When you have a baby, the barrage of opinions from other mums – even the well-intentioned – can be misplaced, unwanted and downright infuriating. Viv Groskop has been there and practised the comebacks
I still remember my first visit to the supermarket when my son, now two, was born. Another mum appeared out of nowhere and peered into my pram. ‘Wow. She’s huge. Oh, sorry, is it a boy? You should dress him in blue, so people know,’ she announced. ‘I see you’re using a dummy. Rod for your own back in the long run.’ Her parting shot? ‘God, you look knackered.’
Thanks for your support, sister. And if that’s how it feels for us, just imagine what it’s like for Kate Middleton. Incredibly, our biggest critics are often other mothers. You might have been friends with someone through thick and thin but, if you both have a baby at the same time, it’s surprisingly easy to fall out over whether it’s OK to put your six month old into daycare.
So, it’s reassuring to know that this judginess usually comes from their own insecurities, rather than the fact you’re doing things wrong. ‘For those who feel vulnerable about being a mum, it helps to see others caring for their children the same way, as it bolsters their own approach,’ says Tina Cassidy, author of Birth: The Surprising History Of How We Are Born. ‘When we judge others, we’re judging ourselves.’ And there are ways of dodging the barbed comments. Not just for Kate, but for new mums everywhere. Finding your confidence starts here.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s main purchase? A £1200 baby blue Bugaboo. Some say it’s a ridiculous amount for junior’s set of wheels, but others argue that, if you can afford it, it’s a worthwhile investment. Whatever side you’re on, your buggy doesn’t reflect your parenting skills – it’s just a retail choice. Try not to play ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’, and don’t become obsessed with expensive kit you can’t really afford.
They say ‘I haven’t seen one of those before – everyone around here seems to have a luxe city stroller’.
Your comeback ‘I like to set trends, not follow them.’
Such was the pressure on HRH Kate to breastfeed that even US celeb blogger Perez Hilton was monitoring the situation, saying, ‘The fate of breastfeeding could lie in Kate Middleton’s bosom!’ No one would deny that breastfeeding is the optimal choice, health-wise – boosting your baby’s immunity and providing key nutrients. But it doesn’t always work for everyone, and even mothers who
are desperate to breastfeed might find they just can’t do it. If it’s important to you, get help. If you try and it’s still not happening, don’t beat yourself up about it.
They say ‘Oh, you’re bottle feeding. What a shame.’
Your comeback ‘Yep, I’m giving her formula. It’s milk designed for babies, not liquid crack.’
Your weaning style
Should you go for baby-led weaning – where babies pick up bits of food with their hands and feed themselves – or stick with purée-on-a-spoon feeding? Both methods have fans, and there are parents who swear by one or the other. Who is to say which is right? According to baby feeding expert Annabel Karmel, only you are best placed to work it out. ‘As a mother, you know what your baby needs and what feels best for you,’ she says.
They say ‘Using a spoon for yoghurt? You’re not properly in the baby-led weaning club then.’
Your comeback ‘I’m experimenting with whatever works. And this does – hooray!’
Whatever you do, everyone will have an opinion on it – and no one is right.
A sanity-saving controlled crying technique for a nine month old who won’t sleep through the night might be one mother’s saving grace. Another will be horrified at the thought and plan to co-sleep with the child in the bed until her baby is three years old. ‘What’s considered “perfect parenting” at any
one time often falls out of fashion in a few years,’ says parenting expert Tina Cassidy. ‘It’s usually a reflection of the time and place where it happens, not necessarily what’s best.’
They say ‘Your baby’s still awake at 8pm?’
Your comeback ‘She doesn’t really use a watch, so she’s fine with it.’
Kate and William say they don’t want a nanny, but they will have access to the best should they need one. ‘Young children need to be in the presence of a responsive, loving adult at all times,’ says psychologist and childcare expert Oliver James. ‘It’s babies whose needs have been met who become secure, calm and satisfied children.’ But there are lots of ways to meet those needs and only you can know what’s most practical (and affordable) for your family. If you have to work, don’t waste time feeling needlessly guilty – research the best childcare you can afford and experiment until you find what suits you. And remember that no decision is final. You can always do it differently later.
They say ‘You’re leaving your baby with who? Really?’
Your comeback ‘Yes, isn’t it great? He totally adores her!’
This is at least one area where Kate won’t have to worry quite as much as the everyday working mum. Or will she? She’s already judged in some quarters for not having a job, while others argue that being a duchess is a full-time occupation. Kate is currently on official maternity leave from her royal duties, and her return date isn’t fixed. But you might not have that flexibility. This is the time to really know yourself and what you want from life. Expect to be surprised by how you feel at different stages and build in as much scope as possible to change your mind. Enjoy the great career you’ve been working to get all these years. Or do what I did – go back as soon as you can, burst into tears regularly and run so fast to collect your tot at the end of the day
that you shift your baby weight. Genius.
They say ‘You’re so brave – I could never leave my baby for a whole day.’
Your comeback ‘I love working. And happy mum, happy baby, eh?’