This post was inspired by Marianne’s post on “10 things you probably shouldn’t say to a friend who doesn’t have children”. Her version was full of humour (though it didn’t take away from the examples of stupid shit people say to those who choose not to procreate!!) but mine may have more of a serious note as I still have a few minor hang ups about the way young parents are treated 😉
1. “Are you the proud big sister?”
Yes. This did happen. I almost clocked her one.
2. “Oh, you look far to young to have a child!”
My usual response is, “Well yes, I am far too young to have a child, but I do.” which generally shuts people up. The worst example I have come across with this one was actually not my own experience, neither did I witness it, but I promise it did happen! A young woman walked into a creche with a newborn baby in a front pack and stood looking around awkwardly while my friend packed up her child’s stuff. She was about to ask the young woman with the baby if she needed any help when a creche teacher walked in and asked the woman who she was after. The woman responded that she was looking for her sister. The teacher then inquired “And whose baby is this?” pointing to the baby in the front pack. The woman said “Mine.” to which the teacher threw up her hands in horror and said “But you are MUCH too young to have a child! You’re just a child yourself!” – and how exactly is that gonna help the young mama?
3. [On a rare night out without the kidlet] “Just make sure she isn’t neglected.”
See this post here for my tirade after this gem was offered to me. Actually this comment followed a few of my other favourites. The guy was clearly on a roll.
4. “Oh well, at least they are cute.” [To a young mother with twins]
I am totally massively and utterly ashamed to say that this was me before I had the kid when I came across a girl 3 years younger than me that I knew from primary school. Karma came and kicked my ass in a fricking huge way as I got pregnant about a month later. Turns out unplanned pregnancies can happen to anyone [who is having sex anyway :P]! I’ve never forgotten it and still feel terrible.
5. “Do you have just the one?”
This one isn’t so much offensive, I just don’t really get it. Why you probably shouldn’t say it is that it evokes my blasphemous response of “Jesus Christ! Yes! One demon child is more than enough.”
6. “So what does your husband do?”
Ultra conservative Christian dude broke this one out after discovering I had a child named Hannah and then telling me the story of Hannah of the biblical variety. Once again, I decided to use the shock tactic by saying something along the lines of “No husband. I got drunk at Otago Uni and ended up pregnant.”
It seems this is a common one with young mums. Other variations include “Oh, I didn’t know you were married!” and also the other end of the scale of judgement/presumption with “So are you still with the father?”
7. “Don’t you have a TV?” or “Don’t you know how it happens?” or “Did you miss the sex ed lesson at school?”
I’ve had the second one before. And honestly, I wish my look could have actually killed. Seriously people!
8. “You’ll get fatter the more kids you have”
This is usually people you know who are a smidgeon bitter about your body’s ability to return to its pre-birth shape and it’s all too obvious!
9. “Had a little accident I see?”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that all manner of circumstances lead to babies. Let’s not assume anything huh?
10. “So THAT’s where my tax money is going!”
Passed on to me by another young mama who was offered that helpful comment while out for a walk with a group of friends with babies. (Oh you know, a peer support group which would be doing wonders for child development and all! Frigging wench lady.)
I know there are a trillion insensitive things that could be said to people of all walks of life. My offerings hopefully show part of the reality for teenage mums – they often find themselves the victims of scathing comments and/or stares from complete and utter strangers. After getting pregnant unintentionally the first time, I absolutely swore I would never be so stupid as to ever get pregnant again. Turns out stupid has nothing to do with it when I found myself in that place again when Hannah was just over a year old despite taking my contraception seriously! The torment I gave myself was more than any comment or look could have achieved.
So anyway, here’s an idea – smile at young parents. Tell them their kids are rockingly cute! Most of the time they need something to work with in the wake of a whole lot of societal judgement. And you never know, it might just increase self esteem and therefore contribute positively to their parenting.