There's something about being a mom that attracts all kinds of questions and comments from other moms, acquaintances and even strangers.
Moms are doing their best and they really don't need to be judged or quizzed on their parenting practices. Even if you're a mom yourself, here are just a few of the things you should never say to a mom:
1. You should breast feed/co sleep/baby wear
No, I should do what works for me, my child and my family circumstances. And maybe there's a very good reason why I don't (or can't) parent way you think I should.
If you think you have advice that might help a mom out, be very careful about how you offer it. Any sentence that starts with "you should" needs to be rephrased.
This is a question you can ask if you're a close friend but be wary with strangers and acquaintances. It can be a loaded question.
Maybe she's trying for another one, and experiencing secondary infertility. Maybe she wants another child and her husband doesn't. Maybe she's spiralling into post-partum depression and can't even think about being pregnant. Be courteous and sensitive, and opt to not ask.
3. Man, you have a lot of kids
She's already aware of how many kids she has. It's her choice, her responsibility and her business. Instead, comment on how handsome her three boys are.
4. Do you work?
You're asking if she's returned to paid work or if she's "just" doing the unpaid, 24-hour-a-day work of raising a family, right? All moms work. If you're curious, rephrase the question to politely ask (not judge) if she's decided to return back to her pre-pregnancy profession or has chosen to spend all day loving her little ones at home.
5. What do you do all day?
This is often a question aimed at stay-at-home moms, by people who've never been stay-at-home moms. Here's the answer to your question - We take care of our kids. Yes, that does keep us occupied all day. You'll see. Just you wait.
6. Mine slept through the night from two weeks old
That's great for you. My sweet babies didn't sleep through the night until they were over two years old. An exhausted mom who hasn't had an uninterrupted night's sleep in years draws no comfort from how well-rested you were as a new mom.
7. You're spoiling him
Maybe she is. Maybe she's responding to his needs in a caring and appropriate manner. It's all according to opinion and as his mother, hers is the one that matters.
8. Does your husband help?
This question is pretty bothersome on so many levels. First it implies that a husband can only "help", not be an equal partner in parenting. Secondly, maybe her husband doesn't help, and the thought of how little support she's getting makes her want to cry. Thirdly, she may not have a husband. Leaving your comments to her cute baby rather than asking about her husband.
9. Enjoy them while they're little
This is actually good advice, but here's the thing - dealing with little children all day, every day is hard and exhausting and not always enjoyable. We all enjoy parenting some of the time, but it's a huge challenge, and telling young moms who are struggling with the day-to-day stuff that they should just "enjoy" isn't very helpful.
10. Sleep when your baby sleeps
Again this is good advice, but completely impractical for most moms. Many babies only take short naps. Mine invariably napped in the car while I was driving or in the stroller while we were walking the dog. When they did nap at home I had a hundred chores to catch up on, and once I had two kids they rarely napped at the same time.
11. Can I pick him up?
This is only said to moms of babies, because everyone loves a baby. But do you know what else moms love? They love to let a happy baby lie in his stroller, because if you pick him up for two minutes he may not settle again, and there goes her chance of a quiet coffee. If she wants you to hold her angel, she'll ask.
If you give your toddler a sugary snack, everyone has an opinion. When you're just about to say something remember that moms are grown-ups and can make their own decisions.
13. Is that your grandchild?
I've overheard this one, and felt mortified for the mom involved. Never, ever, assume. Women can have babies well into their 40s, and the tiredness that comes with caring for young children can be very aging. If in doubt, make a grandma's day by asking if it's her baby. Few women will object to that kind of mistake, especially if you follow up with, "Really? Your grandchild? You don't look old enough!"