3 things you shouldn’t say to a new parent

There are a LOT of “things you shouldn’t say to a new parent” lists floating around the internet, so it’s clearly a topic that new parents feel strongly about.  However, I haven’t found one that includes all of my biggest pet peeves in one place.  Hence this post.

I’m fortunate in that most of my friends and relatives are not jerks, and apparently I give off a sufficiently strong “don’t mess with me” vibe in public that strangers don’t try to randomly offer parenting advice.  As a result, I didn’t encounter many obviously judgmental comments, nor did many people try to ask overly-personal questions.  Most of the time the things on this list were said with good intentions, but please, please, PLEASE – stop saying them to new parents.

1.  “Enjoy every moment!”

No.  Just no.  Show me a person who enjoyed every single moment of their child’s infancy, and I will show who a person who is either lying or has an extremely selective memory.  Even if you are the happiest parent ever depicted on a Hallmark card, there has to be at least one night that you didn’t enjoy getting up at 3 a.m., or one time that you got tired of getting covered in spit-up.

The big reason why you shouldn’t say this, though, is postpartum depression (PPD).  At least 15% of new moms and 10% of new dads are dealing with PPD, and they’re just trying to make it through each moment.  Know what makes you feel even worse when you’re depressed?  Being told how happy you’re supposed to be.

Now that Little Boy is approaching his half-year birthday and I’m past the worst of my own PPD, I can see what these well-wishers were trying to say.  The early months of my child’s life seem in retrospect to have passed so quickly, even though I still remember how agonizingly long they felt at the time.  I can understand the impulse to tell new parents to make sure to cherish that time, to store away in memory how tiny a newborn is, how small and sad their cry, and how they snuggle in your arms in unwavering trust and love.

But I don’t tell those parents to “enjoy every moment.”

2.  “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

Generally, this too is well-intentioned.  It shows up in a lot of baby care books, often followed by statements like, “The dishes can wait.”  And while the dishes can (usually) wait, there are a lot of reasons why sleeping when the baby sleeps isn’t a magic cure-all.

Maybe the baby only wants to sleep in your arms this week and will wake up complaining three minutes after you set him down.

Maybe when you try to go to bed, you end up lying awake staring at the ceiling, because you’re an adult human and your body isn’t used to going to sleep in the middle of the day.

Maybe the baby is only sleeping in 45-minute segments, so that you can’t finish a full sleep cycle and are awakened from deep sleep feeling worse than you would’ve if you hadn’t tried to sleep at all.

Maybe you have to eat.  Or pee.  Or shower.  Or call your mom because you’re desperate for some adult interaction.  Or call the insurance company because they screwed up your hospital bill for the third time.

3.  “But it’s all worth it, isn’t it?”

If you’re thinking of saying this to cheer up a parent who looks stressed and tired, don’t.  Again, PPD.  There is literally no way you can respond “no” to this and not feel like The World’s Worst Parent.  You probably feel like The World’s Worst Parent if you even considered that some tiny part of you might answer “no.”

This question was most awkward when asked by a non-parent.

Fellow parents, anything to add?  What were the most irritating things you heard when your kiddos were young?

10 thoughts on “3 things you shouldn’t say to a new parent

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  3. OMG! Where was this when my daughter was small? I was told this almost hourly when I asked for help or complained of being tired… Even through sleeping during the day was normal for me (I am a night owl and I worked night before having her) it was hard when I knew there was so much to do around the house. Then when I became a full time stay at home mom I felt it got eve harder because ‘I was home all day’ I don’t need help with anything… It was so hard but I survived and now I have a back talking (I am sure that is what she is doing when I speak to her) little one year old bossing anything the breaths around! 😀


    • We got “sleep when the baby sleeps” whenever we complained about being tired, too (especially from my in-laws). It was almost like we were being blamed for being exhausted. So frustrating! There’s a reason why this was the first post I wrote after my intro—it was stuff I *really* needed to say.

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