Pre-natal Rhetoric


My wife and I are expecting our first child soon, so a whole new world of aggravation has opened up for me. Of course I don’t mean going to ob-gyn appointments or helping my wife eat healthy and avoid the laundry lists of bad foods for pregnant women or dealing with the myriad complications that could effect our unborn child.  All that comes with the territory and I expected it.

Specifically, I’m thinking of the advice, be it solicited or not, that’s delivered in a condescending manner. I know this isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination and that my wife is probably getting this tenfold (especially if you can’t the strangers who lay hands on her belly without so much as a “By your leave”), but it’s still been on my mind for a while now.

To that end, I thought I’d see what the 6 readers we have left after last week’s James Kochalka-infused surge had to say about this phenomenon.  Why does everyone think they have some role in this baby’s life?  Why can’t people (mostly older folks) just say congratulations and be happy for us without trying to impart some greeting card wisdom?  I’ve been trying to read this rhetorical situation, but I don’t think I’ve been too successful.

GAH!What possesses someone to say, “I hope you’re getting your sleep now!”  What does that even mean?  I thought most people knew by now that you can’t catch up on lost sleep.  It’s science!  I’m going to be tired and cranky for a few months.  I may experience episodes of extreme fatigue heretofore unknown to me.  I get it.  Move on.

Another favorite of mine is “Your life is really going to change!”  Really?  You mean caring for a living being who can’t perform even the most basic of tasks is going to alter the way I live and what I care about?  You don’t say!  Well maybe I should rethink this whole parent thing!

“Your little girl is going to wrap you around her finger” is agem.  I’m fully prepared for the fact that I’ll have a hard time saying no to my daughter.  I understand that I can be a bit of a pushover when it comes to kids (and my dog, as a matter of fact), but after being around my niece for a few years I’ve developed a bit of an immunity to her puppy dog eyes.  Granted, a niece is not a daughter and I still don’t like saying no, but the fact remains that I do say it.  Please stop pretending you know me.  What, you think you’re better than me?!

Is it because the speakers are usually parents themselves that they can’t help themselves?  Do they miss the newborn experience and wish we could switch places?  Do they think they’re the first people to say something to us?  Is it a knee jerk reaction brought about by years of being told that babies are hard work?  I really hope it’s not that they think I need the help and simply don’t know what to say after a variation of “That’s great!”

I think it’s become a societal norm to tell other how hard something’s going to be:

  • “Oh, you’re taking organic chemistry this semester?  I hope you have a tutor!”
  • “You want to re-tile your patio?  Get ready for some truly back-breaking weekends!”
  • “I feel your pain.  I must’ve had 4 dogs put down before I found one I could train!”

It’s almost as though we don’t want life to be easy for others, since it’s typically not for us.  Schadenfreude is a powerful and popular emotional experience these days, so it’s no surprise it extends to the way we view other people raising children.

Sometime soon I plan on tackling some of the baby books geared toward men.  Thankfully, not all of them assume we’re beer swilling morons who wouldn’t know what to do with another living thing even if our lives hung in the balance.


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