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Ask Susan: My Sister-in-Law Pulled Some STFU Parent Moves at Brunch. How Do I Stop It?

“Dear Susan,

 At a brunch I held with a mixed group of ladies (about half and half single and married and only a couple with children), I had an interesting etiquette breach that I’d love to hear your opinions on. My sister-in-law brought her baby, whom I love since I’m baby’s aunt and all. So, totally cool. As the group sat and discussed things, had seconds, etc., she whipped out the boob and latched baby on for a feeding. Most of the ladies were okay with this (most of the uncomfortableness was because they didn’t really know her) and the conversation carried on.

Then… there was a smell. Baby needed to be changed and I told sister-in-law that I had cleared some space in another room for that purpose (what a good, thoughtful, thinking ahead hostess, right?). She said that it was all right and proceeded to open up a changing pad on the floor and change him in the middle of the room where everyone was still sitting. The smell was terrible and I could see the shocked looks on everyone’s faces as I tried to mouth “Sorry!” to everyone.

I feel like it’s reduced attendance at my subsequent brunches, even though she hasn’t been at them. It’s a somewhat moot point for the time being, but how should I address it with her to avoid it happening again in the future?”

As with all great stories, let me start with the boob.

Even though I’ve been breastfeeding my kid for what feels like one million years, and probably will for a million more (if she has any say in the matter), I do not identify, even a little bit, as a lactivist. I don’t have a bumper sticker that says “I make milk, what’s your superpower,” my profile picture is not Tiny attached to me at the nipple, and I don’t try to convince strangers and friends if they don’t breastfeed, it’s abuse.

I do, however, know what it’s like to be at a brunch when it’s time to feed the baby, and let me tell you, it sucks. Pun sort of intended. Not really, but once I saw it, I decided to keep it.

When it’s time to feed the kid, a breastfeeder has three clear options: 1) ignore the kid and try to put off feeding until later, which results in SCREAMING HORRIBLE DISCOMFORT FOR EVERYBODY; 2) take the kid into another room, which feels really isolating and weird and shameful and super, super boring, and then, when you come back, do you talk about why you left? Or is it just something that everybody should pretend didn’t happen?; 3) just feed the kid right there.

There are nursing covers to limit exposure, but I will tell you right now that some kids (mine included) won’t have it, and rip the cover off every time, sometimes getting distracted and unlatching and then the nipple pops out. Nipples are the offensive parts of boobs, right?

My solution, especially in any place where I feel welcome and safe, is to just pop out the boob. It’s the only solution that doesn’t end in the baby ruining everything for everybody, or removing me from what might be the only social event of the week. Aaaaand, there is approximately 1/10 of a second when the nipple shows, and then the amount of boob that you are seeing isn’t much more than if I were wearing a low-cut shirt.

Your brunch guests may have felt uncomfortable, but (and I repeat, I am not a breastfeeding activist) it seems like an awfully small discomfort to have to deal with. Particularly if everyone in attendance is a woman who has probably changed their clothes in a crowded locker room before. I can’t tell your friends to just get over it, but I can tell you that this initial problem, in my opinion, is not one of your sister-in-law’s making.

This baby is embarrassed at all the shenanigans involving her poop. Just kidding. It's just a picture I found on the Internet (http://aestheticangel.blogspot.com/).

And, like all good stories, we’ll end with shit.

Baby shit is gross. So is adult shit. And dog shit and elephant shit and most any kind of shit on the market. Actually, in my experience, breastfed baby shit is less gross than most other kinds, but I will spare you the pros and cons.

Your sister-in-law clearly did not take the hint that you didn’t want her to change the baby in front of everybody. From the sounds of it, she thought you were being excessively polite but didn’t want her to actually use the other room, and she thought she was being polite by not making you prepare extra space for her. My guess is that she wasn’t trying to offend people with the dirty diaper. The truth is, after you’ve been a parent for awhile, you kind of forget that shit is shit. I mean, it’s still gross. But you are handling it on such a regular basis that it’s easy to forget that, for non-parents, it is shockingly gross.

For the future, if it should come up, just talk to her beforehand. You had set up the room just for that purpose, so it was on your mind before shit hit the diaper; giving a heads-up before the brunch will take care of any issues. Had she said, “No, my child’s shit don’t smell, I must change her right here,” that would be a different issue, but what happened was simple miscommunication. She heard what you said in a different way than you intended.

One last thing. Do you really think people have stopped coming to your brunches because of those two things? I know, you want to be a great hostess and have everybody be comfortable all the time, but for the 1/10 of a second of nipple and the”¦3 minutes? of shit-changing, your friends seem to be of the fair-weather variety. You were made uncomfortable by the diaper situation, and you have every right to communicate with your sister-in-law to say why. But if your friends are blowing you off over something so small? It honestly seems like they don’t value you as much as they should.

