You’re a new mom

You're a New Mom! When I was pregnant, I hated the phrases “just you wait” or “I’ll remind you of that when…” Now that Avonlea is here, I hate the phrase “you’re a new mom” as much if not more.

I’ve been surprised at how this phrase is used to be condescending and demeaning and everyone from strangers to medical professionals use it to “excuse” or justify my behavior or worse devalue my concerns.

Somehow the new mom designation translates to being uninformed or ignorant in addition to overly emotional, irrational, harried and unstable. Even worse is when the person says, “you’re a new mom” with an eye roll or a tone that indicates you “silly woman.”

Let me be clear, I’m not being an overly emotional new mom because I’m tending to my daughter’s needs. I’m not being an irrational new mom by being prepared. I’m not just being a new mom because I notice changes in my daughter’s behavior and ask questions. I’m not just being an overly concerned new mom because recommended courses of action aren’t working. I’m being a mom.

I first encountered this phrase when I was at the local Macy’s and trying to find a place to change my daughter’s diaper and if necessary feed her. (This was after finding out that the handicap doors didn’t work, so I shouldn’t have had my hopes up.)

Not only was the bathroom not equipped with a changing table but trying to find a chair to sit in for nursing or giving her a bottle was almost impossible.

In desperation, I found a handicap dressing room with a seat. Thankfully even though we were just going to the store for a short time, had packed an extra outfit, a bottle and a few diapers. Poor girl needed the new outfit, two diapers and drank the entire bottle.

When we emerged from the dressing room with a new outfit and a happier (not screaming) baby, fellow shoppers commented on how I “must be a new mom” because I was “over prepared.”

I don’t think I was even a bit over prepared! I was just prepared and knowing my daughter and her general needs doesn’t make me over prepared.

By far, the worst and most condescending comments about my being a new mom has come from a medical specialist we’ve seen.

After our terrible experience in the Pediatric Unit when Avie was four days old (see above photo), I’ve become a much more vocal advocate for my daughter. I’m not afraid to request the next steps in treatments and I’m willing to do my homework.

When the physician recommended course of action isn’t working the timeframe he indicated it would and I say I want to try something else, don’t tell me just being a “new mom.” I want my daughter to get better. I want to make sure this isn’t going to cause long-term issues because we weren’t proactive enough.

So when a nurse or physician essentially blows off my well-researched questions or indicates my wanting to try something else is just because I’m a new mom, it makes me irate.

I highly doubt non-new mothers would ignore their child’s symptoms or would want to be unprepared for a diaper blow out. All parents should feel comfortable advocating for their children whether they are first time parents or fifth time. Period.

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Pregnancy is not for the thin-skinned

Pregnancy
Me: 38 weeks pregnant.

In the 1950s and 1960s, women didn’t work while they were pregnant. They wore clothes specifically to hide their growing baby bump. They would also go into a laying–in or confinement a month or two before birth, which means no one saw them at their largest.

No one spoke about the pregnancy in public and strangers certainly didn’t comment on how much a pregnant woman has “popped” or “blossomed” since the last time they saw her.

Fast forward to 2014 and not only is pregnancy a topic of public conversation, but comments about the woman’s body are as prevalent as talking about the weather.

There’s nothing quite like a coworker remarking about how you’ve reached the puffy stage of pregnancy and even your nose looks bigger! Or how your belly is magnificent! (Both comments real people said to me.)

Strangers at the grocery store walk up and put their hands on a pregnant woman’s belly, despite her obvious recoiling at the act.

These unwanted comments and physical touches would be considered rude at best and in some cases grounds for harassment in others.

Here’s a fun fact: the child is also probably recoiling. You can’t touch the child, you are a stranger invading her space. You are not comforting anyone. Your own narcissistic need to be a part (even for a moment) of something that is not in any way shape or form yours is actually making everyone, including the unborn child, uncomfortable.

There is nothing kind about what these people are saying or doing. For a woman who is already dealing with a complete loss of control of how her own body functions, how her shape looks and the general cognitive dissonance from what she thinks she looks like to how she actually looks these comments are just cruel.

