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When good advice – and intentions – go bad… 10, December 2007

Posted by babychaos in Adult Content, General Wittering, Life and living, Pregnancy Issues, whinging, winging.
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Poor Mr BC has been working his butt off all weekend but we did manage to escape to dinner with a bunch of mates on Saturday.

Note to self: Do NOT mention that you are pregnant to anyone ever again just say you’re fat or have a particularly large growth or something.

I’m not a one-horse conversant and neither is Mr BC, we tend to talk about all sorts of topics ranging from the mundane; the strange habits of the locals, speed cameras and the like to the bizarre; does telepathy exist, if the moon was made of cheese what type would it be, is it possible for D’arth Vader have sex and if so, how would he go about it, would she go into his pod-breathy thing with him or would it be a wham bam thank you ma’am without life support and would he take his helmet off or forgo tonsil hockey and leave it on. What kind of woman would… you know, that kind of stuff.

As it was we talked about babies. A lot. Obviously it made sense, there were four couples, one with two children the second of which arrived a month or two ago, one with one, a couple with one child and another on the way and us with the first on the way. For the most part it was just oooh you must be very happy kind of stuff and a few jokes about being pregnant. Which was fun.

There was quite a bit of it though and I kind of wished I could get the conversation onto a different track a couple of times. Whenever we nearly did, the broodiest of the mums – also the one who takes it all rather seriously – would point to the hosts’ little one, who doesn’t sleep much so was just quietly sitting in his chair in the corner burbling conversationally occasionally and say “aw look isn’t he sweet” or the like, dragging it all back to the topic of spawn again.

It was this broody mum and her husband we stayed over with and it is them, well, mainly her, who I am going to have a bit of a moan about today, unkind ungrateful cow that I am.

Never mind, try to see it this way, by whinging here on this anonymous blog, I let off steam and don’t end up snapping at what are, after all, only attempts by kind and well meaning people to be supportive and helpful.

The first, tricky area is an insistence that we get everything we need second hand from them. While I would be incredibly grateful to have or buy some things from post pregnant friends I would rather plan carefully and buy other things, things that look as if they are more likely to suit my baby and my needs (as opposed to another person’s) for myself. At the least, I’d like to feel I could ask my other post pregnancy friends if they are looking to sell off/give away things without feeling I am being rude. In short, I’d rather look around and be selective than make do and mend with the things that worked for others. Am I being pig headed here? Probably.

Then there is the advice problem. Advice. Welcome. Problem in that in the intensity of the moment it is becoming more like instructions and less like advice. I don’t think I’ll be taken out and shot if I don’t comply but on occasions, I couldn’t be sure. They are very intense about this, though, so finding a way to put this across which isn’t hurtful or unkind is very difficult.

There is quite a lot of “ah… in x month’s time this will be you and of course there is only one way to handle this situation, our way.” It can be a bit tricky, especially with couples who have gone from not allowing us to mention babies and taking a mutual friend who had just had a daughter to task for being selfish when she mentioned her daughter in passing to the absolute opposite. People at work who don’t want to meet the baby are unreasonable and of all our friends with kids, the previously hyper-sensitive anti has become the most unnervingly baby-centric… Amazing how easily people gloss over their inconsistencies… and frankly scary, too.

Anyway, at one point I did suggest that since every child is different it was pointless speculating what it would be like for us until the Muffin arrived and we had some idea of its personality and preferences. It fell on deaf ears, of course but I felt better for having said it.

Sometimes, when people are keen to help, they can, unwittingly, be hard work because they so want to share their knowledge and it all gets a bit overbearing. As Mr BC pointed out a recurrent thread of conversation is often.

“Now, BC. You must do this, this and this because that’s what I did.” I find it terribly galling and touchingly, so does he. I may be vague and a bit of a plank but to the continued consternation of many of those around me I can admit to an IQ which is one point off genius level (mathematical dyslexia aside) am actually able to hold down a pretty high-powered job – even if I choose not to, now – I’m good with people a good communicator and can generally cope with life.

This is, of course is a classic example of how my ability to look helpless and get everything done for me tends to come back and bite me on the bottom. People genuinely believe the hype. They think I am completely incapable with no clue and no mind of my own. Unable to think for myself. And the bastards treat me as such! Do the words “by”, “hoist”, “my”, “own” and “petard” spring to mind? Yeh.’Thought they might.

Nowhere do I feel this more than, for example, where someone who was one of the most hyper lu-lu pregnant people I’ve ever encountered starts telling me how I should relax/organise myself, calm down. Well, it feels pretty serene from in here.

If somebody has been pregnant once they’re ahead of me and there is lots I can learn from their experience BUT the way I see it, I’m allowed to disagree if I feel something that works for them won’t for me. I do find I tend to listen more to people like my cousin who has five children and is not remotely overbearing with her advice. She’s not asking me about my pregnancy so she can tell me what I should be doing, she’s asking because she is interested and can give me pointers and short cuts should I require them. She is also unfazed if I suggest I might like to do things differently or disagree with her point of view. No pressing me to conform…

This is, of course, exactly what my dear but – at present – testing friend thinks she is doing… However, what with the intensity of the desire to help, this is not how it’s coming across. Here on the receiving end, it feels as if I am being asked so I can be lectured to or at the least, evangelised to. There doesn’t seem to be much room for argument or dissent on my part. Indeed any suggestion of disagreement or an alternative view and I merely receive more urgent entreaties to listen and do as instructed by somebody who knows. I never argue or demur even though I know I should because it means these difficult conversations end sooner.

