Unsolicited Judgement

23 Jan

As new parents, I think it’s fair to say we’re all dealt with our share of unsolicited advice, but what I’d like to share is my experience with unsolicited pity.  Sagan was born two weeks before my 23rd birthday, and by today’s standards–especially considering the area I live in– I am a young mother, and I look even younger, often getting mistaken for a teenager.  I was fully prepared to get dirty looks during my pregnancy, but due to hyperemesis, I didn’t spend much of my pregnancy looking very pregnant.  Going to work was especially concerning because I am a very private person, and this was a very public display of my personal life. Fortunately, because I work in a pharmacy, I got to wear black clothes and a smock. Barely anyone noticed my bulging belly, despite working until I was 8  months pregnant.

I returned to work when my son was 5 months old and it was a completely different story.  I’ve worked there for five years, and had seen many of the same customers on a regular basis, so of course they noticed my long absence.  For every “You had a baby, really?  Congratulations!” that I received, I was bombarded with questions about my child’s father, and whether he was still in the picture.  I got looks of concern, and asked what my plans for the future were.  I was asked if I could properly support my child, and if my parents were helping me out.  I was asked who was watching my son right now.  The list of invasive questions seemed to be never ending and while I mostly just brushed it off, an encounter from a few days ago has really stuck with me, and inspired this post.

Despite having been back at work for a few months, I only work three days a week, so it’s not uncommon that I see people I haven’t seen since I’ve been back more recently.  Last week, J came in and asked me how the baby was and to see a picture. I love showing off Sagan , so I happily obliged. After admiring my son, we went into our regular chat about his work problems, him quitting smoking, and turning his health around in general.  Soon enough, the usual question about my baby’s father came up.  I told him he was home with the baby.

“Good, I’m glad you guys are trying to work it out.”  Despite finding the wording incredibly rude, I brushed it off, chalking  it up to his abrasive nature.

The next question took  me completely aback.  “Why don’t you let your mom keep your baby?”  I didn’t even know what to say, or if he was being serious, and tried to just laugh it off.  “Well, why don’t you?  Wouldn’t he be better off?” he asked again.  I was still speechless, and just mustered a “because he’s my child…”, wishing I could have thought of something more clever to say.  This had gone from rude, to downright hurtful.  Especially coming from someone who over the years has said many times what an intelligent person I was, and was judging my parenting abilities only on my apparent age.

I’m still unsure of how exactly he meant it.  Perhaps he thought I should enjoy my youth. Pre-baby, I did many stupid things young twenty-somethings did.  I am completely happy with my life right now.  Yes, I used to drink too much, smoke like a chimney, and spend all my money to travel and see friends, often attending raves; but I never once regretted giving it all up.

I can’t give him the benefit of the doubt–he seems to think I am an inadequate mother.  I can deal with people thinking I let some random man–boy–pressure me into unprotected sex, and am now a single mom to his child, but I really resent anyone questioning my parenting abilities. Without letting this get too defensive, I just hope that maybe someone reads this and realizes that insinuating someone is a bad parent because of their age or financial situation is one of the most hurtful things you can do.  As new moms, we are constantly researching everything, and making sure we do everything right, even if there is not real right way to do said thing;  and while we certainly don’t need a stranger’s validation, unwarranted advice and pity is just that… unwarranted.  I know for me, it’s already hard enough leaving my son to go to work.  When I come back to feed him halfway through, it pains me all over again to leave… and when I’m going back to deal with verbal abuse, it makes it even harder.

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