When you go to a restaurant and order the most decadent dessert off of the menu and the waiter brings it out to your table, you pick up your fork and dig in. Especially if you’re sharing it with someone (or even if you aren’t), you normally finish that glorious dessert in a few minutes. When the waiter comes back, what does he say as he looks down at your empty plate? “You didn’t like that at all, did you?!”
Har de har har. What a comedian.
Pregnancy and motherhood is also full of cliché phrases like this that strangers are quick to spit out. These pieces of advice for moms or “wisdom” that people like to share usually come from a good place. However, as the pregnant lady or mother receiving said “wisdom,” I can promise you that it’s not necessary.
These phrases also seem to be the easy way out. They are what is expected of a stranger to say to a new mom trying to calm a screaming baby. They are the first thing that comes to mind when someone sees a hugely pregnant lady waddling down the aisles of Target. Yes, these things are easy to say. But please, just stop. If you absolutely need to say something to that mom or pregnant woman, think of something original. Something sweet. Something uplifting and supportive. Now that would be a nice change.
“Are you having twins??”
This is never, never, I repeat, never an okay thing to say. If you meet a pregnant woman whose belly is much larger than you would think a pregnant belly would be at her stage, you say nothing about it. Ever. Actually, as a stranger, please never say anything (good or bad) to a pregnant woman about her body or pregnancy. If you actually do meet the woman, here is something you could say: “Beyonce had nothing on you! You look awesome!”
“Oh, you had better sleep as much as you can now. Once the baby comes, you won’t sleep for 18 years!”
Sleep is not something you can store up. We are not camels and sleep is not fat that we store in our humps. While it’s true that once the baby comes, that new mom will never sleep through the night again (well, not for a long time), don’t tell her that! She knows this. She also knows that as a pregnant lady, she is hardly sleeping through the night right now. When I was pregnant, I woke up every hour or two. It was to go to the bathroom or to hoist myself up to roll onto my other side to try and get more comfortable. The heartburn alone kept me awake or made me to sleep in my armchair, instead of my cozy bed. So no, that pregnant woman cannot just “sleep now,” so please don’t tell her that. What could you say instead? Nothing. Pregnant women never want to talk about sleep.
“Sleep while the baby sleeps.”
While on paper this works in theory it A) is something new moms already know and B) is much easier said than done. There are a few reasons I could never do this. The first is that I’m really bad at taking naps. I stopped napping all together when I turned 2 years old (my poor mom), and (pregnancy aside) I always found it difficult to sleep during the day in adulthood too. Besides that, when my baby boy goes down for a nap, I am usually catching up on my office job work. If it’s the weekend or even when I was on maternity leave, if he’s sleeping, I’m cleaning up, doing laundry, or any of the other million things that are on my to-do list. Napping is not one of those things. A baby’s nap time is the perfect time for moms to catch up on work or chores, or even to watch that one episode of A Handmaid’s Tale that has been waiting to be watched for weeks. Instead, say, “Your baby is beautiful! I remember how little sleep I got when mine was that age. I hope you’re doing okay!”
“What a cute baby! Before you know it, he’ll be all grown up. It goes by so fast.”
Yes, childhood goes by quickly. Again, a new mom knows this. She also knows that last night when her baby woke up 8 times because he is teething felt like a year. It would be much better to tell her, “I remember when my son was that little – that age is so fun!”
“You’ve got your hands full”
Nope. Never. If a mom looks like she has her “hands full,” either offer to help or say nothing at all. If you must say something, you could say, “I wanted to let you know that you are doing an amazing job!”
When I was a waitress, once or twice, as I gathered the finished dessert plates off of the table, I heard those awful words leaving my mouth, “You didn’t like that at all…” NOOOOOO. How could I?!?! Stooping down to that level was something I had sworn never to do, but yet, I did. Why?? The reason is simple. It was easy. There was probably an uncomfortable silence and I felt like I needed to fill the dead air with words. I wanted to make myself feel less awkward.
The same goes for all of these pieces of advice for moms or moms-to-be. When you say them, you are actually saying them for a selfish reason. It could be to fill some dead air with words and these are the easiest ones that come to your mind. Or, for a much sweeter (but equally selfish) reason: You are saying them to yourself. You’re remembering your time being pregnant and how little you appreciated your sleep. You’re reminiscing on how quickly your baby boy or girl grew into a young adult. If this is the case, that’s fine, but just go a little deeper and say something a little more original than jumping to one of the old standbys.