No one in their right mind would say anything like these comments to a non-pregnant coworker, friend or stranger. In some cases, these comments would be grounds for a conversation with the HR manager or the ending of a friendship.

Commenting on a pregnant woman’s body is not funny, it is not an opportunity to bond unless she has given you explicit instructions and allowed you in that circle of trust. It isn’t cute, it isn’t funny and at best you are making every person within ear shot uncomfortable. A general hint: if you are wondering if you are in that circle of trust, you aren’t and should keep your mouth closed.

It’s astounding how many people just don’t see you, the human being, the brain, the person anymore and just see an incubator. A pregnant woman has enough trouble dealing with her new identity and changing shape that she doesn’t need the constant reminder that in your eyes, she’s no longer the breadwinner, the math genius, the marketing director, that she’s just a pregnant woman incubating a child.

Toward the end of the pregnancy the comments about “just you wait” or “I’ll remind you of that when” are beyond unhelpful. The pregnant woman IS waiting.

She also has ideas and dreams and aspirations for herself and her child. She has plans that may or may not be flexible and saying just you wait to comments about not sleeping well or being uncomfortable are extremely unkind. Reminding her of the intention to breastfeed (or not), have an un-medicated delivery (or not) or whatever can chip away at her confidence. She has the right to make her own choices, without your judgment, period. Pregnancy is not a competition.

Furthermore, when she’s at the end (or what you’ve determined to be the end) asking, “so when’s that baby going to get here” is just uncalled for. Babies don’t have a clock or a calendar, the mother doesn’t know any better than you do. Unless there are complications and a procedure is scheduled, she doesn’t know. In the case a procedure is scheduled, asking only reminds the woman about the issues surrounding it.

Instead of treating the mother like an incubator whose only purpose is to hatch a child, try bring kind. When you ask how are you and she says fine, don’t push. Don’t say, “no, really, how are you,” until she comes up with something to say. And when and if she does confide in you and tells you about an ache or pain, don’t say, “just you wait.”

Don’t share horror stories in an attempt to bond. If she wants to know your birth story, she’ll ask. But most likely she doesn’t.

Try to remember the woman is still a person, still a human being and still very much trying to hold on to who she was before she was going to be a mother.

Pro-Tip: First name

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There’s a fine line when using a person’s first name. In some cases, it makes the recipient uncomfortable and may make you come across as condescending.

This post from the New York Times is from 1988, but don’t let the year make you think it isn’t relevant. The author writes this overuse of first names makes him bristle. “I resist people I don’t know (and on the phone have never met) addressing me by my given name. It makes me uncomfortable and robs me of the right of choosing to call someone a valued friend. This forced friendliness is most often found in dealing with sales-people. When a total stranger calls me by my first name, my usual reply is, ”Do we know each other?”’

It seems this practice is called repeat signifying, which according to this page is a common sales tactic. “Repeat signifying (or repeat naming) has become the bloodsport of telemarketers, as well as others who one would not expect to be in the business of intimidation. It consists of ‘addressing’ someone by name, mid-conversation. Repeatedly. One would presume this is to initiate the conversation, but what about the repetition? The frequent repetition demonstrates the offensive intent of the tactic.” You can read more about this here.

The extra catch to this is in social media when usually an organization or business decides to show they’ve done their research on you by using your first name in a tweet. Not only is this usually a waste of  characters, but it comes across as patronizing and overly familiar.

Bottom line, don’t over use this tactic regardless of your profession.

Here’s a prime example of when using someone’s first name in social media just comes across as condescending and patronizing.

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USAirways was already tweeting directly to me, making it completely unnecessary to use my first name at the end of the sentence. This went on for several more tweets becoming incessantly rude.

ProTip – Profile Photos

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If you aren’t a teenager and want to be taken seriously and professionally, perhaps a photo of you in a bikini or shirtless isn’t the best social media profile picture no matter how good you look.

