If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Just Please Go Away

This is my first official post as a WordPress user. In the last few months, I’ve sunk my teeth deep into the world of blogging, and thought I needed to start a fresh project, where I could really be who I truly am. Everything I truly am.

But let’s start with being a mom, since motherhood has been my biggest inspiration for blogging lately, and since I am a regular contributor on Liberating Working Moms.

I have noticed that people always think their ways are the best ways. I used to be one of those people. Until I started to hate those people.

When I was a kid, my family members and I all went to the same dentist who liked to tell jokes while his hands split open the sides of your mouth. This is one of my favorites. A joke that made my mom spit her own saliva right at him before he could get that sucky thing out.

Three Southern Belles are sitting on the veranda of a very spacious plantation sipping mint juleps. The second Southern Belle asks the first Southern Belle, “What did your husband get you upon the birth of your first child?”

The first Southern Belle says, “Upon the birth of my first child my husband bought me that lovely swimmin’ pool you see over there down the lawn.”

The second Southern Belle nods in appreciation and the third Southern Belle says, “How nice.”

Then the first Southern Belle asks the second Southern Belle, “Well, what did your husband get you upon the birth of your first child?”

The second Southern Belle smiles radiantly and says, “Upon the birth of my first child, my husband bought me this beautiful diamond ring.” She holds her hand out for all to admire.

The first Southern Belle exclaims, “Well, my! How very lovely!” and the third Southern Belle says, “How nice.”

Then the first Southern Belle and the second Southern Belle turn to the third Southern Belle and ask, “Well hon, don’t keep us waitin’. What did your husband buy you?”

The third Southern Belle turns her head down demurely and then looks up with the slightest smile. She says, “Upon the birth of my first child, my husband sent me to charm school.”

“Charm school?” ask the first and second Southern Belle. “But why?”

“Well,” she answers, sipping her mint julep. “So I could learn to say things like ‘how nice’ instead of ‘I don’t give a shit.’”

I’m no Southern Belle. Quite the contrary. I’ve lived in Florida most of my life, but I’m a New Yorker by birth and at heart. I think that’s why I like this joke. I don’t say “I don’t give a shit” when people offer unwanted or unsolicited advice to me. But I think it. Because really, what gives you any right to tell me how to live my life or raise my child? What gives anyone that right?

So, here’s my story, or part of it. I married my high school sweetheart the month after I graduated from college. I’ve never been what you would call a “baby person.” Sure, I babysat for friends and family members, volunteered in the nursery at my church, and I’m a teacher by profession, but I always gravitated toward older children. The ones who walked, talked, wiped their own asses. The ones, for the most part, with whom I could reason. To me, babies meant screaming. And I don’t handle screaming well.

My husband and I agreed we would probably have two kids maximum (if the first one went well) and that we would wait 3-5 years to start “trying.” Two months before our third wedding anniversary, my prince was born. And he, and only he, has made me into the baby person I never was and thought I never could be. And his raising is up to his daddy and me. Plain and simple.

I love my son with an everlasting love. He is a happy baby. He has never been (should I delete that because I’m jinxing something?) sick in his almost eleven months of life. He crawls. He stands on his own. He talks a mile a minute—even though I can’t understand a word of it. He fake sneezes when you say, “God bless you.” He laughs like it’s his job. He climbs on everything. He watches ball games with me–like watches them for real. So when someone tells me what a disappointment I am to mothers everywhere because I didn’t exclusively breastfeed or use cloth diapers, I have to laugh, and think what the third Southern Belle had the gall to speak aloud.

For my first post on WordPress, I wanted to do the “mommy blog” thing. But I don’t want to do the typical tell-you-what-to-do mommy blogging. Because I’ll bet you’re a good mom. Even if you are different from me. So I guess, what I want to do, is stop the madness. Please, please, please, stop the incessant “you shoulds.” We’re all mothers. Our goal is the same: a happy, healthy child.

So, here is my favorite—or, not so favorite—comment from a judgmental nobody. If you’re an expectant mother, be prepared to hear some of these jabs. If you are already a mother, you either know where I’m coming from or you live under a rock. And if you are the type of person who would make this comment, either learn not to, or get off my blog, don’t follow me on Twitter. I don’t want to know you.

I was in Babies ‘R Us when my son was just a couple of months old and yes, I was already buying formula. We’ll save the formula argument for another post, though. A woman behind me (who I assumed just wanted to make friendly conversation) greeted me as we both waited in line. The following conversation ensued:

“Do you mind my asking what that costs?” she asked, pointing to the formula bottles (ready-to-feed Similac Alimentum in case you were wondering, otherwise known as liquid gold).

Yes, I mind… I thought to myself. “They’re about $9.00 each,” I answered, realizing that by the time my son turned a year old, my bank account would be nearly $3,000 lighter because of formula. God help me.

“Well, I’ll make sure to tell my daughter that,” she stuck her nose up in the air. “She’s planning on breastfeeding. And this will encourage her.”

You uppity, nosey, overweight, know-it-all… “Well, congratulations on your grandchild,” I smiled through gritted teeth. “And I hope breastfeeding works out for her.”

I paid and left the store, angry, baffled, a slew of emotions jumbled into one.

I’m an outspoken person, but the thing I pride myself in is that I try (I said try) not to put my foot in my mouth. I try to think before I speak and I always ask myself, “What if?” This lady—and I use that term loosely—failed to think of the what-ifs before she let her comments flow.

Things Obnoxious Nosey Lady Should Have Asked Herself (because I actually can testify to all of the following situations):

What if…this is the foster mother of multiple children taken from the same abusive drug addict? 

What if…this is a woman who has been on fertility treatments for months to no avail, and she’s buying formula for her sister-in-law’s child because they’re a little strapped for cash?

