Back off: When strangers need to mind their own business

It’s quite often that people at work are surprised when they realize I suddenly have a baby bump.  Not the coworkers I see every day, but the customers, vendors and sales people that stop by on occasion.  There are some who still have yet to notice (although I feel like I’ve grown leaps and bounds in the last week!), some who have congratulated me with the usual sentiments…and then there was the customer last week.

He’s a gentleman I know mostly in passing, but who places regular orders with us.  Every now and then I take his order myself, or sometimes I’m there when he picks it up, but mostly I don’t see him when he’s in the store, so it’s been some time since we last talked.  Last week, he came in to place and order, so I came out from behind the counter to say hi.  As soon as he saw my belly: “Uh oh.”

It wasn’t a “congratulations,” or a “oh, wow, it’s been a while,” or a “when are you due?”  It wasn’t even a surprised or a happy “uh oh,” although I’m still trying to figure out what that would sound like.  It was nothing other than a foreboding “uh oh.”  As if, my pregnancy was a bad thing, or even an “oops.”  Sorry, dude, but there was nothing “oops” about this pregnancy and, yes, I’m thrilled, but not that you asked.

Why do strangers feel the need to comment, question, or project their feelings on others, especially pregnant women or women with children?  We’ve all been on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice, or perhaps been weirded out by someone touching our pregnant bellies without asking.  Why does pregnancy and parenting open us up to scrutiny and invite comment?  It’s enough to drive a momma crazy and question her parenting skills (unless you’re on board with our Campaign for Judgement-free Motherhood!).  My situation, although awkward and annoying, is something I can easily brush off and forget.  If you’ve seen this recent submission to the Huffington post, however, you see how unwarranted and downright frightening these exchanges with complete strangers can get.

I’m not sure I have any advice or solution to what happened during that interaction with my customer, or for the poor mom in the blog post who now finds herself second-guessing her own reaction to what happened to her and her son, and certainly second-guessing her faith in humanity.  Situations like these have me saying “uh oh,” too.

8 thoughts on “Back off: When strangers need to mind their own business

  1. “Uh oh”???? Can I just smack him for you? I know he doesn’t realize what you’ve been through to get to this miraculous happy place, but when would “uh oh” ever be appropriate? I would have been so shocked I wouldn’t have been able to say anything at the time, but I would have been SO steamed, and I am now, on your behalf. People are so stupid.

  2. I had a customer tell me when I was pregnant with my son, that he doesn’t understand why women feel the need to swallow watermelon seeds. I told him that it was a child and a blessing. He again asked me another 3-4x. Finally all I could do was tell him that I didn’t appreciate it and gave him a mean look tell him bluntly to stop.

  3. I completely agree with you, Gena! When I was pregnant with my twins I was constantly told how horrible it was going to be to have my babies in the NICU, how underdeveloped they would be, how I wouldn’t be able to take them home for months. Ummm, thanks for scaring the beejesus out of a first time mom! Not only that but there’s no guarantee or requirement that twins start off in the NICU. I delivered 2 very healthy, stable and developed boys who, yes, spent a week in the NICU because they were 6 weeks early but you know what? It was one of the best experiences of my life. I agree with Katie, if your story doesn’t doesn’t end happily, don’t tell a pregnant lady!!!

  4. People are ridiculous when it comes to what to say to a pregnant mom. Seriously. When I was first pregnant, I had a contractor who was working at the school where I used to teach (he had remembered me from when he did work the previous year, before I was preggo) come up to me and say “Ummmm…should I say congrats?” I said “um, sure?” and looked puzzled. He said “Oh, well, you know, I wanted to make sure it was pregnancy…you know, some girls just gain weight for no reason.” AHHHH! How is that appropriate in ANY situation?!

  5. When I read that story in the Huffington Post I was furious! I can’t imagine what I would have done to that guy! Your guy would have at least gotten a belligerent, “Uh oh what??” Probably more. So uncool for people to say anything like that.

  6. I was shocked at how many women would tell me the most awful horrible stories of laboring, birth and or child rearing when I was scared pregnant because I had never experienced it. I finally told anyone who started a story “Stop right there is you do not have a happy labor story you can stop right now” and you know what? It worked…

  7. Oh I feel you. I don’t know what it is but pregnancy and having children does seem to open up comments from total strangers about your childs behavior or pregnancy itself. I’ve found though that there are some mamas who try and either say something supportive or throw me a glance when Lills is behaving badly that says ‘it’s going to be OK’ and it’s meant SO much to me for them to be supportive and not judgy that I try really hard to be like that to other people too.

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