You get to decide what happens in your house, and if you don’t want open breastfeeding, or diaper changing, the onus is on you to make sure everybody knows the rules. In the meantime, think about the friends you have, and if they are actually willing to avoid you over such slight inconveniences. It may be time for new friends.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

42 replies on “Ask Susan: My Sister-in-Law Pulled Some STFU Parent Moves at Brunch. How Do I Stop It?”

As a non-parent I wouldn’t mind if someone breastfed their child at a dinner table. I would be a little taken aback if it was someone I wasn’t well acquainted with, but I’d get over it. I definitely think that this new mom should have changed her baby in another room. I know we all poop and such, but I don’t want someone’s poop – adult, baby, dog, cat, etc. – near me while I’m eating. I’d recommend that the submitter gently remind the new mom of a separate changing area at the next brunch, and go from there.

Also, as much as I don’t want shit near me while I’m eating, this wouldn’t be a friendship dealbreaker for me. The submitter’s friends have some serious sticks up their asses if they’re considering ending their friendships with her over something as silly as this.

It’s possible that attendance at subsequent brunches has been low because the other mothers in the group had been looking forward to a break from babies and didn’t like having their brunch disrupted by the baby of someone they didn’t know very well.  Future brunches might have to be baby-free.

I agree, although the poop changing was a bit over the top, the breast feeding shouldn’t have been an issue. If attendance is down it’s probably just the plain ‘ol presence of baby. Susan was vvery nuderstanding of the situation, but there are contexts, where babies are not always welcomed by everyone and I’m getting the sense that no one else at brunch has a child and probably would rather never be near them. I get that, but if you want to breastfeed, great, maybe she could have just made sure it was ok with everyone first? She doesn’t know people’s religious backgrounds and it does just come down to respect. I also think that breastfeeding at the table is kind of rude. But then I hate elbows on the table to. And don’t even let me start on people that allow their pets on the chairs let alone feed them from plates at the table. God help them.

The first thing you have to do at the hospital is watch for poop.  WATCH FOR POOP!  If there is no poop, you have failed.  If there is poop, you have created a functioning human being.  It’s like – everything you have been working for for 9 months depends on that poop.  I’m pretty sure that’s when the relationship changes.

Yeah, there was something about that for me, too.  I was all, “no, you don’t need to help me to the bathroom, I’m an adult,” and then I was like “PLEEEEASE HELP ME!” and then I was all, “um, sorry for all the farting.”

Oh no, this post about STFU-parents-type-behavior has become just that.

I admit to doing diaper changes in the same room as food, but it was at a restaurant with no changing facilities in the bathroom.  But at someone’s house?  I’m pretty sure that was just absent-minded mom blinders– not a great move, but not unforgivable.  It’s a faux paux, and in the future, I would give her a discreet heads-up that there was a place for changing in another room.

I’ve been escorted out of a room at a family gathering when I said I need to feed the kid, and it was the most isolating feeling ever.  I generally give a polite heads-up, just so that I can get a comfortable chair in a corner to feed, but I got escorted out of the room and upstairs to a dark bedroom.  It was awful.  If you have a problem with no-nonsense discreet breastfeeding, examine yourself.

As to why your brunch attendance is down since then, did you air your displeasure about your SIL’s behavior after she left to your other guests?  Perhaps they were uncomfortable with the way you processed the situation.  If I heard my host complain about the behavior of another guest, it would be enough to make me second-guess future decisions to visit.

I’m sorry, but did you just say that, due to a restaurant’s failure to meet your expectations in terms of changing facilities, you changed a baby’s diaper in their dining room? If so, that’s hardly a mitigating factor, as it punishes the other diners, by ruining their meals and exposing them to E. coli, but not the restaurant.

I fell like the real issue here is the poop, not the breastfeeding. I really couldn’t care less if someone breastfeeds in public, but changing diapers out in the open is not OK. Especially around food. It might make me an asshole, but I’d probably avoid what I’d refer to in my head as “feces brunch” if I witnessed that.

Ha!  I think you’re right – that is the real issue.  My take, though, is that the sister-in-law just didn’t think it was a big deal, and the letter-writer did.  In which case, communication.

If the sister-in-law was doing it to take some sort of stand, I give her the side-eye.

My cousin pulled the dirty diaper dining room stunt during Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago.  It was not cool. When I called her out on it (in front of everyone because I don’t like her to begin with and I’m a bitch) she thought she could turn it into a breastfeeding argument! I reminded her I didn’t care where her daughter ate, but that the rest of us excuse ourselves to the restroom to shit and expecting the same for diaper changes was not in any way excluding children.

I agree with everything, especially the mom-desensitization. So much of your life becomes about shit, dealing with it, cleaning it, talking about it, that you really forget what it’s like to think shit is gross.

When I had little babies, I would have been really upset if someone had asked me to nurse in another room. It is very isolating to think that you have to miss significant portions of any gathering because your child needs to eat. However, I think I could have dealt with it if someone said “Would you mind changing [Baby] in the other room? Poop in the dining room kind of weirds me out.”

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