I do appreciate that if you have a hard time finding out what is what during your own pregnancy you are going to be extremely keen that your knowledge is of use to someone else. The trouble is, it makes for a rather one sided conversation. It’s quite wearing, to be honest. Not least because my reaction makes me feel guilty and ungrateful.

It’s difficult, if someone’s emotional profile is very different my own to explain that the way they react and deal with things is not right for me. I would no more wish to emulate my friend’s behaviour during pregnancy than try to wear shoes several sizes too small or clothes which didn’t fit. We’re not the same and beyond comforting generalisations in common one size does not fit all.

I don’t mind that, it’s all well meant but I guess the galling thing, the thing that really grates is the fact that because all this solicitude and advice is being laid down like the law there is an aspect of the situation which could be taken (in my less charitable moods) as treating me like a complete fucking idiot. It’s galling because actually, I’m reasonably smart and for all my faults I do have pretty good social skills and while other people may believe that my pregnancy should be a carbon copy of their own I believe that as an individual, with my own personality, I should handle my pregnancy in a way that suits me and just as importantly, Mr BC, too. I welcome advice, the more I know about how it affects other people the easier it is to work out my right path but I am not an emulation kind of person.

Mr BC is very, very bright – you know, the kind of bright that makes a rocket scientist – there are patents out there for stuff he designed and invented and yet, he has commercial suss and is still able to boil a kettle. I am in awe of his brains, sometimes he treats me like I’m a bit thick but actually he, of all people, has more reason to than most a) because he has to live with me and if you’re tidy to the point of OCD and a compulsive planner that’s hard and b) because he is a great deal smarter than I am. Even so I find it touching, not to mention flattering, that he is annoyed on my behalf when other people treat me like I’m stupid.

So I just thought that if there is anyone out there with pregnant friends… Here are the six golden rules so far for dealing with a pregnant BC. They may work with your mates, they may not but at least by listing them here it may help you to remember how it feels when good advice goes bad and deal with them.

  1. If you have stuff left over from your pregnancy or from when your kids were small the chances are your pregnant friends be very grateful to be offered it for sale or for free. However, don’t make it hard for them to say no or make them feel you will be insulted if they don’t buy the things you are offering. They may have their own ideas about what will work for them and what worked for you may not fit in with their plans.
  2. No two pregnancies are the same… If they take an alternative path from yours it is not because they are stupid or bad parents or any reflection on how they view the wisdom of your actions and your advice. It is because they are different from you and the experience is different for them.
  3. Offer advice, don’t force it on them.
  4. Offer support, don’t force it on them.
  5. Do NOT touch the bump unless you are specifically invited to.
  6. By all means ask them how they are feeling, how they are coping, how they are etc. and if they want to talk, let them. However, if they want to discuss other subjects, let them do that, too sometimes the best support you can give to a pregnant person is to let them forget, for a few hours, that they are pregnant. It’s a nice break and it’s fun to suddenly remember again.

I suspect I am not alone. Pregnant ladies, together we will bite our lips swallow our pride be GRATEFUL for all this advice and quietly go back to doing our own thing when we get home!

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Comments»

1. Geldoff - 11, December 2007

BC, it sounds to me that you might benefit from deploying some Transactional Analysis skills.

If by the slimest chance your not familiar with TA, it treats all conversations (transactions) between two people in terms of their unconcious attitude to one another where each assumes a status of Parent, Adult or Child.

If, for example, someone assumes the Parent attitude – and perhaps talks down to you or takes the high ground – then they expect you to assume the lower-status Child attitude to maintain the balance. And quite often people react this way unconsciously and find it difficult to redress the true balance where they have equal status to the Parent-wielding person.

The way to do this is to adopt the Adult attitude, which is just as it sounds, and involves treating them with equal status to your own. there are many techniques for doing this using both verbal and non-verbal communication skills (and there is a wealth of written material to help). When you successfully adopt the Adult attitude the other person has no choice but to also adopt an Adult attitude too(unconsciously) and then useful communication can start. Works the other way when someone adopts a Child attitude too.

You may dismiss this as a load of old tosh but I can assure you from first hand experience that it works!

It sounds like your friend is assuming the (high status) Parent attitude at your expense, so … go git ‘er, BC! 🙂

2. babychaos - 11, December 2007

Hello Mr G.

Great to hear from you again!

Nope, I don’t dismiss it, it sounds very interesting. I have quite a posh accent so I am very aware that with most people I either unconsciously knock the plummy corners off it (NLP) or am at pains to adopt a stance where I am treating all others as an equal.

