Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Guide to Safe Conversations for New Parents

One thing you learn when you are around lots of babies and new parents is that there are a lot of strong opinions out there. The simplest conversations can be fraught with landmines of vehemence. An object as benign as a binky can have otherwise sweet young ladies wrestling in the aisles of Babies "R" Us.

It can be hard for a new parent to know what topics are safe and what you need to have a dissertation prepared on, including sources and references, before delving into small talk. Mike's approach to the battleground of parental principles is to remain aloof. He is way too hip to ever get "into" anything, such as a parenting fad. I, conflict averse as I am, prefer wholesale avoidance. If you too like dislike confrontation or contention, here is your guide to safe conversations for new parents.

Seemingly Safe Conversations that Can Bite You in the Tuckus

-Pacifiers. Or plugs or nuks or whatever you like to call them. They are not just cute little plastic binkies, to some parents they are a way to shut up and emotionally cripple your child. If the topic of binkies comes up, I prefer to leave the room altogether.

-Strollers. They're not just transportation systems. The type of stroller or other carrying device you choose (front facing, back facing, ergo baby, sling) can very well determine how many hours your child will spend at the psychiatrist each week. I plan to never bring my baby anywhere, so I won't have to deal with this topic.

-Cloth or Disposable You can't win this one. You're either going to get eye-rolling or quiet superiority. I've decided to simply go with these awesome split pants I found in China and hold my baby over a trash can every time she needs to go.

-Are you going back to work? Another one you just can't win. A simple request for information can leave a woman feeling either judged for being a working mom or judged for being a stay-at-home mom. I prefer to stay ignorant of my friends' lives in order to avoid conflict.

-What's Your Baby Girl's Name? Even the most benign of questions today can lead to awkward silences in conversation. Because these days, they're likely to respond "Buxton Jedidiah," and you have to pretend like you think that's OK.

Obviously Unsafe Conversations

-Breastfeeding (or feeding of any kind, for that matter). Breast or bottle? Organic or not? Homemade baby food or store bought? There are a lot of strong feelings on all matters regarding ingestion. Something as simple as whether or not you heat an older child's bottle can give mothers a serious complex. If you plan to give your toddler Goldfish (as my husband no doubt will), you better be ready.

-Midwife, Doula, or Doctor. The method of delivery is an ever touchy topic, eliciting scoffing, guilt and indigestion.

-Natural or Epidural. This fake article on the Onion gives just a hint of the moral battleground awaiting you here. By the way, my sister-in-law knows the couple in this photo, which teaches us a very important lesson: Never, ever sign off on the rights to photos you have taken in a studio. They might just end up on the Onion one day.

-Home Births. Recently, there was a post on a Christian web site that advocated for hospital births in the developing world. The firestorm of ugly comments about home birthing versus hospitals was a thing to behold. The Christian lady fangs came out. This one isn't a joking matter in Mike's family, health professionals as they are. Mike's dad told me last week, "Amber, people are going to give you opinions on a lot of things, but you just do what you think is right." So I facetiously replied, "I want a home birth!" He quickly revised his stance on me doing what I want.

So what are safe conversations?
Trick question. There are no safe conversations. I've heard even the question, "Isn't your baby just a miracle?" can get some ladies riled up. Just stick to the weather.


Tara said...

I like the avoidance technique too but love to hear people's opinions too-- even if it does start a fight:). One other hot topic... What is the best discipline style? I have seen people get red in the face over this one!!

Amber said...

Tara, you got all the bravery in the family. It had all run out by the time I was born. I didn't even think of discipline! That will get people far more than red in the face! It will cause family rifts!

Elizabeth M. said...

I think it is good to be open and non judgmental and to just say, to each their own....because man, there is nothing that ruins a friendship faster than a nose in the air. I know...because recently I have made all kinds of judgmental comments about barbies and cheerleaders and have had to eat my own words:) Never make fun of cheerleaders in front of friends whom you didn't know in high school. They were most likely the head cheerleader!
You can call me anytime and hear my strong opinions on each category if you want!!

nv said...

No one should EVER declare a position on any issue since you may have to eat your words. It just sets a parent up for failure in their minds and it is not helpful for the myriad of babies and situations out there. NV