I was at a birthday party for one of Will’s friends recently and one of the parents saw me and exclaimed, “Wow, you look TIRED!”
Perhaps they meant it in an observational or conversational way but what I heard was not someone concerned for my level of exhaustion, what I heard in that small sentence was:
I can see the gray hair at your temples because you’re too lazy to dye it!
You look bloated because instead of eating a salad last night for dinner, you shame ate an entire bag of All Dressed chips (Costco sized) so now you’re retaining more salt than the Dead Sea.
You face is sallow and you have pimples because you were too lazy to wash your face last night and now your pillow cases have make-up stains that look like the facial imprint of a clown getting railed doggy style while muffling their screams.
That sweater looks like a potato sack and I know you’re wearing leggings because your jeans wouldn’t do up so you needed an elastic waistband.
We got home from the party and I busied the boys and cried while Paul hugged me (he normally just hugs first and then investigates why I’m crying later). When I told him why I was crying and how small I felt, he said all the things he’s supposed to. that I was beautiful and shouldn’t listen to idiots and I felt better. However, we don’t all have a Paul or a sturdy group of friends to prop us up when we feel like dumpster fires so our best chance is to just be better at not being shitty to each other- even if that shittiness unintentional.
I pride myself on being aware. When I say AWARE I mean, trying my hardest to be socially conscious of what is and isn’t acceptable vernacular to groups of people. I think the kids call it “woke” but I am not young enough to be “woke” and the very notion of using a word intentionally grammatically incorrect hurts my head. Recently at a work event, I used the term Eskimo to describe the whalebone style of sunglasses they wear to protect their eyes from snow blindness. The person I was with condescendingly scolded my lack of awareness at using that term as it was "rude” and I promptly wished to melt into the floor and die.
I took a course on First Nations Studies in university and that term was OK then so you can bet my ass was Googling that shit the first chance I got. While it’s not terribly offensive, the preferred term is “Inuit” so I stopped using it immediately.
The problem with awareness is, if you don’t know it’s offensive, you can’t really be held accountable until you’re given the opportunity to correct your ignorance, so here I am! I have compiled a list of shit you might not think is bad, but I assure you it is, so STOP SAYING IT AND STOP ASKING IT!
We’ve already covered tired, this goes for all people, parents or not (BUT ESPECIALLY PARENTS). Tired is a sneaky way of saying shitty. You look tired is never a compliment. It’s saying “Hey, you look shitty”. Stop saying it.
The clock is ticking…
Ok, so if any men are reading this, you guys are normally not the perpetrators of launching thisbullshit phrase so let me break it down for you - All the eggs a woman has, she’s born with. We enter those first few years of sex TERRIFIED we’re going to get pregnant. We take pills and try
patches that give us mood swings and weight gain and acne. We try IUDs and diaphragms or we try pills again but some of them make us even crazier than the first try. We are constantly aware that we’re fertile sex panthers that can get pregnant with even the tiniest of slips. Then we pass 30, now if we want a family we need to find someone else that wants a family, and we need to get pregnant which should be easy right?
When we were in our 20s it was pregnancy-palooza but now, the doctor is making it seem like we’re ancient hags.
They’re talking about our advanced age making it harder to get pregnant because GUESS WHAT?
You know when we’re hard wired to almost definitely get pregnant –
during those years in our 20s when we were working our asses off to avoid it.
Men, you want a taste of the horribly designed reproductive system of a woman, Google “Pregnant after 35” - I’ll wait.
We CAN get pregnant after 35 but EVERY woman I know always has that age in her head. An expiration date of their motherly worth. Even while trying for Evan, I knew in my heart I’d be fine because I wouldn’t “expire” for another 2 years. How insanely messed up is that?
We can’t change our reproductive system but there are many treatments and wonderful stories of motherhood well into the 40s for some women- and there are some horrible shitty unfair stories for women that don’t get their happy ending that we can’t do anything to change.
You know what we can change though?
ASKING ABOUT IT!
Do not ask about the contents of a woman’s uterus. Don’t ask if a couple is “trying” (by the way, that’s literally just asking if they’re fucking more and she’s taking full loads- so, stop). Don’t ask and then ask about the woman’s age, “Oh, you’re only 32 so you have lots of time”.
Fuck off Janet. You don’t know if they’ve been trying for 5 years already and just miscarried that morning. And if they’re having an off day and straight up tell you they’re having difficulties, don’t offer a flippant alternate solution, “Oh, well you can always adopt or get a surrogate” - oh can they?
Can they register for babies at Babies ‘R Us and is there a Tinder for wombs to rent?
Your reassurance is hollow and cruel. Just stop.
Aww another boy?
I am flabbergasted that after having Evan with his cherubic blonde hair and adorable chubby chicken nugget body anyone could have the audacity to say, “Aww another boy, are you disappointed?”
