When I look back to five years ago and think about the stupid things I thought about motherhood, babies, and raising children before I actually had any experience with any of those things, I squirm in pure embarrassment. Because despite having absolutely no experience in any of those arenas, I had Very Important And Loud Opinions. Actually becoming a mother changes you in ways you don't necessarily expect, and you learn quickly that the addition of kids to your life give you a very new definition of normal. But this can lead to a different variety of Very Important And Loud Opinions: The Declarations of The Experienced Mother.
The Experienced Mother (known on many Internet mom boards as the BTDT or "been there, done that" mom) is a veteran of many a diaper, tantrum, and sleepless night. These moms are strong and capable. They've been in the trenches. They've earned the reverence of those who come to them for advice... but sometimes they let their experience get to their heads and refuse to acknowledge that other mothers, especially new ones, might also know a thing or two. Sometimes, Experienced Mothers do not (or will not) recognize that that the game has changed on them. They can be a bit too free with unsolicited advice. They can be smug. At their worst they exude an air of...
No one wants to be that mom. So how can we avoid it? By never saying the following to moms less experienced that we are...
This ambiguous threat warns new moms that this is the calm before the storm... or that their suffering has only just begun. Either way, it's pretty obnoxious. Why would you tell someone who's already struggling that they will see no reprieve (or worse, that they're not actually having a hard time)? Why would you ruin a beautiful moment between a mom and her baby? Just don't.
"If You Think This Is Hard..."
I do. I do think this is hard. Do you know why? Because it is. And I'm sure things will be hard in different ways down the road. That doesn't mean this isn't hard. Maybe you're just conveniently forgetting how tough the first weeks, months, or years are.
"Here, Let Me..."
This (and indeed, all of these "things-never-to-be-uttered) is about tone. If an experienced mom sees a new mom struggling to get her keys out of her diaper bag while holding a screaming baby, "Here, let me!" is a very nice thing to hear. But if a an experienced mom whips out "here, let me!" as code for, "Ugh! Just let me take over whatever it is you're doing wrong. Obviously you need someone to show you how it's done," there is little worse. New moms often have huge insecurities about their lack of experience, someone passive-aggressively telling them they're failing at something is not a good way to boost her confidence or help her through a rough spot.
"Enjoy Every Minute."
Look, I know you're trying to be sentimental and sweet here, but I am just not going to feel particularly sentimental after my child has shot projectile poop at me for the third time that day and I'm out of clean shirts. I'm not going to enjoy every minute right now because every minute is not enjoyable. New moms know, deep down, that they will probably look back on the whole of their parenting experience with warm fuzzy memories (because the good outweighs the bad) but the thing with nostalgia is that it takes time and distance. If new moms put time and distance between them and their children, someone is going to get hurt or wind up arrested for neglect.
"Well, When I Was Raising Kids..."
When you were raising kids, Nixon was president and car seats were more likely to give your baby tetanus than protect them in a crash. So how about we don't...
"You Say That Now..."
Yep. Because this is what I want to do now. And maybe I will change course when I find it doesn't work, but you condescendingly nay-saying and second-guessing my parenting isn't especially helpful.
"They're Awful When They're Teenagers."
I hear this so much (notably in regard to girls), but I just haven't found this to be a universal among the people I know. My mom had four kids and she said she found our teenage years to be some of the most enjoyable. Also I frequently work with teenagers and, while I know it's not the same as being a parent to one, I really dig them. There's something fun about talking to someone who is new to exploring the world on an intellectual level.
But all that aside, OK, for the sake of argument, let's just say a kid's teen years are tough on everyone involved: Why are you being such a Debbie Downer?! I thought you wanted me to enjoy every minute. Just let me enjoy it without worrying that my kids are going to become hormonal psychopaths.
"I Have A Kid, I think I Know What I'm Talking About."
Far be it from me to discount your experience, but having a kid doesn't make you an expert on my kid.
"I Did [Outdated Practice] And They Turned Out Fine."
Well, I mean, I'm glad everything worked out well for you, your children, and the rice cereal you put in their bottles at a day old. Great! I'm still going to do things differently.
I will. I'm going to learn a lot, and I'll probably do a lot of that learning by doing things "the wrong way," or at the very least figuring out what works best for me through trial and error. I'm guessing this is how you, experienced mom, also learned. The whole process will almost certainly go quicker without someone lording their experience smugly over me.
"Told You So."
I swear to God, I will end you.