Another single mom recently mentioned that she often got a lot of personal questions about her child’s origins – especially when her child and motherhood was very young. I can sympathize with that. I‘ve been dumbfounded by the nature of questions since I had my baby (well actually as soon as my belly started to pop out). I also felt shocked the first few dozen times people asked questions and put me on the spot. My default is to be very open and truthful – but that tends to leave me feeling kind of…dirty? Degraded? Something like that. I realized whether I was ready to tell my son our story or not – he was going to hear about it early and often due to sooooo many inquiring minds. So I decided to talk about the subject early and often with him (he’s 18 months old now). And I made a list of responses for nosy people and practiced them. If you are having a similar experience check out my list below. and I’d love to hear your go-to responses in the comments section!
So. When someone says something like: “who is the father?” “where is the dad?” or “what’s going on with baby-daddy?” (The RUDEST of the rude by the way), you can say…
“Why do you ask?” I‘ve had this response actually be really productive and deepen a new friendship. People are usually self-aware enough to realize maybe they have crossed a line when you say this. And if you are lucky you will get a thoughtful answer that helps both you and the other person grow and understand each other. True story. (This is the one I use the most).
“That’s not a fair question.”
If they ask in front of your child/children say: “little pitchers have big ears” or something to that effect.
“Can you imagine how many times my little one has heard people ask me that, and how it might impact him?”
Just give a calm quiet sympathetic smile.
“With all due respect, I‘d rather not discuss it…” You can add “with you,” “since we don’t know each other that well yet,” etc.
“That’s not up for discussion.”
“I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“Sorry! That’s a personal question.”
“Oh golly! I‘m so tired of talking about myself! Let’s talk about you!” Or something else! Or cookie recipes! Or those clouds! Or Israel/Gaza/Ferguson! Or how we are going to change the world!
“I could answer that but I‘d so much rather enjoy being in the moment right now.”
“That’s my child’s story and I have to respect that.”
That’s my two cents! Would love to hear if anyone else has some go-to responses! I think the bonus is your kid/s get to hear you have boundaries (wherever they may be). Also, moms who have older kids: is it true people eventually stop asking so many questions???
As for helping my son understand his story…
– We read this book http://amzn.to/1q6e4Vi almost daily. He loves it! If your kids are a little older maybe this one? http://amzn.to/1p2oCAP (Haven’t tried it yet but it looks good.)
– We also read a lot of other books (though not exclusively) that feature only moms and their kid/s to help normalize our experience. Even though the books are necessarily about single parent familyhood per se. Here is a post
about some of our current favorites.
– I tell him his origin story whenever he does something that reminds me to do so (like lately he has been saying “papa” because there is a papa in one of our books, etc).
– I also talk with close friends about our story because I think my son benefits from the people in our life continuing to grow into understanding and being sensitive to what the whole experience is like – especially if he may ask them for information someday. I want them to feel comfortable with the story/language. Since I had him I‘ve much more greatly enjoyed friendships with people who don’t hold too strong a notion in their minds of what a family *should* look like than ever before.
– I seek out other single moms and amazing grown children of single moms for us to be around. That way if someone here to ever make some kind of derogatory “test tube” or “accident” or “welfare mom” (idk?!) comment he will have an arsenal of examples that defy stereotypes and illustrate the beauty of all our possible choices.
– If all else fails I hope I just get across to him that no matter how our family came to be, he was so very wanted and is so very loved.
It’s been just over a year since I started writing here. Life has gotten in some ways easier and in other ways harder since I started. I’ve been taking a break from writing for a while because I’m going through one of those places where the world is just really hard to take in right now. It’s really hard to make sense of so many current events in my head and feels completely impossible to turn around and write anything coherent about it.
I’ve never loved anyone so unconditionally as I do my child – and it has been equal parts freeing and breathtaking. It’s also not as easy to feel quite as safe and blind in the world anymore. Part of it is because I now have a glimpse through the eyes of a white mother of a multiracial child. Another part of it, I think, is more general and just comes with the territory of being a mother of any color to a child of any color: your mortality takes on a whole new meaning. I remember holding my hours-old baby and thinking …oh. Now I can never die. I have to and want to stay alive for as long as possible to take care of this being and be a part of his life and see him grow and thrive. Have you had a moment like that? Intense. It’s not like I walked around with a death-wish before I had him. But life never seemed so…precarious before now.
I think that’s all I can put into words right now. Thanks for being here.
I’m just popping in to share a video that just might blow you away. If you find it moving, check out the Kickstarter campaign to help make a second film happen.