Um no? I’m fucking elated. He’s perfect and I was able to have him safely and easily. He’s healthy. I don’t care what his fucking gender is - he could have been born like a ken doll with no genitals at all and you know what? I still wouldn’t be disappointed because I had another baby that I was trying to have.
More than one person asked me this question. Would I have liked one of each? Sure, but I wasn’t disappointed that he was a boy. He’s amazing. I was happy to have another baby.
The notion that one of each is necessary insinuates that two of the same are less and straight up, if you insinuate that my boys are anything less than perfect, I’m going to ninja kick you in the solar plexus.
Are you going to try for a girl/boy?
Slow your roll there ace! I got this question WHILE I WAS STILL PREGNANT WITH EVAN!
Umm yeah, I’m going to just get Paul to keep firing loads into me and hopefully we’ll grow a second one in there, I’m pretty stretched out from Will, so it might work? This question perpetuates the notion that having a child isn’t enough, it’s necessary you have one of each to truly win the pregnancy jackpot! Stop assuming we need both. Stop assuming we’re not good with one. And for the love of hell, stop assuming people can’t just have one child because…
So and so needs a sibling!
One and done is OK. None and done is OK. Your notion of how many kids are necessary are how many kids YOU should have. Keep YOUR fertility goals out of my uterus.
And if they have one and volunteer that they’re trying again, DON’T say “Oh good, only children are weird and spoiled” because if they can’t strike the pregnancy lottery a second time, you’ve now put it in their head that they’re doing their child a disservice but not producing a playmate to keep them
from turning into Charles Manson!
Are you thinking of marriage?
One of my family members turned to Paul 6 months into my pregnancy with Will and said,
“Well Paul, are you going to make an honest woman out of her now?”
Paul awkwardly laughed and turned to me while I unleashed a tsunami of wrath. It was 2013, so the very notion that being pregnant without a “ring on it” was problematic was jarring, even from my old school Italian family.
Family is whatever the hell you want it to be, and looks however YOU want it to look. I never had a sister but my best friend has been by my side since I was 5 years old and the fact that we don’t share blood could not be less relevant. She is my sister because she is my family. She is who I choose every day to pick me up, and who I pick up in return. She is who held my hand through broken hearts and shitty grades and every other high and low, and she is more family than I could have ever hoped for.
My family is not less legitimate because Paul and I are not married. It has come up with William a total of one time so far: “Mommy, are you and Daddy married?” – “Nope, we never got around to it” – “OK, Can I have another Eggo?” – and scene. The only opinion I care about on the matter of us
not being married is Evan and Will’s, and they don’t care. I’ve realized my age now, is when people around us start divorcing. Watching some of these
marriages end has shown me how unimportant the marriage part is. I’m not jaded against marriage, I think it’s a lovely notion for some people but the real bond that keeps people together isn’t an expensive party and contract but rather procreating. Once you have kids, even if you divorce, you’re attached to that person and you need to still sort out how to get-along with them for the sake of your kids, which are always the most important.
If you don’t have kids who will take care of you?
Having children is a HUGE lifelong responsibility and it should always be done only if in your heart you know that you want children. As far as we’ve come in this world, some people still have the antiquated notion that,
“first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Mommy with the baby carriage” but why do we still think this?
Why do we ask childless couples who will take care of them when they’re old? Is there a guarantee that even if you have kids, they’re going to be good-enough people to care for you and is this the only reason a couple needs to have a baby?
Let’s be honest, you know who does not need to worry about being cared for when they are elderly? Childless people who have a lifetime of employment and equity that entirely belongs to them that they can use for full-time care or luxury retirement centres.
They will be perfectly fine.
I’m so tired! (From childless people)
If you don’t have kids, I’m more tired than you. End of debate.
Paul and I have been together the exact same amount of time as parents as we have as a couple, so I have an exact even sampling of life before and after children.
Oh you had a long day at work? Same.
6 years ago I would get home, get changed into something cute and lament about my day over a bottle of wine while eating a $40 steak.
Now, I get off work, pick up Evan, call Paul to run through what might be at the bottom of the freezer for dinner, Paul makes the dinner while I drive home (in rush hour, with Evan in the car). I get home and change, beg the children to eat their dinner in between getting up 6-10 times to fetch them things they’ve forgotten to mention they wanted before I sat down. Get them upstairs for bath which will end with a wet bathroom floor and me always half-soaked while Paul loads the dishwasher and throws in a load of laundry. Get them into pajamas after fighting with them on which ones they want to wear. Pick out their clothes for the next day. Read stories. Snuggle Evan while singing him 2-4 songs. Evan needs water. Get him a water bottle. Oops wrong one. He’s crying. Go back downstairs and get him the Spider-man water bottle. Go tuck in Will. He has an insanely difficult question he needs the answer to before he will let me kiss him goodnight like, “Mommy, how do birds fly?”.
