baby

'My family says I should bring my baby to his great-grandfather's funeral. I don't want to.'

As any parent knows, babies are a game-changer. The instant you bring a child into the world, all of the social norms you once so strongly believed in, literally fly out the window.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of convenience, sometimes it’s because you’re so distracted and/or overwhelmed, you just don’t care what others think. But more often than not, you’re trying to balance a range of people’s wants and needs – and that juggle is real.

Change a nappy on someone’s dining room table? Bring a child with a runny nose to playgroup? Take a packet of chips as a starter to a dinner party?

No one warns you that one of the hardest parts of parenting is having to make decisions when you’re simply not sure what the right – read, socially acceptable – thing is to do.

This is definitely the case when parents need to decide whether or not to bring their infant to a funeral. This very dilemma was recently put to Mamamia‘s podcast for imperfect parents, This Glorious Mess, hosted by Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo.

A member of Mamamia‘s Facebook parenting group, The Motherish, posted that she needed advice on whether she should take her one-year-old to the funeral of her mother-in-law’s father.

Unsure of what to do, she wrote, “I’m now apparently a horrible person for saying I’ll just meet everyone with my one-year-old after the service.”

Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright discuss the intricacies of babies and funerals on our parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues after.

The mum had other issues, too.

“It’s going to be cold, probably wet, and [my baby] has recently stopped taking his dummy, and is not the type of child who’ll be quiet and sit still for a long period of time.”

Clearly, wanting to keep everyone happy in the situation wasn’t going to be easy, as she explained why her son’s behaviour was concerning her.

“He doesn’t really get upset, but it’s happy noises which I know will irritate a few family members who are not coping well with [mother-in-law’s father’s] death. I’m not sure if it’s their grief that wants him there, but I know it’s not the best idea, and I’ve tried to explain my point of view.”

Finally, the mum asked directly what people thought she should do.

“Do I stick to my guns and meet everyone after, or do I give in and take him, when I’ll most likely have to leave with him if he gets restless, or I’ll be labelled a parent who can’t keep their child under control?”

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Discussing the dilemma on the most recent podcast, Holly and Andrew had definite ideas on the matter. Holly spoke from her personal experience to address the question, explaining that she has  never taken her children to a funeral, even to ones they probably should have attended, such as one of their grandparent’s.

“Well, is there ever really a reason to take a one-year-old to a funeral?” Andrew asked.

“Just get a sitter, go to the funeral, and then pick your child up afterwards.”

The trouble for the mum was, the family really wanted the child at the funeral; in which case, Holly suggested it’s perfectly reasonable to not attend the service at all, and take the child to meet family afterwards for the wake.

“People say they want babies at funerals, and weddings too, and then when the baby cries, makes a mess, runs around, interrupts the service, with an inappropriate yell at the wrong time, they get upset about it,” she said.

Holly added, “For a parent, that is incredibly stressful” to be in such a situation, when parents feel they’re being judged on their child’s behaviour, as a reflection of their parenting.

Holly also reminded the mum that grieving people are very emotional, so any reactions shouldn’t be taken personally.

Andrew then offered an alternative suggestion to alleviate the anxiety.

“How about the mum attends with her son, and as soon as he plays up, she leaves. That way, she’s done both things,” he suggested, adding she could take an aisle seat for a quick escape. However, Holly had the mother’s comfort as a priority.

“That might not be possible, she’s said it’s going to be cold and wet outside,” she reminded Andrew. And she was firm on her stance that the mum should think of herself, first

“If you can’t make it, because you’re looking after your baby, that’s not disrespectful, if you’re going to the wake afterwards,” she said.

Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess. 

Have you ever had to take a child to a funeral? Tell us in the comments below. 

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