One of the main problems I’ve found since giving birth is that people suddenly feel that it’s ok to show me pictures of their children. (Strangers, mainly – friends of mine know not to do this.) Or that I’m supposed to say nice things about babies when we meet them out and about.
The problem is this. I’m not a woman who coos over babies – I never have. When you’re childless it’s fine as people are warier of sharing photos and parents all seem to ignore childless couples anyway. But when you have a baby of your own you’re suddenly inundated with people whipping their wallets out to flash their pics. There’s a parenting “in-club” where you all acknowledge each other and smile at each other’s delightful offspring.
I’m not saying these babies aren’t nice. I’m sure they are. Very cute and all. It’s just that if I try and say something like that (“oh she’s gorgeous!”) it just sounds insincere. I don’t mean it to. There’s a skill involved in gushing over babies and I don’t have it.
It’s assumed that everyone likes babies and this is worse if you’re female. Years ago, a colleague came back from a scan and said “Sue, you’re a woman, have a look at my baby.” My first failure in sounding suitably impressed. Another colleague announced they were going to have a water birth and I replied that I’d seen a picture of a pool after birth and it looked like the scene of a whaling incident. I just can’t do the small talk over baby stuff!
There is a downside to this of course (aside from the problems that come with social awkwardness, I mean). My sister, when she was pregnant, told me that I had to tell her if her baby was ugly because she was concerned about being blinded to its faults by maternal love. She could trust me. Of course since I sound insincere even when faced with a lovely baby she may have been able to guess anyway but still, I promised that I would. I dreaded the baby being born. Luckily he was and still is utterly gorgeous, AND I managed to convey this and sound genuine.
Of course, the other problem is that babies are quite boring. I wasn’t that interested in talking about them before E was born and am still capable of talking about other things now she’s here. So apart from this blog, and the standard “how’s the baby?” conversation(Usual answer: “she’s fine”) I’d quite like to talk about other stuff, thanks very much. While still at work, I witnessed a conversation between three of the parents where they discussed nappies for what felt like hours. A sense of dread came over me. It must be possible to have children and still manage to articulate your opinion on Louise Mensch’s resignation (another chance blown to do something for women, you ridiculous preening fool) or the new Richard Hawley album (fanTAStic).
It’s mainly this reason that’s stopping me from going to mother and baby groups. A friend phoned last week and asked “Have you found a mum friend to go about and do stuff with?” I had to say no. I don’t want to join a group. I’m generally anti-social at the best of times. A group where the only thing you have in common is that we’ve all got a baby? And we’ll have to talk about babies all the time. I can’t imagine anything worse. I guess when E is bigger it’ll be good for her to socialise but she’ll be at nursery or something by then anyway so I’ll be forced to talk to other mums then. Until then, I can remain as anti-social as I like.