Go downstairs. Pack their shit for school. Make lunches for the next morning. Unload the dishwasher. watch 37 minutes of TV. Go to sleep.
I win…but still lose.
You look different/I didn’t recognize you
I have gained 40 pounds in the last year. I have no medical condition- believe me, I asked.
My 90 pound family physician kept gently trying to explain to me (like I was a toddler) that my eating habits (raccoon in nature) and my level of physical activity (non-existent) coupled with my fat ass being harpooned in an office chair 8 hours a day were why I was fat,
"All you need is 30 minutes of vigorous activity and a balanced diet”
“30 minutes a week?”
“Um no, daily”
I laughed but when I realized she wasn’t joking I told her I’d just stay fat if there was nothing she could prescribe...so here we are, me looking like a swollen version of my former self and avoiding mirrors and photos like a vampire keeping their identity a secret.
I was at a bridal shower recently and when I arrived (already feeling particularly self-conscious) a family member exclaimed within seconds of me arriving, “Oh Mariangela, I didn’t even recognize you.”
Deflated and defensive I replied, “Yeah, it’s because I’m fatter than a house.”
Following that, I tried my best to keep my head down for the remainder of the festivities.
Unless “I didn’t recognize you” is followed by “You look amazing/fabulous/thinner” – it’s an insult.
The funny thing is, what I remember most about that day was a particularly kind great-aunt of mine passing me on the way out who must have overheard me and who I hadn’t spoken to at the party (as I tried to avoid people)...she smiled at me on her way out and said,
“Mariangela, you look beautiful” - it was just kindness.
She said it to make me feel better. It was the only thing we said to each other that day but those 4 words filled me with warmth because her intention was to make me feel good because she knew I didn’t, and she is the kind of person we need more of in the world.
You have no idea what it’s like because you don’t have kids
I was at a party once and when I arrived someone was there with their kids. I was immediately annoyed as the party started at 8pm and that has no kids written all over it. If I go through the trouble of securing childcare my expectation is not to be subjected to other people’s children. If I wanted to spend time with children, I’d choose my own as they’re amazing and I had just spent the 13 hours before they party with them, so I had my fill of kids for the day.
I watched this child tear shit up. Scream and run around a very adult space as the poor hostess tried to remove all the breakable items that were very easily accessed.
I watched the child eat cupcakes and cookies and ricochet around the house like an unleashed firework.
At around the 10pm mark when I was trying to gauge whether I could leave, she hit her groove.
Fun fact for you newbies or child-free folk: an overtired adult will sleep anywhere but a child that is overtired hits a certain threshold and then gets a second wind, as if they’ve done a bump of coke off a coffee table but instead of coke replace it with multiple juice boxes.
The poor hostess asked the clueless Mother as the child tried to climb a bar-stool onto the kitchen table,
“When is her usual bedtime, she has so much energy”
The Mom rolled her eyes, “Oh this, this is normal, just wait until you have kids, you’ll see!”
No, no you won’t see. First drawing from my earlier point, if that person is having fertility issues, that’s insensitive. Second, and even worse, that’s wholly inaccurate and paints all kids with the same broad (and shitty) brushstroke.
Last, it’s just untrue. You know which kids were not wreaking havoc at this party? Mine. At this point in the evening they were already in bed for two hours.
I try really hard not to judge other parents because everyone needs to do things their own way but this was unfair to parenthood, as this isn’t what it has to be like and also unfair to the kid which really bothered me.
This kid had no rules, not a single time while we were there was she told no, given adequate food options (which were available), or paid any attention. The parents were dead set on enjoying themselves and just let the kid enjoy herself too. A child of her age needs 12-14 hours of sleep per day. That’s just unkind to the child and and to tell a childless person that this was the norm was just baseless.
Maybe you disagree with me or you’re thinking, why should those parents miss out on an evening of fun because they had a child?
You know why? Having a child means that you have to sacrifice YOUR fun for THEM or edit what your definition of fun is. You know what’s awesome? An ice-cold pint of Rolling Rock served to you during a balmy summer evening while overlooking Lake Ontario and catching-up with friends. You know what else is awesome? Lego sets. Apple picking. Centre Island. Afternoon movies snuggled on the sofa. Building forts.
You CAN have both, but sacrifice is what you signed up for.
An old friend of mine got married 1 month after Will was born. I was a first-time Mom and barely able to pump milk so do you know what I did?
I brought him to the wedding.
Just kidding! I drove home every hour and a half to feed him. My Mom would unzip my cocktail dress as I arrived, lay a towel on my lap and I would breastfeed him and then go back to the reception.
It sucked but do you know what would have sucked worse? Missing a good friend’s wedding, or ruining it with a screaming newborn.
Parenting is hard but “wait until you have kids” is condescending and makes parenthood seem like a horror lurking around the corner and while it’s hard, it’s also really freaking awesome sometimes.
