Happy Mothers’ Day for all of you in the UK. I’m celebrating today too because of my three mothers’ days (British, Canadian and French) my husband and I are only going to be in the same country for this one and the children are too little to spoil me by themselves just yet 😉
So, as it’s Mothers’ Day and I can do what I want, today I’m having a little rant about strangers and their acute interest in your family planning. Nobody has gone so far as to ask me which form of contraception I use but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…
It starts as soon as you’ve been with your boyfriend for a decent length of time (say, a year).
When are you getting engaged?
Then, once your now fiancé has finally cracked, when are you getting married?
And, once the big white dress has been stored away, the cake has been eaten, and the wedding album has been put away on the shelf to be looked at maybe once a year when you’re feeling nostalgic, we get to the bones of the matter. Because nobody really cared about any of the preliminaries.
What they want to know is – when are you having babies?
Complete strangers will feel perfectly entitled to ask you about this. One of my school friends went to the bank to change the name on her account after getting married and the clerk, who she’d never met before, asked her when she was planning to have children. The cheek!
I admit, I do this too. In fact, I did it to the same friend (sorry!) – my excuse is that none of my school friends have little ones yet and I want mine to have some baby friends… but maybe I’m also a bit nosy.
But even once you’ve dutifully got yourself pregnant, the questions don’t stop. In fact, they get worse because now, in some weird way, society owns you. Your body is no longer your own – it’s been lent out to grow a new member of society. And you don’t just get questions, you get people’s unsolicited opinions too.
When are you due?
Oh you’re big/small.
It is perfectly possible to be told you are big and small in the same day. But really, if it’s not your midwife or doctor telling you, it means absolutely nothing at all.
Is it a boy or a girl?
EITHER: What you don’t know?!!!!!!! I had to find out because I’m a planner.
I don’t buy this, by the way. I am the planniest of all planners and didn’t find out – I bought gender neutral stuff and then, lo and behold, I was able to reuse it for my son. I mean, if you need to know, I get that, but it isn’t because you need to plan.
OR: Oh that’s great I didn’t find out either. It makes it so much more special doesn’t it?
Um, I don’t know, maybe? I didn’t find out with my first because I didn’t want to imagine what the little person would be like and because I didn’t care. We didn’t find out with my second because it was my husband’s turn to decide and he took too long to make a decision (story of his life).
You’re carrying high/low it must be a boy/girl.
With my first, I was told frequently that I was having a boy, except for by one terrifying shop assistant who insisted forcefully that she knew I was having a girl. Credit where credit’s due: she was right.
And finally, after nine, long months you get that baby out of you and the questions and opinions cease.
Oh no, wait, they don’t.
Upon seeing you with child and baby:
Oh you’ve got your hands full. I had three million children.
What’s the age gap?
For me two years is a perfectly unremarkable age gap.
But for some people, two years is huge – these mothers tend to have children about 18 months apart.
For others, two years is horribly close together. I had one mum say to me that it would be great if we were young enough to have had a four-year gap. I had my second a month before my 28th birthday. I think I could probably have hung on for two more years without my ovaries fossilising if I’d wanted to…
Is that a baby boy in there?
Oh that’s nice. One of each. A million dollar family (come again??) You can stop now!
EUm, thank you for your opinion on the number and gender of children I should have. If I’d had a second girl would you be consoling me and telling me better luck next time? What if I wanted six girls? What if I’m a complete loon and want more than two kids?
And, pretty much every postpartum mother’s favourite question:
Are you thinking of having another?
I gave birth less than six months ago and haven’t had more than four hours’ sleep at a time for many, many, many months. So no, not just yet. And even if I were IT WOULD BE NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.