Everybody from my grandmother to people I barely know seem to feel obligated to tell me how to raise a kid that’s not even here yet. Everything from church to vaccines to what clothes the kid will wear seem to be up for discussion.
There are a few things that I didn’t even think would be an issue that all of sudden are – like differences in values. Some people are still shocked by the idea an atheist would be concerned about values. But yes, I am.
My values don’t include teaching a kid they have to go to church or they’ll be damned to a place of fiery torment, and certainly don’t include teaching them their parent is going to Hell. I won’t force her to belong to a religion. It’s very sad to see my grandmother, who I respect and love, all of sudden decide I’m in need of God and so is a kid who isn’t born yet.
I value thinking for yourself, and my child will get plenty of exposure to various religions from attending Unitarian Universalism classes. It teaches the same values that matter to me, that we respect everybody regardless of their religion (or lack of), race, gender, or sexual orientation and we don’t force our beliefs on others. Sadly, for some people this isn’t good enough. I wish it was, but it isn’t.
In my ideal world, the idea of respecting everybody wouldn’t be controversial. I wouldn’t have to tell people what they’re saying is racist or try to figure out how to respond before I have a child watching me respond. The news wouldn’t treat it as normal to declare atheists are criminals. I wouldn’t have to worry if someday my kid will face discrimination if she chooses to follow the same path as me or if she’ll have the guts to speak up if she sees another child being bullied. There wouldn’t be the concern if people will ignore my wishes and push female stereotypes on her; science would be “girly” and Disney Princesses wouldn’t.
However, this is the real world, and there really is constant negative messages she and I will have to deal with. I wasn’t always too worried before when people presented things opposite to my core values as fact, often I was just quiet. So what if they made the occasional racist or homophobic remark? No big deal.
But very soon, it will be a big deal.
Soon I’ll have a little set of eyes watching my every move closely. I still remember how my mother responded to these dilemmas when I was a kid, and I want my daughter to see it’s okay to stand up for yourself and others. As her parent, in the end, it won’t matter as much what others say and tell her or me; it’ll matter what I say and do in response to these people and problems. I won’t get it perfect, but nobody does. She’ll most likely turn out just fine.
Another odd thing people seem to do to new moms, especially first time moms, is assume we want their opinion on every medical topic related to babies. From a first time mom: Stop, please. I’ve been told everything from I’m dooming my kid by vaccinating them to I need to buy amber teething beads to how dare I drink caffeine while pregnant.
I’m plenty well informed on vaccines, as I happen to be on the autism spectrum myself, so the fear mongering that I’ll doom her to an unsatisfied life with autism pales in comparison to me to the potential consequences of not vaccinating. You don’t vaccinate your kid? Great, good for you, but let me do what I want and don’t assume I haven’t researched. I understand caffeine isn’t great for fetuses, but trust me, it’s more harmful if her mom is grouchy constantly. If I do require medical advice, I’d probably research reliable resources and consult the doctor who went to school for this.
The best thing anybody could do for a new mom or pregnant woman is to give them space. Chances are, if they want advice, they’ll ask. We have enough worries in our heads without the help of random people telling us what to do or what not to do. Everybody knows stress is bad during pregnancy, and not helpful after the baby either. A great way to reduce it for the pregnant people and new moms you know is . . . let us be.