The early days of being a mum generally pass in a haze of zombiefied exhaustion, euphoric love-struck amazement, abject terror and biscuits. Let’s be honest, in the very early days, visitors, other than perhaps very close family, are about as welcome as Michael Gove at a teachers’ convention. But once you’re over the stage where you sob uncontrollably at adverts and your undercarriage resembles a mangled lasagne, the arrival of some new faces is a welcome break from the feed-burp-change-repeat cycle. However, just in case you are in any doubt, there are some things that you categorically one hundred per cent should not say to a new mum. Avoid them at all costs, or you might find yourself wearing a dirty nappy.
“I’ve had this flu bug, but I am over the worst now.”
Take your germs and get out. GET OUT.
“Are you breast or bottle feeding?”
None of your effing business, thanks, so just don’t ask. The feeding issue is the one that causes mothers the most angst in the first year. If you ask, you will inevitably follow with some kind of judgement, and frankly, it’s not welcome. Instead, stick around, because babies need refuelling really often, so you will soon find out. Out comes a boob or bottle; there’s your answer. But do not pass comment, because unless you see a mother forcing the contents of a KFC bucket into a Tommee Tippee, you really don’t get to have an opinion.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Sage advice. Impossible to follow if you do not want to sink, unwashed, into a pile of dirty laundry. Stuff needs doing. Naps ain’t happening.
“Is he a good baby?”
He’s a baby. He sleeps, he cries, he eats, he burps and he fills nappies. That’s kind of it, and anything else would be kind of freaky, to be honest. Sorry he’s not reciting Shakespearean sonnets and doing calculus, but doesn’t he do a wonderful job of blinking? Apologies that he’s slow off the mark with his charity work. He literally just started existing. There are no good or bad babies.
“If you want my advice…”
If she wants it, she’ll ask for it. Don’t feel the need to impart your wisdom unbidden. It’s just unnecessary.
“Cherish every moment”
It’s really difficult to find a way to cherish a knee-to-neck poonami in a dubious public baby change when you’re down to your last baby wipe. Don’t lay this on her; some moments of parenthood are just not that cherish-able.
“Just wait until she’s a toddler/teenager!”
Do not tell her that this is the easy part. It’s all she can do to get dressed some days. You just don’t know how she’s finding things at the moment, so please assume that your Dr. Doom proclamations that it only gets worse are really not what she wants to hear. You might be having issues with the toddler/tween/teen/beyond, and there will be plenty of time for you as a friend or family member to hold court about this, ask for advice, rant, let off steam. Not now though, okay? The only kid that matters on this first visit is the small, mewling bundle with the rumbly bottom. Even if the bottom rumbles are their only contribution to the ambiance.
“How are you planning on losing that baby weight?”
Seriously, she will either cry or throat-punch you. Don’t say it.
Here are some tried and tested winning statements for when you visit a new mum:
– You are amazing.
– You are doing brilliantly.
– You’re a natural.
– I bought you some dinner.
– I can hold the baby if you want me to, but only if you do.
– Here, have some cake.
– Shall I stick the kettle on?
– Or would you prefer a small glass of wine?
– What a beautiful baby you have.
It’s not difficult, really, is it? Most people know this. Most people can do it. But ask a new mum, and they have probably experienced at least one of the statements on this list of “Don’t”s. And it might have really bought them down, and made their life more stressful, at a time when they should have been supported in adjusting to the crazy ride that is being a mother. So please let this serve as a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) reminder, so that no one ends up on the news “And Finally” section for their part in a quirky tale of a Sophie La Girafe getting rammed up an uncomfortable orifice by a hormonal Mamma with a bad houseguest.
No one wants to be famous for that.
Written by Michelle Harris @brilliantly_ordinary