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September 15, 2017

The Six Little Words You Never Say To A Mother

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When my baby was two months old, I heard those six little words that before then I had believed were a myth propagated by magazine articles to make a point. I didn’t think anyone ever actually spoke them out loud.

Even in the 38 years before I had a baby, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to say them to a new mum, or any mum for that matter. Even when I was young and naïve and used to drink shots at 4am and wished I could stay in bed and not have to get up for work. Even then.

Have you guessed what it is yet?

When Tom was 8 weeks old I bumped into a guy I used to work with, who as a result, knew how insane my work schedule used to be at times. We said hello, got the obligatory pleasantries about the weather and how cute my baby was out of the way, and then he hit me with it.

“So what do you do all day?”

(I realize that’s seven words, but the ‘so’ was an unnecessary colloquialism so I discounted it).

It took me a good ten seconds to process the question. Someone had actually said it. To my face. A real person who isn’t a complete asshole asked me what I did all day with a hint of envy in his voice. Because after all, I was on maternity leave which is basically a six month ‘staycation’ filled with afternoon naps, coffee and cake and playing with your new favourite person in the world.

I resisted the urge to punch him.

But what I wasn’t able to resist was to start manically trying to list off what I did all day.

“Well I get up at 6am, usually after no more than two consecutive hours sleep in between feeds, and at least one change of clothes for me and the baby. Then I have to get the baby fed, unload the dishwasher, wash and sterilize all the bottles from the previous evening and overnight, then strip and wash his sheets, then get him back down for a nap, after which if I’m lucky I might find ten minutes for a shower, but then he wakes up too soon so I don’t. He needs another bottle then so I get him dressed but he has reflux so we both end up covered in sicked up milk at least four times a day and have to change…..”

After I’d reached about 4pm on an average day without pausing for breath, I realised how insane I sounded and the whole exchange was becoming very awkward.

“Sounds terrible” he said.

“Oh no, it’s lovely” I replied defensively, despite knowing I had made it sound like modern day slavery.

He made his excuses and left sharpish. The moral is this: never ask a stay at home mother what she does all day. Just don’t. Just be envious of all the coffee and cake and naps if that’s what you want to believe. And if you’re a mum who is asked this question, go for the punching option.

Maia

Maia
Maia
Maia Dunphy is a writer and broadcaster who stepped in front of the camera after over a decade behind it. She has written and hosted twelve female-centric documentaries for RTE and has written for many well-known publications including the Evening Herald, The Dubliner, The Irish Times and Image Magazine among others.