In many ways, having a child is an exercise in humiliation. Like, don’t get it twisted: We love those little jerks. But they can be really, profoundly embarrassing. From raging tantrums that came out of nowhere (nowhere!) in the middle of the produce section, to shouting about bodily functions in restaurants, to being seemingly hellbent on breaking everything wherever you go, kids are like tiny versions of your sloppy drunk friend that you have to take care of. You’re left somewhere between apologizing for her and trying to just get her through whatever the hell confusing thing she’s doing.
But while an apologetic glance to strangers with their varying degrees of sympathy can usually be warranted (and appreciated), there are some things about being a mom that we should never, ever feel obligated to apologize for. Basically, these things break down into a few basic categories:
Time to dust off your trust old #sorrynotsorry hashtag, because these are some things you should give none of the eff’s about, ever.
Oh yes, that sense that everyone wants you to justify the choices you make as a mother start early. Whether you’re choosing an unmedicated vaginal birth, a vaginal birth with an epidural, a planned c-section, a VBAC, birth via surrogate, or adoption, someone is going to imply or straight-up tell you you’re doing it wrong. There’s literally not one part of your birth plan that can’t be disputed as misguided at best or downright damaging at worst, and if you leave yourself open to that kind of input, you’re undoubtedly going to hear it.
Here’s the good news: How you become a parent is absolutely no one’s business. You don’t need to explain yourself or argue your case. Even if the person you’re talking to has kids themselves. Even if the person you’re talking to is a doctor or birth expert. Unless they’re your chosen doctor or midwife, screw them and their smug, judgmental faces. Can you imagine if any other health care decision were treated to as much scrutiny as any aspect of women’s reproductive care? I’d love to see message boards full of sanctimonious people who think they’re experts because they’ve Googled a lot on the subject go on about the ethics of plantar’s wart removal.
When it comes to babies, whether you’re talking about how you feed your child or where you feed your child, you owe absolutely no one an apology nor any moment of your guilt for doing what you need to do or have chosen to do to make sure your child receives proper nutrition. And shock of shocks: There are lots of different ways to deliver nutritious food to a baby! Women don’t breastfeed to make you uncomfortable, random stranger in Starbucks who can’t keep his mouth shut. Other moms don’t formula feed because they think, “Hmmm… I’d like to poison my baby with chemicals, but rat poison is too expensive.” We all want the same thing: fat, happy bebbehs! Frankly, even as kids get older, what you allow them to eat or not eat is really no one else’s business —that’s between you, your kid, and potentially their pediatrician. Food politics are weird in and of themselves — everyone feels entitled to have a say in what other people put in their bodies —but throw parenting in the mix and we’re at Helen Lovejoy levels of pearl clutching.
Don’t apologize to the Helen Lovejoys of the world. Feed your kid what and when you need to.
I don’t mean to blow anyone’s minds here, but when you, an adult human, go out in public, you are going to have to deal with — wait for it — other members of the public. Shockingly, other members of the public include children. It’s true, aside from certain Greek goddesses, no one springs into the world as a fully-formed adult. It always cracks me up that people get all indignant about having to deal with “entitled” parents bringing their children in a restaurant/on a plane/wherever as though acting like you are owed a child-free environment isn’t the epitome of entitlement. If your kid is pitching a fit or has just flung food somewhere or whatever, of course, apologize. But if your kid is keeping to himself and/or you are dealing with a situation appropriately and to the best of your ability, you don’t have to apologize for existing in a family-friendly public space.
Pre-kids, if you called me up and were like, “Hey, it’s 8:30 on a Tuesday. My company is throwing this tequila cocktail party in the Village — are you down?” I’d be like “Woooo!” and then I’d change into my cute shoes and cute skirt at the office and I’d be there in 15 minutes. Post-kids, if you called me up at 8:30 on a Tuesday, my kids are finally asleep and for the first time in 14 hours I don’t have another human being hanging off me. Sorry dudes, I can’t. I physically can’t. The spirit is willing but the flesh is so, so weak.
