6 Well-Meaning Things People Say To New Parents That Already Annoy Me

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.

Exercising Baby

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.)

On Gender Roles For Kids

My first published piece is on Role/Reboot!
I’ve been thinking a LOT about my childhood, in which I had spiked hair and a tail (oh yes, a tail. In my defense, it was 1991 and 3/5 of the New Kids on the Block had them). I think I’ve finally figured out what it was all about. (Click the screengrab below for the full post.)

Image

3 Ways I’ve Othered Women

Women are 50% of the world. Half. And yet so often, they are othered, which means that women are treated as outsiders, as the deviation from the norm (the norm being men in this case). This sounds like a terrible thing, and one we’d all like to believe we don’t do. But othering women is so prevalent, so omnipresent, sometimes I don’t even notice it’s happening. In fact, sometimes I’m the one who does it. Here are three ways I’ve only recently realized women are othered that I am just as guilty of doing.

1. Animals are never girls.

From The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

There was a story recently on This American Life about a duck and a girl duck.

Did you catch that? A duck and a girl duck. You know, like a human and a girl human. I am totally guilty of thinking this subconsciously, too: animals are male until proven female. When faced with an animal which has no visible signs (at least to my untrained eye) of its sex—like, say, a mouse—I refer to it as male.

“The mouse went that way! Get him!”

This goes for real animals as well as stories about animals, like the one with the duck. The problem with calling them “the duck and the girl duck” is that it sounds like 90% of the ducks of the world are male, and 10% are female, which isn’t true (I think. Technically I didn’t look this fact up). Especially in stories about animals, the main character is usually (dare I say nearly always?) a male unless the plot has a reason for it to be a female.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: male

The Ant and the Grasshopper: male, male

The Poky Little Puppy: male

Yertle The Turtle: male

The only exception I can think of is Stellaluna, a female bat. Does anyone know of any others?

Why are men the norm, and women the proven? Is it just because we need more lady authors and illustrators (like the one who wrote Stellaluna)? This is probably true, and maybe this has already happened and newer children’s stories feature more female animals. But I think it runs deeper than that. I think it’s because we all still think of male as standard, me included. But women are 50%, and it’s wrong for us to do that. I don’t know how to stop it, but I bet recognizing this fact is the first step.

I think I may look further into this. I see a trip to the library, a pie chart, and an interview with my sister (a 1st grade teacher) in my future.

2. Unisex = Men’s fit.

A “unisex” (aka men’s) size chart

Working in the tech industry, I’m often given unisex-sized shirts. Which is awesome. Free t-shirts are awesome, and it gives me some pain to complain about them. But let’s break down what “unisex” means:

Despite the definition of unisex meaning “designed to be suitable for both men and women”, shirts in a unisex cut are actually fitted the same as men’s, just with a larger size range, going all the way down to XXS. So then what differentiates women’s fit? With women’s fit, the shirt will likely be longer, with shorter sleeves, a wider neck line, and fit for someone with curves.

But women are 50% of the population. And only recently I’ve realized that it makes just as much sense to make unisex shirts fitted for women instead, and then describe men’s cut as a special shirt with longer sleeves, smaller neckline, and fit for someone without curves.

“But we can’t force men to wear women’s shirts! They’d look ridiculous!” Really, that’s another post for another time. (Or a conversation that’s already been had?) But what’s the difference between making 50% of the population cross-dress with shirts where their boobs and hips don’t fit the clothes, instead of making the other 50% cross-dress, wearing a shirt with a little extra fabric in the chest and hip area?

If we can’t (read: won’t) change the gender that gets to fit into unisex clothes, at the very least can we recognize that we consider men’s shirts as the standard, and women’s shirts as a special fit? Let’s stop pretending women are being graced with a compromise by offering unisex sizes. Women don’t wear a special type of shirt, we wear 50% of the shirts (consumerism arguments aside).

3. Women are always cold.

Are women colder? Or are men warmer?

I have always accepted and reiterated the common mantra that “women are always cold.” (Learn the quick science why here.) But women are 50% of the population. So maybe I’m not always cold, but men are always warm. Why do men get to be the “standard” internal temperature to which I am compared against? In fact, when you google “men are always warmer,” most of the results that pop up still flip the conversation back at you: “Why Do Women Often Feel Colder Than Men?” says the first result.

Whether I’m cold or men are warm, the argument that comes after, which I have also always accepted, is that we have to keep the temperature lower because: “You can always put on more clothing, but you can’t take it off.” Yes and HOW FUN it is for me to bring an extra scarf (literally–I bring two scarves) to drape on myself on the frigid bus, to wear a blanket on my lap looking like Whistler’s Mother, to wear the same jacket around work every day because, guess what? Cold weather clothing is expensive and I don’t own that many jackets.

Joe is always surprised to touch my nose and realize how cold it is. Yes, when I am cold, every piece of me is cold. Including my nose. I suppose you can always put on a ski mask, but you can’t take one off.

I would like to suggest that we turn up the heat to a comfortable 72 degrees and instead of forcing me to wear a hoodie in the summer, men can come to work in the winter with a pair of shorts to change into. That’s not professional? Neither is wearing gloves to meetings, but that’s what you suggest I do by saying I can always add more clothes.

Let me put it another way: if “you can always add more clothes” was a valid argument for keeping the temperature lower, you wouldn’t constantly hear women complain about being cold, because they would add more clothes as suggested and be done with it. And yet rational, intelligent women sit with their arms wrapped around themselves, their teeth chattering.

I understand that turning the temperature way up would make some men (and women) sweat profusely, which is also not the best solution (yikes). But why can’t we turn up the temperature just a LITTLE bit and we can ALL wear layers? Or you can buy a little desk fan and meet me in the middle.

Women are 50%. Fifty. How many times have I said it now, eight? I’m repeating myself because I think it’s such an easy thing to forget. Women have every right to the things they want as men do. Don’t forget it, and don’t be afraid to flip an argument on its head to see its inherent bias.

A note about this post: you’re going to hear some feminist-y things on Dear Me, discussions I’d like to have with both men and women. After all, as Jackson Katz says, “gender issues” is a topic for all of us. But this blog won’t center on feminism, per se, mostly because there are other blogs doing a great job of it already. If you’re looking for said blogs, I’d check out Feministing, Jezebel, Role Reboot, and Rosie Says to start. I’ll be throwing in a few things from time to time, and hopefully you’ll follow along with me and contribute smart, kind thoughts to the conversation. You don’t have to agree with me, but I do ask that your comments stay civil.