Your profile photo is the first introduction to you. The wrong photo can easily convey the message that you aren’t serious or professional. You don’t want a potential employer to search for you, find your photo and say to themselves, “She doesn’t look like she’s fit into our culture.”

As this article from Neil McKenzie on the blog for Creatives and Business, LLC aptly points out, your profile picture is one of the most important visual elements for an effective social media or web presence. It creates a tone for your brand.

“It is the first thing people will see when they visit your profile or ‘About’ page,” he writes. “Many people will make an opinion of you from your picture and this will influence whether they want to connect with you on social media or spend more time on your website. Make sure that your personal image makes people want to know more about you, your art and not turn them away.”

With that in mind, here are some things to avoid in your profile photo:

  • badly lit photos (overly exposed, dark, etc.)
  • brands on shirts
  • badly cropped images
  • blurry photos
  • a photo that isn’t of you
  • old photos (your photo should be recent and represent how you currently look)
  • photos of you and another person, especially without their permission. (You don’t want the potential employer or business associate to guess which one you are)
  • bad body language (you want to come across as open and friendly, not sour and standoffish or worse desperate for attention)

If you aren’t sure what kind of message your profile photo sends, try asking a trusted friend what the photo would make them think about you. Ask that person if he would want to be friends with you based on the photo alone.

Above all else, it’s better to fail with an overly professional image on Twitter and especially LinkedIn that a party picture that is better left on your bookshelf.

ProTips

Image from: aphasia.org
Image from: aphasia.org

While nearly all of these can be summed up with two words: kindness and consideration, sometimes it takes more than 140 characters to share words of wisdom. These are the long versions of some of the #ProTips I shared on Twitter yesterday.

1) Don’t ask for easily accessible information. This also means don’t ask for something you’ve already asked for recently. For example: email addresses. Before you contact a colleague or professional contact for an email address, try Googling or at least searching your own past messages. Email addresses aren’t hard to find. (See this post on finding an email address.)

2) Don’t be unrealistic in your requests. If you want help, make sure it will take the person you are asking for help from less than 10 minutes. Whether it’s a presentation review or resume edits also make sure that the person you are asking for help from:

  • has the time 
  • doesn’t have a conflict of interest
  • isn’t something they have clients for

3) Don’t ask for something for free if the person you are requesting help from usually gets paid for the same service. Instead of asking for free help, think about what you can offer in return. Maybe it’s just a cup of coffee. That’s ok. But at least acknowledge the hard work the person has done to build their client base and be honest. Telling the person you are needing help from, “I can’t afford your usual rate, can we work something out?” is better than assuming the person wants to help you for free and having the advisor bristle at your request. Knowing whether or not the advisor typically charges for the service means doing a little research.

4) Do be considerate, asking for helps from 20 people makes you look desperate and as if you didn’t do your research. Your ask should be specifically targeted to the specific person, not a blanket request. Make sure to include as many details as possible about what you need help with and why. It’s better to err on the side of over information that not enough.

5) Do understand the person you are asking for help from will research you. That means you should make sure your LinkedIn and Facebook work history are as up to date as your resume.

6) Do be gracious if the answer is no. Don’t burn the bridge, you never know when that might come back to bite you. Most importantly, burning the bridge you asked to be on is not the wisest idea, especially if you ignored advice #4 and did a mass request and then were indignent when the person researched you, asked questions and gave an honest answer. In this specific case, all 20 people you originally asked for help from will see you burning the bridge and probably start to question if they want to help you at all.

7) Don’t ask for someone to teach you what took them years to learn. You should not expect to become an expert html coder in time for an interview. For example, you should not expect to become an expert in public relations or analytics in just a few days. If you follow no other piece of advice, this is the most important. If you don’t, your request comes across as insulting.

8) Don’t ask for help in fooling an interviewer. Know that when and if the person helps you, he or she is putting his or her name and reputation on the line and that might mean telling you, this isn’t a good use of your talents. A hint that this might not be a good fit, is if you are trying to learn several new skill sets just for an interview. (See advice #7)

Am I missing anything else that needs to be on this list?