There’s also, of course, the issue of who is going to take care of these little creatures while I’m galavanting. If one has a partner then they can take one for the team and stay home (though it does get depressing to never be able to attend social functions together that way) or you need to find (and pay for; small detail) a sitter, which is time consuming and pricey. “But you’re talking about stay-at-home moms!” you scream at me from your computer. “What about working moms? They haven’t had a kid hanging on them all day.” Well, yes, that’s true… and in the case, a lot of the time, working moms want to actually go home and spend time with their kids. I was a working mom for a while, and sometimes — often, in fact — a night in with your little psychopath is preferable to a night on the town. Because… love and stuff. Don’t apologize for the fact that your circumstances are completely different now and either prohibit you from attending most social functions or rearrange your priorities.
Magazines and pop culture have this ridiculous obsession with “getting your body back” within, like, forty-five minutes of birth and for so many, many reasons this is stupid and irritating. For starters, no one loses their body—ever. Our bodies never leave us. That’s basically a lifetime guarantee. If you’re not careful or unlucky, you might lose part of your body (I’ll always be haunted by that middle school art teacher I saw lose her index finger to the paper cutter), but you can’t lose all of it. This is good news! As such, there’s no “getting it back.” Second, you are under absolutely no obligation to look a certain way. If you want to lose baby weight and work to get your body to look like it did from before you had a child (either through workouts or surgery) for your own personal satisfaction, then go for it. You do you, and with my blessing, not that you need it, but hey, now you have it anyway and it’s not hurting anything. But you do not owe it to a partner, friends, parents, society in general, or your old wardrobe to conform to any kind of standard.
OK, if you invite someone over then maybe do try to be a gracious hostess and tidy a little bit. (Unless it's your BFF, in which case, they chose to take this journey with you and if they weren't prepared to deal with your bra flung over the back of the couch, they really should've thought a little harder before committing to this life.) But if someone just shows up unexpected, just own what every parent already knows: Your house is probably not going to be clean for longer than 5 minutes until your kids move out. I’m home all day with my children and I probably clean up toys at minimum five times a day. I sweep the floor no less than four times. I soak up all the water that my four-year-old has somehow sprayed over everything while washing his hands. (How he gets water on the ceiling is a mystery, but it’s happened.) It doesn’t matter how hard you work, your kids are programmed to want whatever you have just put away and get food schmutz over whatever floor is the cleanest. In short, children are filthy animals. You are not responsible for this aspect of them. Let go and let God, as they say. With any luck you can tidy up a bit once they’re in bed and sit for a few hours in a not hideously messy home.
True story: I once discovered that the back of my upper arm was crusted over with pureed squash. My son had not eaten squash in two days, and I had taken a shower since then.
Kids. Get. Sh*t. On. Errything. It’s crazy annoying. In addition to creating way more laundry than you even knew you had, it stains all of their completely adorable (new) clothing and leaves yours pretty unfortunate-looking, too. But at a certain point you sort of have to step back and behold their work in awe. Like, “How on Earth did you get food in the direct middle of your back? You can’t even reach there.” I’m convinced this is just one of those things kids do that scientists will one day discover serves some sort of important cognitive development purpose. So don’t apologize. Kids are just kind of gross. They can’t help it and neither can you.
If we, as a society, want to revamp the way we talk and think about and internalize the concept of consent (and we really, really should), we need to work on this issue from day one, starting with babies. Kids have bodily autonomy. They do not give anyone, least of all strangers, affection, and I’m not going to apologize for the fact that my children don’t want to lavish you with kisses or whatever. Don’t take it personally—it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or respect you. It means they aren’t in a hugging mood. I don’t make them hug me when they’re not in the mood, so you certainly don’t get special dispensation.
The way people complain about seeing pictures of kids on social media, you’d think the pictures came to life and kicked people through their screens or something. They. are. pictures. of. children. Calm down, people. If it bothers you that much, block the person from your feed. Besides, if I have to look at all your poorly lit pictures of the questionable food you eat, or yet another blurry selfie, or one more goddamn picture of the wing of a plane accompanied by a million hashtags without complaining, you can put up with my kid smiling adorably back at you. My kids are kind of my primary preoccupation right now, so if you want to keep up with my on social media they are a lot of what you’re going to see. Sorry not sorry.
Images: Courtesy of Jessica Blankenship; Giphy(10)