I recently had an exchange with another person. It went something like this:
Random Person: "I heard a rumor you were expecting. Is it true?"
Me: "Um. No."
Random Person: "Oh good, because I am sure you already have enough on your plate."
Whoa! Was I really a just a part of this conversation?
I wish I had a pithy response. I wish I had been quick with a witty retort. Instead I just stood there, unsure of what to say. My mouth was probably hanging open. I fumbled through the awkward moment and left the scene. I should add that this person is not a stranger and I do not think this person made the comment with the intention of being hurtful. Sometimes people mean well and the words come out all wrong.
I thought about this quite a bit and came up with some general conversational ground rules:
#1. Unless you actually see a baby physically emerging from a woman, never ask if she is expecting. Just don't. Trust that if said woman is pregnant and wants you to know, SHE WILL TELL YOU. *
#2. If you forget Rule #1 and ask anyway, do not let out a sigh of relief and say, "Oh good!" if the assumed-to-be-pregnant woman answers that she is not expecting. Hide your shock/relief/dismay and bite your tongue. Bite until it bleeds, if you must.
And #3...this is a big one for me: If the assumed-to-be-pregnant woman is also the mother of a child with special needs, please refrain from comments such as, "You already have enough on your plate."
Telling me that I have 'enough on my plate' (which I will automatically assume is a direct reference to my child with a disability) is a euphemism for, "You are overwhelmed/overextended/unable/unwilling to take on any more." It's an insult dressed up in pretty clothes.
Comments like this take me from zero to defensive in about a half a second. Let me share three facts:
#1. What is on my proverbial plate is my business. I've got it covered. Trust me here.
#2. If you really must know, yes M is a portion of my plate, but he is not the entire plate. Remember I am also parenting a preteen girl with a vein of snarkiness that runs deep through her prepubescent body.
#3. I am a mother. A full plate goes with the territory whether you have one kid or ten, young or grown, typically developing or those who have a long list of special needs. Full plates and mothers have gone hand in hand since the dawn of time. Look at Eve. She had some intense stuff to deal with.
Please don't look at me and assume that I cannot handle more children or that I would not welcome more children into my life. I can and I would. And no, I am not expecting.
For the moment I am happily parenting two quite imperfect children whom I happen to love with every fiber of my being. And I am very grateful that they love me and all of my imperfections.