by Shoshana S. Bennett, PhD
Why is it that women feel obligated to answer personal questions just because they're asked? For some reason, women in general often feel rude when ignoring other people's questions or comments, no matter how inappropriate or unsolicited they are.
But remember, unless you're mandated in court to do so, you never have to answer any question with the complete and unadulterated truth. Give yourself permission to answer in a way that suits the occasion. Sometimes that may mean totally ignoring the comment. Not every comment needs a response, you know.
There are better ways and worse ways of dealing with unwanted questions and comments. Especially with depression, it's easy to let ignorant comments affect your head, so beware. If you're vulnerable to criticism and have low self-esteem, as is common with postpartum depression, you may feel put down, chastised, shamed and guilt-tripped whenever people make inappropriate comments. Use these times as opportunities to strengthen your affirmations of the truth and you'll continually get better and more confident.
Following are a few scenarios that you may encounter. Along with the inappropriate comment are details about what you may be feeling and what you should and shouldn't say when faced with the situation.
Possible feeling: That person just threw a myth of motherhood at you, either by accident or on purpose (though it really doesn't matter whether he or she meant to or not). Remember that new moms are in bootie camp and are usually not feeling very happy, even without PPD. If you're not careful with how you handle this comment, you could experience shame, and you may doubt your worth as a mom until you get your bearings straight.
DO NOT say: "Oh, REALLY? Thanks for telling me Now I'll be happy." Sarcasm gets you nowhere.
DO say: nothing and walk away. If the person who said this comment to you is your partner or someone else in your close circle, he or she will need to be educated, either by this book or by a consult with a professional, so that you get the support you need If the comment was made by someone else, it probably won't be worth the effort.
DO say: "This mommy stuff is harder than it's made out to be. I'm told by the experts that the good times come in time."
DO say: I'm looking forward to feeling happy. I'm getting there." This message works as an affirmation for you as well as giving the other person a clear message that the judgment doesn't work.
Possible feeling: This judgmental individual is trying to make you feel guilty. If unfortunately it starts working, remind yourself in a firm statement that you're an excellent mom who made and will continue to make great decisions for your baby. Tell yourself that you're doing the very best that you can and that you feel proud about your decisions.
DO NOT say: "It's none of your business how I'm feeding my baby!" (even though it's technically the truth).
DO NOT say: "I know" and go into apologetic explanations. You have nothing to apologize for. Based on your individual situation, you either couldn't breastfeed or it was the healthiest choice for you and your family not to. Feel good about taking excellent care of yourself -- a happy mom is the best gift you can give your child.
DO say: nothing and walk away. Remember, not all comments deserve a response.
DO say: "I can't. I'm suffering from a life-threatening disorder" (yes, depression is life-threatening). That usually baciks the person way off. After all, your disorder may be contagious!
Possible feeling: This person is usually female. she may or may not be judging you as a mother. give her the benefit of the doubt, because she may be trying to help. But of course, it really doesn't matter what the intent was anyway, because how you choose to feel about that comment is what's important.
DO NOT say: "That was in the ancient days when you had no heat in your apartment!" Becoming defensive simply hands the other person your power. And remember, you want to hold on to your own power. So, stay cool, calm and collected.
DO NOT say: "You're always so critical! Leave me alone! Your statement and feeling may both be real, but responding this way isn't good for you. Even though, on some level it would be satisfying to blurt this out, you'd end up feeling lousy and it would hurt your relationship with that person.
DO say: "That's great you found a way that worked for you and your babies. It sounds like you were a really good mom." This is an important one to remember. Notice that I ignored the "you should" part of the person's comment. That part just wasn't worth responding to. This is because usually when a person speaks about the way she parents or parented, she just needs some validation of her own. Don't take it personally. After she gets the validation she craves, usually the criticism stops immediately.
After reading through these few examples, you'll get the idea and will be able to apply the concepts to any topic.
Excerpted from Postpartum Depression for Dummies.
Shoshana S. Bennett, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and founder of Postpartum Assistance for Mothers after her second undiagnosed postpartum illness. In addition to three teaching credentials, she holds a second masters degree in psychology and a doctorate in clinical counseling. Dr. Shosh has been a featured guest on national radio and television shows including ABC's 20/20 and her work has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles around the world.
Copyright © Shoshana S. Bennett. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.