When I was a first-time mom in 2014, I joined Baby Center — do you remember that app? I was asking strangers for their opinions on just about everything including our baby’s future name, to which strangers responded without any politeness filter. At the time, I was teaching and actually had one of those strangers say that if we named our future child “X,” she would assume I was uneducated and ignorant… and actually pull her child from my class.
Welcome to Motherhood. Let the judgment begin!
Since that first year, I have left the Baby Center app and its groups without a tear shed, but I have joined a wide variety of similar groups on Facebook. I am sure you and I are even in some of the same ones. For the first few years, I was a clueless onlooker and question-asker. Back then, I viewed what seasoned moms had to say as gold and wondered what it would be like to have that experience under my belt. Once I got to that point, I wondered what would I do with my “knowledge.” Say, “Oh, you just WAIT…” to everything? Be empathetic and helpful? Take on a mentorship-like role? Or, scroll by those new moms thinking “Thank goodness I am past that” and roll my eyes?
I’ve been the new mom, and now I’m the seasoned mom — if you can call it that (my kids are six and almost three). The role I’ve recently adopted has been that of the first-time mom body guard. My duties include providing a reality check to stressed out new moms while politely asking well-meaning responders to reconsider their responses.
For example, a new mom posts about her 2.5-year-old not knowing the ABCs and is wanting ideas on how to get her child up to speed. She says she is even embarrassed to admit that. Another mom responds with saying this about her own child of the same age:
“(My child) has an organic fascination with letters and numbers. So he knows all of his ABCs, uppercase and lowercase, knows all of their sounds, can spell out words, can identify words and letters, can say his whole alphabet, can count to 13 completely unassisted and is learning up to 20, can count and say his alphabet backwards, knows shapes, colors, and animals.”
I mean… No. Just no. But then it continued.
“Kids pick their own paths. Focus on what she does know. Celebrate her personality. Find her interests. There’s no reason she needs letters right now.”
Translation: “It’s a bummer your toddler isn’t a savant like mine, but it’s okay. I’m sure she has a great personality and maybe knows a few colors — it’s all good! She’s on her own journey!”
I just can’t with this stuff.
Now, I could have minded my own business and scrolled on by, but I felt compelled to come to the rescue this poor first-time mother. I remember the feeling of comparing my child to others, especially over stuff that absolutely did NOT matter. I also have a personal pet peeve of moms using any opportunity whether it be a thread such as this or social media to broadcast their child’s so-called giftedness. As a seasoned mom, I have no time for this type of nonsense.
I told the sweet mom to not be embarrassed. This should be nowhere on her radar or on her list of things to stress over. I then indirectly addressed the mother of the child genius and by saying that when a parent is stressed is not the time to list all the things your child can do.
Whether online or in person, I know I do not respond to new moms perfectly. None of us does. But I do think we can all agree that adding to a mother’s feelings of inadequacy in any way is not helpful. This applies to new moms and moms with years under their belts.
So before we respond, can we ask ourselves, “What does this mom need? Is what I’m going to say helpful?”
Let’s go out and help ease the anxieties of first-time moms, not add to them.