A note: I’m not pregnant, nor am I about to be. As a 28-year-old woman about to talk about babies, I know I have to make that caveat before your imagination starts to run wild.
I hear that pregnant people get a lot of unsolicited advice. A LOT. And from what I see on Facebook and hear in real conversations, I know it to be true of pregnant people as well as new parents. I’m sure these advice-givers are trying to be helpful, but honestly it already annoys me (God help me if I ever have baby hormones coursing through my veins because the phrase “I will cut you” is likely to surface). So instead of letting this rage quietly stew, I thought I’d share a few things that irk me when it comes to sage advice for the newbies.
1. Appreciate this time!
When my sister had her first child, it seemed like every picture she posted to Facebook came with at least one comment to appreciate her baby. I understand why people say this: the time goes fast and yet sometimes you just wish your baby could do things on its own. Then later, you long for those adorable, squishy newborn days. I get that. But guys, let’s just assume that new parents already know that time only goes in one direction and that human beings get older with time. Let’s assume they are appreciating their own children, because that’s what good parents do. Or at least, let’s assume that someone’s already reminded them to appreciate their baby today, so you don’t have to.
2. Wait until they’re a teenager!
Teenagers are the worst, amiright?! You know, I hated when people made fun of teenagers when I was one, and I still hate it. Teenagers are not all universally terrible. Yes, they have lots of issues to work through. Yes, the parent/child relationship goes through strain and will likely be different from the other side. But can you please not be such a Debbie Downer and let me pretend I am going to have a Lorelai/Rory relationship with my child? Maybe instead of just saying, “wait until they’re a teenager,” give me suggestions of ways to improve my relationship with my teen. What do you wish you had done? Talked to them about sex? Family dinners? Asked different kinds of questions? What can we do better except brace for impact? (Which is something new parents are already doing, by the way, so you don’t need to remind them. Just smile and nod when they talk about temper tantrums.)
3. You’ll never sleep again!
Won’t I? Golly. Thanks for letting me know; otherwise I never would have heard this one. Can I be honest with you guys and say that lack of sleep is seriously #2 on my reasons to not have a child (#1 is money)? I get real cranky without much sleep, and a future of sleeplessness freaks me out. Of course everyone also says it’s worth it, and I hear your hormones help you out here–good for many moms, but dads and adoptive parents don’t get to enjoy that one. But it’s #2! That’s how scary people have made this issue sound! Lack of sleep should not be a valid reason to not create/adopt a human life. So please, for my sake as a potential future parent, please stop talking about sleep and how little or how much you so happened to get. Instead of terrifying others with hyperbole about your zombie state, give tips and tricks on what helped you (remembering that people are different and just because it helped you doesn’t mean it would help me).
4. He/she’s already such a little heartbreaker!
Let’s not sexualize children, please. They have, like, 9 years to actually NOT be little heartbreakers. Let’s give that to them. Besides, calling babies heartbreakers is usually really heteronormative, which makes me uncomfortable. Also see: referring to a baby’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Especially see: referring to a baby’s adult boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t be weird.
5. Your social life is over!
Basically, see #3. Again, instead of hyperbole and projecting your personal regrets, give suggestions on how to keep a good social life going. Or better yet, offer to babysit.
6. My daughter won’t meet men until she’s forty because I have a shotgun!
This one is less about advice to new parents and more about parenting in general, but I think it fits into this list. I understand you’re being cute about protecting the little ball of adorableness that is your daughter. But here’s my issue: I am a daughter, so I ask that you spend less time joking about my protection and more time teaching boys how to not be terrible. That way I can meet boys without needing a mercenary to protect me. I actually just read an article at The Good Men Project about this last week from a dad who put it well by saying, “Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give…And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.” Besides, this joke is TIRED. A man wrote a book about it, they made a TV show about the book, the main actor died, the main actress has been on a new show for 7 years, and you’re STILL making the same joke.
To be clear, this post is not my cry for further advice on parenthood. I’ll ask that advice from those I trust when (or if) I actually need it. I’m a little worried about posting about parenthood because I know it can drum up a lot of big emotions for people. But I did it anyway, so there you go. Now, this list only scratches the surface of well-meaning-but-kinda-annoying things people say to pregnant women or new parents. If you know any others, feel free to talk it out in the comments. (And if you’re looking for non-terrifying new parent discussions, start here.)