I think I'm in the wrong village

It's only taken few brief months of motherhood to learn that everyone knows my child better than I do.

From the gaggle of bespectacled old women who suggested rather emphatically that I should move to a table farther from the front door in the coffee shop; to the considerate nanny on the street who shouted, "get a hat on that baby!" Extra-loud. Just to make sure I didn't miss out on some rare, free advice from a paid professional childcare expert.

Thalia in a rare, hat-wearing moment

What a lucky first-time mom I am to reap the expertise of the entire community. Like the saleswoman who said, "wow, she's a skinny one. Don't you feed her?" Well my goodness, if it weren't for you reminding me, I would have gone right on not feeding her for another three weeks! And the very same day, the neighbor who said, "four months? She's huge! What are you feeding her?" You know, the usual. Chicken McNuggets.

And then there is that all-seeing, all-knowing woman in my building (every big building in New York has at least one of them). In this case, the slick, silver-tongued, aerobicized realtor who likes to grandstand for her openhouse visitors in the lobby each Sunday by greeting each resident by name and throwing out some little tidbit that demonstrates just how close she is with every one of us.

"Hi LIZ, hi NATE. Hope you had a nice trip to CALIFORNIA last week. How is your darling bulldog, EMILY? And the baby? TALIA? How is she? Still got those HUGE BROWN EYES?"

Never mind that her name isn't Talia and I've corrected the woman sixteen times.

When I was pregnant she told me there was no way I was (16, 23, 37) weeks, I was way too small. And not in a complimentary way; rather in a "get a second opinion, I could be saving the life of your fetus" way. You know, because after (16, 23, 37) weeks of counting every minute since conception, I, along with my top-rated, high-risk obstetrician, may have made a deadly mathematical error.

Once Thalia was born, I was lucky enough to continue running into this woman so that I could further harvest her little gems of maternal wisdom. Like the importance of getting a good night's sleep when I could. Or the innovative suggestion that if Nate shared some of the night feedings, I could sleep more. Once afternoon after I returned from a walk with the baby, she cornered me in the elevator and inquired whether I was still breastfeeding. Before I could answer, she stared squarely at my triple-Ds and answered her own question.

"Well of course you are. How is it going?"

"Oh just fine, thanks. Really no problems."

"You say that now. But just know that men have a very hard time with it. They're jealous of this beautiful bonding experience between you and the baby that they can never have themselves. So if you start having some problems with your husband, just know that this is what it is."

I nodded graciously, smiling with lips pressed together just a little too tightly. The elevator doors rumbled open. I appreciated living on a low floor.

"Oh!" she called out from the elevator as I headed down the hallway, "that's not to say you shouldn't keep breastfeeding. It's very good for your child!"

It takes a village indeed.


Blogger the stefanie formerly known as stefanierj said...

Epic post. I don't know what's worse: annoyingly condescending strangers remarking on your baby's size/behavior/feeding medium/sleeping habits or other MOTHERS who should KNOW BETTER doing the same thing.

For instank, when I lamented my breasts' refusal to cooperate with my plan to BF for a year, a "momfriend" of mine noted that HER son "has never had a DROP of formula." Hey, thanks. You know, for your support.

Or the friends who do the whole passive aggressive self-deprecating thing: "Oh, sorry you can't come with us because your son has to nap. I never let Dylan's naps dictate MY schedule. But I'm just a bad mom, I guess."

Can't I just live in the village where everyone's as defensive and hostile as I am?

2/16/06, 8:52 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Thalia is beautiful. That picture is too much. Archer wants her digits ASAP.

And duuuuuude I hear you with the Momdescending. I haven't had a Mommy friend since I started my blog. Everyone I met in the flesh and blood world talked way too much and said nothing.

When Archer was born, my old neighbor wanted to compare percentiles with her kid and I was like, "step back, bitch."

Oy vey. Fist to the chest, sister.

2/17/06, 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I echo GGC - they all talk but no listen - and that's what most of us need (hence the propensity for BLOGGING...). And really, I had to decide to listen to NO ONE. She's tall, short, big, small - and most of the times, she's a boy, even wearing pink shirts and flowered shoes (she has no hair) - This one woman blamed me for her mistake because I called her buddy???

You are a great writer. And thanks for all your ++ thoughts. I really appreciate it. I'm putting you on my blogroll bbabababababyyy..

2/17/06, 7:58 AM  
Blogger Binky said...

Classic! How do these people find you?!?! And as for husbands feeling left out of the beautiful, bonding moments of breastfeeding, let me just say that my guy was not feeling neglected last night. Milk and cookies: not just for kids anymore ;)

2/17/06, 9:49 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Thalia and Archer sitting in a tree....

2/17/06, 10:46 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

First time checking out your blog and it's super funny. Love this one because I had some very similar experiences. I'll never forget being in a little gym class and my daughter had a meltdown because it was time to put the balls away. Another mother actually came over to me and said, "wow, what a set of lungs on her!" ha!

2/20/06, 10:03 PM  
Blogger mad muthas said...

so funny - i'm going to post about this kind of thing shortly and i'd love to link to this fantastic rant. would that be ok?

1/19/07, 11:18 AM  
Blogger Jane Henry said...

Oh yes. I remember those days well. You wait till Thalia is having a toddler tantrum. See the people stare, like their children NEVER did that. Ever.

Me, I think there is a selective amnesia that goes on and people just forget.

My best Mummy put down was from my mother in law. My husband and his brothers apparently never had dirty nappies. Ever. She spent the whole of their infanthood holding them above a potty. No wonder they potty trained them young in those days....

My best advice (I hope you don't take this the wrong way... I'm not trying to tell you what to do!) is IGNORE em all. You are Thalia's mum, therefore YOU automatically KNOW best!!!

1/30/07, 5:13 AM  
Blogger Sarah Jane said...

Oh. My. Goodness. You are another ME! And my husband says, "They mean well. They're not trying to insult you." Yes, I'm the bitch. Works out great for me.

8/16/08, 1:58 AM  

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