Sep 07

Diary of a Freelance Working Mother: On Busybodies

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working mother , parenting, writer, Catherine BalavageIt was Jean Paul Sartre who said that hell is other people, but he did not get it quite right. What he should have said was that hell is other people and their opinions. Now if they can keep those opinions to themselves then it is happiness all-round. I spend large parts of my day not pointing out to someone how much of a jerk they are. An underrated and valuable skill, but one that seems in short supply when you have a child. I am going to do my best to make sure this weeks column is not an all-out rant, but I am going to put out a plea: please stop telling me how to raise my child.

There is a woman in my local area who seems nice enough, yet since my son was about nine months has asked me almost every single time she has seen me why he is not in nursery. Answer: because he is TWO-YEARS OLD. I have tried to explain to her his age and my personal reasons, but each time I am met with a lecture. Because, god forbid, a woman might want to raise her own child, right? Ditto for the fact I also got a long lecture from her on how my son was too old to be in a pram. ‘You are spoiling him’ she said. Never mind the fact that I am pregnant and he had just turned two, no, make him walk along the busy road and have no rest. That is definitely the answer.

Things like this happen all of the time. Some people will just critique. Ask you if your child can do something (competitive parents, they are just the worst), criticise their clothes/nails/cleanliness/hair, or ask a barrage of questions while pulling faces and making comments. Another bugbear is the busybodies who interfere and always think they know best. It does not matter that their children grew up decades ago and they lived in a separate place than you, they will always know exactly what to do in regards to nurseries and schools, as well as where you should take your child. The passing of time means nothing. Everything they did with their child, you in turn must do, because they know best.

I find with busybodies there is a number of things to do. One is smile and nod. Always best with strangers. The second is smile and say you do not agree, or make a joke of it. The best is to ask them nicely and politely to not interfere. The latter is always better with family. They will not stop if you do not tell them their behaviour is unacceptable. They may not even change then, but, trust me, you will feel better. In the meantime keep your head up, work on your sense of humour as it is the only thing that will get you through, and always stand up for yourself.

Please share any similar experience below, or just add your own comments. I would love to know what you think.