Saturday, January 10, 2009

Alright, Mommies ... I'm Calling On You

Firstly, this is not a sarcastic post. I am being completely serious here.

You probably know my back story, but here it is in brief:

I am an only child.
I have zero experience with children, except for the few times I babysat my younger cousins.
I am not planning on having children, main reason being that I was born without a maternal instinct (though I do love caring for my 2 lovely cats).

Taking all of this into account, I need a little advice. Over the years, many of my co-workers have brought their children into work. There are few situations that utterly paralyze me, but this is one of them. Shamefully, if I hear a child enter our reception area, I actually go all the way around our office to the 2nd entrance to use the restroom, in an effort to avoid the situation altogether. It has nothing to do with the mom and her offspring. It's really all about me and not wanting to look like a freak. Normally, I am a very capable and problem-solving type person. But, you bring a child into the picture (particularly a newborn) I become a total deer in headlights. I smile a lot like a dummy, but I have no idea what the expected response is. I must look like a complete fool to the poor mom. All the other moms seem to know exactly what to say, what sorts of questions to ask and, most importantly, they have no fear of the situation at all, which completely blows me away! I get cold sweats just thinking about an encounter like this. So, maybe if I am armed with the types of questions and responses that are appropriate, my fears might be squelched and I wouldn't look like a total weirdo.

Here is my list, so far:

1. Smile a lot.
2. Say something kind, like, "He/she is so beautiful!" (I really emphasize the word beautiful. I think it makes the mom happy and it's usually the last thing I say, so I really stretch it out.)
3. More smiling and blinking. It's at this point that I start wondering if I've spent enough time with this. I begin crafting an excuse to bolt.
4. Quietly shuffle to the side, stating that I don't want to hog all the room upfront.
5. Wait for a really new and excited person to come along and seize the chance to leave the scene unnoticed.

This is not a very good list. I want to improve in this area. Should I ask how much the baby weighed? Is that a good question or would the mom be offended? I hear a lot of conversation about how much/little the mom and dad are sleeping. Should I ask about that, too? Would this be a desired question? Maybe I should just keep finding alternate ways to the bathroom.



Blogger Erika said...

I think you've got a good start here. The most important part of doing this is to never lie or be insincere. Only say things you can say honestly. And never ask questions to which you don't sincerely want the answer. That said, here's my list:

1. If the baby has hair, this is a goldmine -- you can say "he/she has so much hair" The parent will then usually regale you with tales of how it was born that way, or it all fell off then grew back, etc etc. This takes some of the pressure to talk off of you.

2. Baby clothes -- cute, fashionable, tiny, blah, blah, blah. Things like "What a cute little plaid shirt -- so tiny!"

3. Depending on your level of comfort with the person, you can say things like "Is he/she still keeping you up all night still?" This also lets the parent talk and gets you off the hook for a while.

IMHO, I think you can say one or two of those things and then make your excuses, such as, I've got to get to a meeting, or I've got to deliver this (widget, manuscript, dead animal) to so and so. Then with a "Nice to see you" you're off the hook.

Can I just say I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets like this with certain social situations? I'm comfortable with babies, but not so comfortable meeting new people.

January 10, 2009 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger bless_cyborgs said...

I have a maternal instinct, tons of experience with kids, etc etc. But I don't give a flying fuck about stranger's babies. Most of them are stupid looking to me and uninteresting. I am not very tactful with feigning interest when I have to notice them (i.e. the work scenario you explained). I think that if its someone you hardly know then what you are already doing is plenty. You took note of it, you said something nice and now you're booking the hell out of there. Done and done.

If this is a friend or something then you can just talk normal and broach whatever subject is comfortable for you plus your friends know that babies aren't your thang, so I don't think anyone would be expecting you to go ape over the little creatures.

Don't panic though. Just face it head on and forget about it. Feel joyful that the parent has to go home with it and all you had to do was play 'I care' for a minute. Not too shabby! (insert smile emoticon)

January 10, 2009 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger bless_cyborgs said...

Oh snap. I just realized the title said you were looking for actual mom's to advise. Sorry!

January 10, 2009 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Lucas said...

I would make a funny face and see if you can get the baby to laugh.

January 10, 2009 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Well, I posted this on facebook, too, and I got some interesting responses (Caitlin - don't worry, lots of childfree people commented, and I welcome all comments, anyway).

I think the bottom line is (at least what I gleaned from the moms) it isn't the bog deal I was making it out to be. It's not like the moms are keeping mental notes about you ("So and so only stayed for 30 seconds ..."), but me being in my paralyzed state can think of nothing but how stupid I am coming across. I literally thought that the moms are wondering when all of these pertinent questions and comments are going to start flowing out of me.

Lucas - I have to say, that I like your suggestion best of all. And here is the reason: it's the most natural and honest reaction for me. It's good to have other questions and comments at the ready, but they wouldn't be as genuine (thank you, Erika, too, for pointing this out) as making funny faces. And everyone loves watching a baby's reaction to funny faces!

January 11, 2009 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Here's what you do...
When you see the tyke...simply ask the parent..."Do you have the 'Leeny and Steve' CD??? No??? You should really pick's AWESOME!" Which gets you talking about music with the parent which I know you are passionate about and can hold your own, and, it potentially helps a good cause. Namely me. (well....'us' really..but, you know what I mean.)
Happy New Year!

January 11, 2009 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I should just pick up a ton of your CDs and have them at the ready. When they come in, I can grab one, walk up to mom (head down), say, "here!" and hand her the disc. Then walk away.

January 13, 2009 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

The Facebook comments had me in stitches! I personally don't think your current system is very flawed as far as etiquette goes. I'm big on the smiling and blinking routine in uncomfortable situations. And, yes, it makes me feel like a crazy person, too. : )

ps: I think Nora hit the nail on the head with the old 'fake a cold' scenario. Works everytime!

January 13, 2009 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Kara! Talk about being in stitches - Jere and I could not stop laughing when we watched yours and Amy's elf animations! They are hilarious!

January 14, 2009 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Bear in mind that new parents are just so happy to be out of sweatpants and in the world that anything you say to them will likely be fine.

Personally, I just talk directly to the baby. "Hello there. Welcome to Earth! What do you think, so far?"

Usually they will squawk or something by then.

Then I'll continue, "Yeah, I know. But what are you going to do, right? OK, see you later!"

March 8, 2009 at 3:30 PM  

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