I think we’re all guilty of looking at a person’s baby and telling the parents who we think he or she looks like. And I want to start his post by saying, I really don’t mind that. I don’t mind a friend looking at my son and telling me, ‘oh he’s the image of you Niamh,’ or similarly when they tell me, ‘oh he’s definitely got his daddy’s smile.’ It’s only natural that we look at a baby and we look for some kind of familiarity, be it with the parent or when it’s a family member doing the commenting, they often search for a resemblance to grandparents or aunts or uncles and I genuinely love hearing the different people they see in my baby boy’s expressions. In fact, myself and my mum have rifled through the old photo chest and have been amazed at the similarities we’ve found between the baby and various family members going back several generations from both my mum and dad’s side.
What I like don’t though, is when the one person (unfortunately, it often tends to be a family member), goes on and on and on and on ad nauseam about how the baby looks like either you or your husband. I realise it’s all said in jest and it indeed it might be funny the first dozen or so times you hear them say it to you, but after a while, it can start to really grate. And it seems I’m not the only one who thinks so. I asked a bunch of fellow mammies to tell me what they thought and the answers were all amazingly similar, regardless of who the baby indeed looked like. For example one woman I know, let’s call her Julie, told me she was at the end of her tether with her well-meaning Mother in Law who just would not stop going on and on about how her grandson looked just like her son.
‘He’s a clone!’ she’d bellow chirpily to Julie, who at this point had worn her tongue down to a nub from biting it.
‘I swear I’m looking at my son! He’s an out and out Cooper, I can’t see a bit of you in there Julie!’
‘If she doesn’t stop soon, I will not be held responsible for my actions’, Julie told me. And this wasn’t a throwaway comment, I could tell it was really getting to her.
We all like to think we can see a little of ourselves in our children, especially at the start, when you’re trying to forge that special bond as a new mum and these kind of well-meaning, yet sustained comments from family members you see all the time, are not in the least bit helpful, in fact it can really wear down the parent.
Another mum, let’s call her Nicola, told me how she’d snapped at her Father in Law the other week, after she could no longer take another afternoon of his ‘harmless’ slagging over how much her baby looked just like her side of the family and not his. Nicola, had suffered from very bad post-natal depression after the birth of her baby and now, 6 months on, she was finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and feeling more confident in herself as a mum, but her Father in Laws constant stirring that the baby looked nothing like his side of the family was like the ultimate rejection of her and the baby and it only served to undermine what little progress she had made.
‘I felt like slapping him square in the face,’ she fumed! ‘And I snapped! I told him exactly what I thought of his supposed banter, but now I feel terrible about it. I know he didn’t mean any harm, but every time I saw him, he’d just go on and on about it and it drove me insane,’ she lamented as she related the conversation to me.
‘Oh you’re a pure O’Mahony,’ the Father in Law declared for the hundredth, millionth time as soon as she, the baby and her husband arrived in the door.
Deep breaths Nicola, deep breaths.
‘There’s not a bit of Farrell in you at all,’ he carried on as he smiled at the child in Nicolas arms.
He’s old, he doesn’t mean any harm.
‘Where did we get ya at all? We’ll have to call you Sean O’Mahony.’ He goaded.
He’s just joking, Nicola, he’s just joking, hold yourself together.
‘We don’t want you, I think I’ll give you back!’ he professed.
‘Will you give it a rest you grumpy feck! Do you want this grandchild at all? Cos you won’t get any more, the way you’re going on!’ She bellowed, far louder than she’d meant to.
An awkward silence descended on the room and the conversation quickly turned to the weather.
And unfortunately, that’s the tip of the iceberg; I could tell you a dozen more stories from fellow mammies all in a similar vein.
So the next time you’re about to tell a new mum who you think her child looks like, maybe take a moment to think. Think about whether this will be the 50th time this week someone has gushed that her new baby looks nothing like her. Maybe she’s just come from her parents in law’s house where she’s had to sit and listen as they gush over their grandchild and how much he or she looks like their son. Perhaps she’s had total strangers come over and tell her how lovely her baby is and that he’s the image of his daddy. So maybe this time, just tell her that her baby is beautiful, or has a wonderful smile, or gorgeous eyes, or on adorable laugh and leave it at that.