As a child this used to get me into continuous trouble, many teachers don’t like to be treated as equals by the little scrotes they are teaching and they tended to divide into two camps, those who thought I was the devil’s very cheeky sputum and those who took it on face value – as a sign of trust – and were hugely flattered. It got me into trouble later, too – many bosses love or hate it the same way. It did, however, stand me in excellent stead when I got to the stage where I was expected to manage people both up and down the office food chain.

However, it’s clear I don’t always succeed in adopting it or I misjudge people’s sensitivity and take too much trouble to make them feel at home, making them feel that I’m a complete pushover, instead. It might be down to having a sense of humour and fun – both of which are often mistaken for childishness, incompetence or lack of professionalism – one of the key reasons I didn’t go back to work after my redundancy, I couldn’t imagine finding anywhere post bus company where my personality would be accepted and couldn’t be bothered to go back to suppressing it and being somebody else.

I am aware that I do have a perennial problem with people who talk down to me. I am not a willing participant in the game “who’s the most important person in the room” and I while I usually have no trouble establishing myself as an adult in the eyes of others there IS a particularly domineering minority I have this difficulty with. They’re usually hyper sensitive, easily offended yet completely thick skinned people – so I have to tread very carefully but at the same time they are as deaf as a post to all but the shoutyest hint!

Thank you for the heads up I will definitely be having a look at this and may even post later on to report how it goes.

Cheers

BC – PS I have ordered “The games people play” off Amazon on the strength of the title of one of the games “I’m only trying to help you” in one of the customer reviews. If I can learn to deal with just this one it sounds like I will find out how to neutralise the effect of three quarters of the irritating people in my life at a stroke!

3. Kat - 11, December 2007

Do the annoying parents have more than one child? I’ve found that the more children a parent has, the less likely they are to dole out unsolicited advice. And I so agree with you about baby talk. Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation, I hear myself talk and think, I’m boring even my own self!

4. babychaos - 11, December 2007

Kat, Nope, they have one child and don’t intend to have any more. I guess parenting is like any other skill, the more you do it, the more you realise how enormous the gulf is between what you know and what you are yet to learn. I don’t expect you are boring them but if you end up talking about the same thing to a lot of people in turn it can feel like it, I’m sure. The fact you’re even aware you could bore people with too much baby talk would suggest, to me, that you aren’t.

Cheers

BC

5. Joe Drinker - 11, December 2007

Sadly, we’ve found that since we don’t have children and none on the way, we’re unable to spend time with or even share conversations with some of our dearest friends now that they’re parents. Although we’re more than happy to hear about how their children are doing, we believe, like you, at some point the conversation must migrate to other subjects. It may be that once some people have become parents that becomes their entire identity. There are no other subjects any more.

Hope you’re doing well. Your list of dos and don’ts made me chuckle.

Cheers,

Joe

6. Noble Savage - 12, December 2007

The non-stop baby talk used to drive me up a wall. And I was the first of my friends to have a baby! They were all fascinated with my pregnancy, asking me time and time again what it felt like, what I could and couldn’t eat, if I planned to breastfeed, what kind of birth I wanted, etc.. It drove me up a freakin’ wall! I had to put my foot down and after 15 minutes of preggo talk, told them we were going to talk about something else and moved firmly and swiftly on. You’ve got to stand up to the baby bores!

7. babychaos - 12, December 2007

Joe, that’s grim. Not surprising, I am beginning to realise but still grim and sad. Glad my list made you chuckle then. I have a theory that some people don’t really know who they are and have to self-actualise though their actions. So they are “a professional” or “a mother” or “a parent” rather than them. I find it really odd but I guess that’s life.

If it helps, there have always been points when Mr BC and I have looked around the table at a supper party and thought “I so don’t fit in, even with the people I fit in with” and I guess that’s one of the reasons we get on so well. If it’s any consolation, I have a knackered leg and have never been allowed to ski, yet whenever I go out anywhere, I am invariably categorised as “lively” and put with other “lively” “fun” or “exciting” people, that is, people who do nothing but ski and who are going to do nothing but talk about it all night while I sit there like a lemon. So… I really sympathise.

Noble Savage, I suspect will be taking your advice. That and indulge myself by avoiding the people who are irritating me! Otherwise I’ll end up wandering the streets with a bag over my head shouting.

“I’m not pregnant! I’m human!”

Cheers

BC

8. mrsmetaphor - 13, December 2007

It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, “Raising Arizona.” Don’t know if you have ever seen it but it’s hysterical…there is a scene much like you describe…if i find it on youtube I’ll let ya know…because I’d never do it justice.

Here’s some good advice…perfect your “absent nod” look or pretend to make notes cause babe you will continue to get advice for as long as you have spawn…believe me…and everyone thinks they have got it right.

Me, I think I’m just getting by so I say as long as we’re all still alive at the end of the night it’ll be alright.

Just do your thing, and let the advice go in one ear and out the other and whatever is important will stick.

9. mrsmetaphor - 13, December 2007

Ok, I put a clip up on my blog…it’s kind of long but one of the best scenes…

10. babychaos - 13, December 2007

Mrs M. Thanks, I’m with you and yeh, I’ve got the Passive Resistance thing down pat. I loved the clip! It was fine. Thanks for that too!

Cheers

BC


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