Having recently moved back to my home town of Harrogate after an absence of over 12 years, I found myself astounded about just how ‘Southern’ I had become. This manifested itself most vividly by the friendliness shown by complete strangers. People in Harrogate always seem to want to have a chat! When I first moved back and my daughter was a new-born, I actually had to factor in extra time where ever I went to allow for people stopping to have a coo. I have to admit, at first I found this a little unsettling, however I soon shed my ‘Southern’ exterior and began ‘chewing the cud’ with the best of them.
This new found chattiness only exacerbated my dismay one day last summer as I strolled along Park Parade with my baby in her pushchair. I had just left my 3 year old daughter on the Stray with a fellow mum (we had committed a schoolboy error on the mummy front. She’d turned up with her toddler on a trike; mine had left hers at home. In toddler terms- unforgivable) anyway, after much whining I agreed to nip home and get our trike. As I walked I notice an elderly man staring at me so, pre-empting his greeting, I said a cheery “Good morning”. To my astonishment the man ignored my salutation and barked at me ‘that child should be facing the other way’ with which he walked off leaving me open mouthed. I’m ashamed to say that in my hormonal new-mum state I walked round the corner and burst into tears. It was only afterwards that I began raging about the rudeness of this man. I cannot believe that he thought it acceptable to offer unsolicited opinions to a mum. A quick straw poll of my mummy friends has told me that I’m not the only one to be on the receiving end of such advice. One friend who’s 2nd daughter has Downs Syndrome jokes that she could write a book about all the bits of ‘well meaning’ advice she’s been given , including, when discussing her current (3rd) pregnancy with a stranger, was amazed when the woman remarked “well I doubt you will be so cavalier at refusing (Downs Syndrome) testing this time will you?” As if suggesting that the gorgeous little girl (who was sitting right there) shouldn’t have been born. Another friend told me of how her blanket was snatched off her baby by an old woman who remarked that she ‘obviously wanted to see out’
So please, if you’re out and about and see a young mum feel free to have a chat and a coo, but unless it is sought, please hold back with the well-meaning advice. And if you’re the old man on Park Parade please watch out for me next time. I’m over the post pregnancy hormones now and I’ve got a well – rehearsed piece of mind to give you should we meet again!
(First published 9th March 2012 Harrogate Advertiser)