A good friend of mine posted this chart on her Facebook page today, and it really got me thinking (and angry). I’ve seen things like this elsewhere on the Internet, on mom blogs, Huffington Post, etc, and I fully believe it to be true. It’s not even about being “politically correct”, or the recipient of the question being “oversensitive” (hands up if you’ve been called that when someone hurt your feelings!). It’s about recognizing the simple yet oft-forgotten fact that thoughtless words can do so much harm.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past. I once asked a coworker when she and her husband were planning on starting a family. She changed the subject, and I later found out that they were experiencing serious health issues. I can only imagine how deeply my question hurt. I’ve never asked anything like that since. Unfortunately I’ve challenged others to do the same, and was verbally backhanded by “well-meaning” people who were just “making conversation”. No one wants to admit that they’ve made a mistake and stuck their foot in their mouth, so they make it the OTHER person’s fault for getting offended. They would rather actually keep asking “innocent” questions that they KNOW can be hurtful. It boggles my mind. So here’s my rant in response.
Maybe that young mom just LOOKS young (lucky!). Maybe she was raped, was pressured to have an abortion and chose to keep her baby (and still gets judged by pearl-clutching busybodies in the church pews). Maybe she’s a young married mom with a planned baby. Bottom line, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Maybe that mom with lots of children wanted a big family. Maybe she married someone and became a stepmother. Maybe she wanted to adopt, and was blessed with siblings. Maybe she struggled with infertility for years, used IVF and was blessed with multiples. Bottom line, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Maybe that mom with children all of one sex is…. Ok you know what? This one gets me REALLY hoppin’ mad. I just want to punch people who ask “are you going to try one more time for a boy/girl” right in the throat. Way to make that youngest child feel unwanted, you innocently-questioning jerk. Maybe she DID wish for a child of the opposite sex, and is struggling with the immense guilt of feeling that way. Thanks for reminding her. Bottom line, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Maybe that mom with twins DOES have her hands full. I don’t see YOU helping her, but you’re more than happy to pass on the much-needed reminder that having twins is HARD. Again, maybe that mom conceived twins via IVF after a decade of infertility. Maybe her twins came after suffering multiple miscarriages, and she thanks her lucky stars every day she has them. Maybe they were originally triplets, and one didn’t make it. Bottom line, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Maybe the mom with two children close in age wanted it that way. Maybe they are step-siblings. Maybe she was worried about starting a family later in life, and chose to have her children in a short period of time for that reason. Maybe the youngest one WASN’T planned, but deeply wanted, despite how well-meaning question-askers make her feel. Bottom line, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Maybe the mom with a racially diverse family struggled with infertility, suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, the works, before adopting her children. Maybe her husband is of a different ethnicity and that’s inexplicably still a big deal in North American society. Maybe her heart is huge and she wanted to give children in need a wonderful home. Maybe every time she is asked those questions, she feels judged and her children feel like they don’t belong. Maybe your well-meaning questions make her feel like she’s not a real mother. Bottom line, it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
PEOPLE. It stops being small talk when it makes that mother feel bad/embarrassed/ashamed/angry. It stops being an innocent question when it’s the third time she’s heard it today and she’s tired of having to validate herself and her family. Just because you don’t think these questions are offensive doesn’t mean they’re not, especially if you don’t know the person. Nobody’s censoring you when they ask you to think before you speak. But now you know these questions can rip open wounds that may or may not ever heal, so please do your fellow human a favour and keep your wondering in your head.
Every baby is beautiful. Every family is beautiful. Every mother is beautiful. It’s our culture that’s ugly, turning anything that isn’t the widely-accepted “norm” into an other, worthy only of judgement and ridicule, whispers and side-eyes. And we’d rather call them “oversensitive” or “easily offended” than take good look at WHY what we say may be hurtful. Or apologize. Or, you know, avoid saying those things in the first place. THAT’s what’s wrong with society today.
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