Moms are always saying they’re sorry. You know who doesn’t apologize? Loud talkers, or cheap tippers, or people who voted for Nader in states with five or more electoral votes. Why are we moms so quick with the apologies when everyone else’s bad behavior is just accepted?
Here are 12 things moms should never apologize for:
1. Breastfeeding in public. My worst choice of place to nurse was in the comics section of an alternative bookstore. I guess I thought, “Who’s that into comics? It’s probably the least crowded part of the store.” Twelve horribly embarrassed, pimply faced teenage boys beating a hasty retreat later, I wrapped up my nursing session. Now, while I wish I had found a different place to nurse (but why was the store’s only armchair in that section?), I wasn’t going to apologize for it. Kids gotta eat, and moms don’t want to be on house arrest for a year.
2. Asking the server what’s in the food. So when I was a server in restaurants, I dreaded going back to the kitchen and asking the chef if there were nuts or wheat or dairy in a certain dish. I dreaded it because the chef, an inarticulate hobbit who nonetheless could spew profanity-laced invective while hopping about like a coked-up Rumpelstiltskin (which is what he was! And also one of my city’s “top 10” chefs) would throw hamburgers at my head. Sure, no one likes to be the customer who interrogates a waiter over a menu item, and if the waiter hesitates to go and ask, it’s because of drunk Rumpy in the kitchen, not because of you. But your kid’s health takes priority over the interpersonal dynamics of the chefs of Middle Earth.
3. Going to bed early. I used to be a night person. (I mean, I used to be a lot of things, like slim and clad in clothes that I’d put on just that morning.) My ideal sleeping schedule is probably 1 to 9 a.m. But when your kids wake you up at 4:41 a.m. every single morning by barking the theme song to Thomas the Tank Engine, you do what you have to do. And that means often saying, “No, I’m afraid I can’t meet you out near the airport for a drink at 8:45.”
4. Advocating for your kid in school. As a first-grader, I was spanked, along with the rest of the class, for being rowdy when the teacher left us unattended in our classroom. My mother told the principal that if they ever paddled me again, she would hit them with a 2×4. (Corporal punishment, still legal in 19 states, by the way.) Whether it’s making sure they get the accommodations they need for learning disabilities or asking the teacher for extra help, we parents should never apologize for fighting for our kid’s right to an education. (Maybe don’t threaten, though I do see where my mother was coming from now.)
5. Kids being kids, in places appropriate for kids. If someone is trying to eat a nice, quiet, solitary dinner in a restaurant that explicitly markets to kids and it’s 5 p.m. and the waiter is wearing a clown hat and there’s a bouncy house in the corner…maybe don’t give other patrons the stink-eye when their kids get excited.
6. Kids being kids, in places where parents don’t have a choice. I know, we’re trapped on an airplane, and my kid is acting up. I did take my friends’ advice and bring 19,000 toys, the entire Pepperidge Farm “kid shut-up” snack line and a horse tranquilizer. Flying is often unavoidable for people with kids, and we don’t like it either. Your heavy sighs and rattling paper are making no small amount of noise, too. Don’t make me take this horse tranq and totally check out.
7. Calling the pediatrician. I’m lucky because my sister-in-law is a pediatrician. Once I phoned her and hysterically described a rash on my baby’s arm, and she said, “Is it the imprint from the snaps of his onesie?” Which it was. It was then I decided to call our own pediatrician more often rather than risk ruining a relationship with a family member. And I try not to apologize, because even though I do sometimes call for stupid reasons, like when they say, “Well, has he been playing with a purple marker? Maybe that’s what it is,” there have also been a few times when they’ve said, “Yes, bring him in immediately,” and I’ve been glad I did.
8. Our gigantic strollers. I have a largish stroller, because it’s the only one on the market that folds with one hand and can navigate bumpy sidewalks without tossing the baby around like pizza dough. When I’m in the narrow aisles of our supermarket and someone makes a really ostentatious show of trying to get around me, I feel like saying, Hey, this is the way babies get around, buddy. And yeah, my kids and I are taking up a lot of space, but we’re three people. Any three people—teenagers, programmers, drunk Rangers fans—take up a lot of space. There’s no need to make me feel like I’m using more than my fair share of resources.
9. Being rigid about schedules. With one kid we kept to a strict nap and eating schedule, because if we tried to forgo the nap or delay dinner, he turned into a rather hellish companion. The other kid we were able to be more flexible with. Different kids, different strategies. This sometimes means that if someone invites me for dinner at 7, but our kids need to eat at 5:30 and be in bed by 7, we’ll have to take a rain check. But what can you do? You know what your family’s limits are.
10. The house smelling like poo. And later on, for smelling like teenage boys’ socks. This is what life is like when you share quarters with young people—your house may not have the light, invigorating fragrance of The Body Shop.
11. Not having anything interesting to say to people who don’t have kids. I went out to dinner with an old friend the other day, and he wanted to talk about Greece and the latest shows he’d seen on Broadway. I wanted to talk about how you never really know how sticky poo is until you have kids. This is an all-consuming project, this child-rearing. Sometimes there isn’t room for what’s going in Greece.
12. Not going to an event that requires hiring a babysitter. I love weddings. Adore them. I also love retirement parties and bachelorettes and birthdays. What I don’t love is having to take out a Stafford loan to pay the sitter. You know who doesn’t want me to shell out hundreds of bucks for a fun evening? Netflix streaming and cookie dough ice cream. Hello, lover.