Are you Still Single?
Before I met Paul I had a string of really shitty luck dating. I was in my early 20s and I didn’t have any single friends so it’s not like I could go out trolling for dudes with friends. I would go to bars and clubs as a third-wheel and occasionally meet people but it would never work out.
The longer I was single, the lower I set the bar for the list of things I wanted in a guy. What officially broke me on even trying anymore was a guy, who looking back was my polar-opposite and just the most pretentious-tool. I didn’t even like him but I was like, well at least it’s someone. After a date where we were watching a horribly shitty band play in what can only be described as a dungeon, that was it. I was trying to like the stupid things he liked and I was never that girl before so I said fuck it and stopped trying to meet people.
I didn’t want to subject myself to anymore shitty music, boring stories, or dudes who I just wasn’t really that into. I was always enough for me, but the problem was the expectation that I needed a partner before I was worth-anything.
A close-second is also, “Oh you’re not with (name) anymore?” - do you see him standing here? Then no, I’m not with him anymore, but thanks for bringing that up, it ended well so let’s talk about it!
Anytime you see a person at a family party or a wedding or a barbecue and they are alone, THEY ARE SINGLE. Maybe they are not, but always assume they are single and don’t ask. You know why I dated fools, because I didn’t want to go to family parties and be asked that goddamn question.
Yes, sometimes you’re dating someone and they can’t accompany you to something but since I met Paul over 11 years ago, barring work travel, there has not been a single day that we haven’t spent together. If you love someone, you find a way to be there whenever you can.
It must be so hard going back to work and leaving them!
Why yes, yes it is. It’s also stressful and more crushingly it’s guilt-inducing.
Mom-guilt is a fucker but going back to work, especially if you’re a first time Mom is rough. You’re allowed to have your own identity but there might be moments where you think you’re doing your nugget a disservice by leaving them, you’re not. You’re professionally successful, financially contributing to the household income and a badass Mama and you can be all those things, guilt free.
This comment is meant to needle you. It’s meant to make you feel bad, again it could seem like a question about your feelings but it’s not a question, it’s a statement. The question should be, “Do you feel ready to go back to work or do you wish you had more time?” or “I know you’re going back to work, if you’re ever stuck, please put me down as an emergency contact and I can help with pick-up/drop-off” or you could show up that first week with a pizza since finding the daycare/commute/dinner flow takes some time.
Is he/she delayed?
I generally am fueled by a little bit of rage and Paul is the calming force that keeps me from ending up in jail. The fastest way to get both of us to a boiling rage is to come at our boys without your facts straight.
When Will was 2 he spoke in full sentences and was a little smarty pants so it was odd when his daycare asked for a meeting about his development. I signed up to receive the Nipissing screenings before Will was even born and diligently reviewed the list for each milestone so I was worried and perplexed. When we walked in, the behavioral counselor was there along with the centre director and his teacher.
Director: “Miss Stacy is concerned William is not where he needs to be for language development so we’ve called this meeting to go over what can be done at home to help”
Paul (hella pissed): “How did Miss Stacy come to this conclusion?”
Miss Stacy: “Well when we’re doing colours William is disinterested and does not engage, he tries to get up and go back to the building centre to play with tools”
Paul takes Will by the hand and leads him to the coloured mat on the floor:
“Will, what colour is this?”-“Red”- “And what colour is this?”-“Blue”-“And Will, what if Babcia asked you, what colour is this?”- “żółty” (yellow).
Paul looks to the teachers (still hella pissed): “Miss Stacy when you made this assessment, did you factor in that children who speak more than one language at home sometimes appear slower in both as they are retaining 2 separate languages? When Will went to the building centre, did you redirect your teaching and ask him the names of the tools instead of colours? (Paul picks up hammer), “Will, what is this?”-“młotek”-“what would you call it if you were talking to Mommy?”-“Hammer”.
All 3 teachers were mortified and while that wasn’t our intention, it was a tiny bit satisfying - naturally you want caregivers who bring concerns to your attention but if you’re going to call a meeting about something that serious, be certain. It is never OK to ask about or comment on a child’s development. It’s never OK to compare children and what they can and can’t do. Some kids take longer than other kids to develop and some kids are born a little different, and either way, comments or speculation are unkind and not OK.
If you take one thing from this, please take away awareness of what you say and just be kind.
William is 5 and he is so purely kind. Right before his last Birthday party he said, “Mommy, I want to invite (name)” - “Sure bud, any particular reason?” - “Well they made a mess in the sandbox today and there were some other kids saying mean things to them and I want them to know that they at least have one friend who likes them so I’m going to tell them tomorrow I don’t care about the mess, they can come to my party”
That, that’s an awesome little man. I think every person is born kind, and if we were all a little more like we were when we were kids, the world would be a brighter place.