breast milk when possible, but used formula when it wasn’t available. This woman had no idea that breast milk could be donated and we had a good conversation about it and when she expressed interest in donating in the future, I was able to direct her to some sites that could connect her with babies in need.
I understand that it isn’t the business of a complete stranger to know why I feed my child the way I do, or why I parent my toddler the way that I do, or anything else. But, I think we need to stop being so damn sensitive. Whatever you’re doing or not doing as a parent: own it. Breastfeed or bottle-feed. Co-sleep or cry-it-out. Baby wear or stroller it up. Be fashionable during your 9th month of pregnancy or wear sweatpants exclusively. Whatever your jam as a parent is, just embrace it and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of it. Because in the wise words of my three-year-old’s pop idol Taylor Swift: “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…shake it off, shake it off!”
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