parent opinion

'Dear strangers, these are the questions you need to think about before you ask a parent.'

A couple of weeks ago I was out dropping my eldest son Toby to school with his little brother, Leo in an baby carrier.

As we started the walk home it began to rain, so I popped an umbrella up over both of us. I smiled as a random male passer-by nodded and looked as if he was about to say something friendly. Instead, he cheerily stated that I wasn’t letting Leo ‘feel the rain’. In another very similar set of circumstances where I was again trying to protect Leo from the rain, this time in his pram, a random lady noted that he shouldn’t be ‘under so much plastic’.

I am not sure whether these two particular adults just like to watch toddlers getting soaked or if it is some sort of ‘nature thing’ I’m too suburban to know about. Either way, the judgement from these two random strangers who obviously knew better, was clear: I’m a bad mummy who was over-indulging my infant.

It has not just been silly things like rain covers that has solicited remarks from random people over the years. There was the fact I had an ‘only child’ for six years; wouldn’t he like a sibling? Then there was the fact our sons are six years apart; why the big gap? Those rather personal issues were often commented on leading to awkward discussions about fertility and miscarriage, which I really didn’t want to have with Bob from down the road or Mel the hairdressing apprentice.

I knew I was not alone when it came to having my parenting choices or non-choices questioned, so I decided to put it out there to my friends. After feeling affronted but amused by the random remarks in the rain, I asked my fellow Facebook mums to tell me some of the weird and ridiculous comments they had received from strangers.

"I knew I was not alone when it came to having my parenting choices questioned." Image: Supplied.

The responses came thick and fast; some of them were hilarious while others were simply unbelievable.

Rebecca was paying for groceries with her new baby Dylan when the random checkout lady commented, "you’re a rather young mum aren’t you?" Conversely, Gemma (in her late thirties at the time) was asked whether or not she imagined having children "at her time of life" and whether or not they were "conceived by IVF" because of her age.

Jo was feeling stressed while walking through a shopping centre with her overtired tot who was having a tantrum in his pram. A random lady approached her to offer ‘advice’ about stroking the baby’s head as per a short clip she had seen on YouTube that apparently (and rather magically) put the kid to sleep instantly.

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Natalie was also out for a walk, this time in the park with her two children on a summer’s day. A random lady approached to tell her off for bringing her kids out in case they got sunburnt. Natalie didn’t have the chance to tell her both her kids were covered in factor 50 sunscreen before the lady smugly stormed off.

Helen, a mum of twin boys, has been frequently asked by random people ‘how she copes’ and whether or not they were ‘IVF babies’. Danielle, a mum of twin girls has also been asked ‘if they were conceived naturally’ and which one of them is ‘the grumpy one?’

"The responses came thick and fast; some of them were hilarious while others were simply unbelievable." Image: Supplied.

Mum-of-three boys Natalie was seated in a café with her two eldest and pregnant with number three. A woman stopped to smile and say that she assumed Natalie was ‘hoping for a girl’. Another Nat and fellow mum of three said random people often quip ‘you’ve got your hands full there, love’ which is obviously really useful and encouraging.

The pregnant bump helps to elicit many ‘helpful’ comments from ‘well-meaning’ bystanders. I remember being told I was ‘huge’ one minute and ‘tiny’ the next. Fit and healthy mum Sarah was told off by a fellow lane swimmer, who said doing tumble turns ‘would harm her unborn baby’. Tina was reprimanded by a random for holding a takeaway coffee cup while pregnant, and Alana was asked if she ‘had any concerns about the pregnancy, considering her age?’ Alana was 32.

While many of these random people may not have meant to offend and were likely just making small talk, it is interesting how personal and judgemental some of the comments were.

The moral of the story (especially if you think you might be one of these random types prone to asking personal questions or making pointless and potentially hurtful observations) is: Think before you ask. Do you really want to be that random person asking the knackered mum of twins if she conceived them naturally, as in had sex with her partner or went through the trauma of IVF? Nope. Don’t do it.

Equally, the next time you or I get judged by a random for being too old, too young, having too many boys/girls, drinking a coffee or protecting a child from the rain, let’s agree to come back strong with a polite smile and a strong ‘mind your own business.’

Have you ever received a rude comment about your children or parenting choices? What did you say in return? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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