I had an experience today that as a new mum has shaken me to my core.
At the end of our weekly Mother’s Group one of the other mums and myself stayed back to chat and change our bubbas nappies before heading off.
We had laid out our respective blankets on the floor and proceeded to change our babies. At the same time a mum entered the area with her two-year-old and sat down to wait for her paediatrician appointment.
We exchanged polite smiles and I finished dressing my son.
It was at this time that the mother who had walked in proceeded to kneel down on the floor next to my son. She placed her hand on his arm and smiled at him.
Now this is not my issue. I am acutely aware of how sociable my 3-month-old Jaxon is and he does tend to draw people close with his smile.
BUT, this is NOT an invitation to pick my baby up off the floor and have a cuddle.
I do not know you. I do not know what germs you carry. I would NEVER lay hands on your child and I expect that you would have the same attitude.
I sat there in stunned silence as this stranger held and cooed with my baby. The other mum I was with looked at me as I did her and in silence, we exchanged a full conversation of “what the hell is she doing?”
It took a moment for me to shake out of my shock and proceed with a friendly “OK that’s enough we have to go” – I then grabbed my baby out of the stranger’s arms, put him in his cradle and left.
Once I got to the car I burst into tears and called my mum. How could I just sit there passively and let something like that happen to my baby???
What if he gets sick from this stranger or worse what if I was in a different environment and she had run away with him?! I mean you hear about these scenarios on the news all the time!
I felt like I had completely failed to protect my son.
But how do I stop this from happening again? Do I stay home and never take my son anywhere again? Or am I thinking about this the wrong way? Maybe it is not ME who should be changing my behavior but strangers who I encounter who need to think about their conduct in the presence of a new mum and bub.
So, stranger, here are some guidelines I would like you to follow if I encounter you again.
DO NOT TOUCH MY BABY WITHOUT ASKING
It’s pretty straight forward. Unless I walk up to you holding my child and invite interaction don’t touch him. Don’t touch his feet or his hands or worse yet KISS his hands! #whereisthesanitizer
Yes, sadly this is not the first time this has happened when we have been in public with Jax. Once when out in a supermarket with Jaxon, a lady proceeded to walk up to my husband holding Jax and kiss Jax on the hand. She then smelled his head. I was to the rescue with hand sanitize quick smart.
Don’t touch my baby with your hands and get your mug away as well. He is not your baby and you are not welcome to get that close.
What makes you, a complete stranger, feel like you are entitled to touch my baby’s hands or face?
Or smell his head?!?!?!
DO NOT PICK UP MY BABY WITHOUT AN INVITATION
Do not grab him out of my arms or pick him up out of his pram, the floor or cradle without EXPLICIT instructions for you to do so.
I am his mother and I will know when he is in a temperament to be held by a stranger.
And to be clear, just because you have met my baby once or twice does not mean that you are not a stranger. He does not know you at all.
GET OUTTA HIS FACE
Believe it or not he doesn’t like it when you get up in his grill and make raspberries and funny faces. He doesn’t think it’s funny and I DO NOT appreciate you spitting saliva on my child.
Also, your breath is potent! You are overwhelming 4 out of 5 of his senses, sight, sound, smell and touch.
Remember that you are a STRANGER and he needs to get used to how your face looks normal before he can stomach you cross-eyed and poking your tongue out.
And, so we are extremely CLEAR, here is how to interact with my baby next time:
APPROACH SLOWLY AND GREET ME FIRST
Yep hello, over hear, baby’s mama – Hi.
Just because you ignore me does not mean you can interact with baby and get away with it. I am his gate keeper – you need to get through ME before you can interact with him.
NO SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT
If you can’t help but be drawn to him with your unfamiliar hands then stay OUTSIDE the clothes. Go for a foot but ONLY if my baby is wearing socks. Do not touch his hands! He puts those in his mouth and we do not need to increase the amount of germs that already make their way into his system.
If you wouldn’t kiss my cheek, foot, hand or ARSE then don’t even think of kissing my baby.
REMEMBER YOUR STATUS
If you are meeting ME for the first time then NO you can’t hold my baby. Sorry, my baby, my rules.
Overall the experience of becoming a mother has come with SO many challenges but this by far is the scariest.
This is something that I truly did not expect to be an issue as I would never dream of behaving this way towards another stranger and their child. I now know that this etiquette is definitely NOT common knowledge and does not translate across cultures either – something to keep in mind on our family trip to Indonesia in a couple of months.
The thought of something happening to my child because of another person’s disrespect for me and my baby’s personal space is abhorrent.
But not as bad as me standing by and doing nothing. After a good cry and a crash course in baby advocacy from my mother, I can safely say that next time someone tries to get close to Jaxon I will be knocking them out – ok maybe not but I will not be passive.
To all those other mamas out there that have had similar experiences I would LOVE to hear how you tackled these scenarios.
Did you get physical with the stranger (push their hand/face away) did you get vocal (what did you say?) or like me, were you left feeling major #momguilt after standing by in shock?
Please get in touch and let me know!
And don’t forget to share this post so we can raise awareness on stranger baby etiquette!