What if…this is a mother who takes a medication that is necessary to her physical well-being but also prevents her from breastfeeding?

What if…this is a first-time mother who has sat and watched her underweight premature baby in the NICU while nurses feed him through a tube?

What if…this is a single mother who has to go back to work tomorrow and just doesn’t have enough supply to pump?

If she had taken a second to think of one or more of these possibilities, she would have kept her unkind and boundary-overstepping comment inside her judgmental, close-minded little brain. But she didn’t. Thankfully, I’ve grown some figurative mommy balls in recent months, and the comment didn’t make me cry like it would’ve in previous years. But it did make me think.

The reason why the world is such a cruel place is because of people like this. People who are so intolerant of anything with which they may disagree. People who don’t think before they speak. What are you so afraid of? That I can’t possibly be a caring mother because I’m purchasing formula? That your daughter might fail at breastfeeding, too?

Really, that’s what it boils down to. Ignorance, hate and judgment are all driven by fear and insecurity. And I refuse to live my life by either.

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5 thoughts on “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Just Please Go Away

  1. I am with you. For a long time, I resisted “mommy blogging.” But then I realized that my goal had always been to blog about my daily life–and how could I do that without talking about our daughter?

    But I don’t want to tell people what to do. At most, I can tell you what did or did not work for me. I have no idea whether those things or approaches would work for you, because I’m not you, and my child isn’t yours.

    So I tell stories, but hopefully I’m not giving advice. Because, really, what good is it?

  2. Thank you for relating–I like the way you put it. “I tell stories.” That’s really all any blogger does, isn’t it? I mean, sure, we have experiences, we can offer our experiences that may or may not help others. But at the end of the day, what’s right for you is right for you and may not be right for me. And I’m learning to be okay with individuality.

  3. You’ve written a very strong, true-to-life blog post on a super important topic. I have a lot of respect for you and your stance on the freedom of parenting. There’s just one thing I’m having trouble understanding. It’s not that I am defending the woman who wasn’t able to mind her own business and felt the need to comment on your parenting decisions (I’m not, she had no right), but what I don’t get is why her weight is at all relevant to your point? I mean, the other comments were justified– she disrespected you, and calling her a “nosey know-it-all” in your mind is a totally acceptable response to the situation, because that’s exactly how she was acting. Basically, this is a great post in which a lot of wonderful points are made, but it’s kind of hard to take your words against ignorance, hate, and judgment to heart when you are using them to also pass judgment and hatred onto another human. When mixed in with a few negative comments like that, it suggests that being “overweight” is a negative thing to be, but that isn’t necessarily true. Weight isn’t directly related to health, after all. A person’s weight doesn’t define their character, and yet you’ve included a weight-defining term on a list of insults. I’m just curious about why you felt like the woman’s weight was noteworthy, and if you truly mean what you implied?

  4. Christy,

    Although I’m inclined to believe that you’ve taken one word out of context in an attempt to ascertain my character and imply that I’ve perpetuated ignorance with my comments, I’ll go ahead and offer an explanation of my thought process. What you are seeing in the very short, italicized, in-my-head comment is twofold:

    First of all, though I didn’t become too specific about it, I was attempting to present a paradox. Not that her weight was necessarily “relevant” to my point, but many of us live our lives believing we are right, when there are unhealthy aspects of our own lives. This woman intimated that breast-feeding is the healthier, better option when it comes to raising and feeding a child. Unnecessary, at the very least, because it is obvious by the fact that I’m buying formula that I am not breast-feeding. And paradoxical, because this woman is not the epitome of health and wellness.

    Second of all, and probably more importantly, when I was in college, I heard a lecture about the connection between our vision and our brains. Basically, the man argued that every person makes an assessment of what he sees. I see Johnny Depp, my eyes send my brain a message: “That’s attractive.” This immediate thought process does not mean that I love my husband any less, that I would ever act on that attraction, or anything of the like. It is simply the way we are wired. Similarly, in this situation, I looked at the woman, and noticed that she was overweight. In my blog, I could’ve very well left out that “insult” as you call it, which it wasn’t intended to be, but instead, I was honest. I wanted you to include not only the entirety of the conversation, but also the entirety of my thought process. That way, I could make a distinction between a person’s thoughts and a person’s speech and actions. I chose to speak and act differently than my immediate, emotional thought process wanted me to. And to me, that’s the important part. You didn’t see this woman, but she did not look healthy. You’re absolutely right that weight is not always tied to health. You don’t know my family, but I have overweight members of my family. I myself am no poster child for health and fitness. However, when I saw this woman and heard her speech, my eyes and ears sent the message “overweight” to my brain. Not as an insult, but more as an observation of a contradiction.

    You feel that you see such a contradiction in me because I spoke against hate and ignorance, but used a term to insult a woman. I see it differently. The sticky point to me is that we all have thoughts, but it’s what we do with them that counts. I did not let those thoughts come out of my mouth. I did not let my assessment of her body or her opinions change my response. I spoke to her respectfully. I wished her daughter well.

    I know many people who grew up with racist parents. They have difficulty letting go of some of the stereotypes they automatically think to themselves when they see people of another race. My family wasn’t like that–as I married outside my race–but I can understand the mindset. It’s a trial to simply train your mind to think differently in the society we live in but even though I make mistakes, and my thoughts may not always be as kind-hearted as the words that come out of my mouth, I’m working on it. I wasn’t implying that being overweight has anything to do with being judgmental. I wasn’t attempting to use the adjective as an insult. Instead, I was simply outlining my thought process, and showing the difference in my thoughts and the words I let come out of my mouth.

  5. Pingback: An Only Child? My Family, My Decision. | Liberating Working Moms

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