5 tips for guiding conversations, when all they do is talk about their children…..Mar 06, 2023
We’ve all been stuck in one of those conversations where it’s all about babies, breastfeeding, birth experiences, pregnancy horror stories, and the challenges and joys of parenting. You can’t escape, so you merely nod politely. It feels like everyone is watching you, so your face goes bright red, you start to sweat, and try to swallow down tears or rage (depending on the day).
It’s hard, right? And of course, you feel so guilty. Because if you were a nicer/stronger/more graceful person, you’d be able to handle this type of conversation without it affecting you so much.
When we were deep in our fertility struggles, when a staff member would bring their newborn baby into work, I felt awkward around them. I was so self-conscious. And in the end, I used to make a run for the toilet or go out and get a coffee when I saw them enter the building. Not a proud moment, but self-preservation is so important here.
I want to be clear also – I’m not saying that it’s wrong for people to talk about their children. I have two of my own, and they are definitely the subject of many conversations I have. What I am saying is, it’s hard. It’s not just you. You’re not a bad person because you loath these conversations. You’re going through a tough time and it’s completely understandable.
So, what can you do when the subject of children and other triggering topics find their way into your conversations? Here are a few tips to help you out.
- Preparation is key. If you’re heading out to dinner with a friend who has children, come to the table with other subjects you can talk about. It could be a movie or a tv series you’re obsessed about, a holiday you’re planning, or a work project. Also, arm yourself with questions you can ask your friend – How is their mother going? What’s new for them at work? Have they tried any new restaurants? I know it sounds weird that you’d have to plan conversations, but it really helps.
- Guide and steer the conversation in the direction you want it. Ask the questions you’re interested in knowing the answer too. And choose topics that you know the other person is passionate about too (aside from their children). Compliments are a great way to guide conversations – so ask them about the dress they’re wearing, or their earrings. And don’t assume that all they want to speak about is their kids. I appreciate it when my friends ask me things that don’t have anything to do with my children – it means they care about me. So your friends may like it too.
- It’s hard to control conversations when you’re in a group of people who have children. Because once one person starts sharing, they all hop on board. And before you know it, you’re sitting there in the middle of a debate about whose child is the smartest, or worst behaved. It’s just not enjoyable and you’re powerless to stop it. It’s like you’re walking into a war zone and you’re getting triggered from all angles. Whether they’re talking about how hard motherhood is, or how wonderful it is, it hurts like heck. So, my big tip is to try to avoid group situations. Otherwise, you’ll be sitting there, gritting your teeth and choking back tears for an hour (or more). It’s just not worth it. You don’t have to be a hero or prove anything to anyone. Say no, and stick to more intimate catch-ups.
- If you have some friends who you know will only talk about their children, catch up with them (if you must) when you know you’ll be feeling a little more stable in your cycle. If you’re going through fertility treatments, avoid the time when you’re drowning in hormones and in the middle of a cycle. If you’re trying naturally – when you’re approaching testing day or just afterward, are the times you may be feeling a little more vulnerable. Choose your time wisely.
- Boundaries are so hard to set when it comes to conversations, however, if you’re with close friends, share where you’re at on your fertility journey. This alone may draw a line in the sand, so they don’t use you as a sounding board to discuss their problems with their children. Or you could be open and honest with them at the beginning of the conversation that you’re feeling a little fragile with your own fertility struggles, and you’d prefer it to be a fertility / child / pregnancy-free zone – for both you and them. That way you can switch off and enjoy their company, and feel like a normal human for a change.
Above all else, keep reminding yourself that this is a tough time you’re going through right now, and your conversations may feel a little different. But you were able to have conversations that didn’t revolve around children before you started trying to conceive, and you still can. And your friends with children aren’t just parents either. They are still humans and are capable of holding conversations that don’t just revolve around their children. And if they aren’t, perhaps it’s time to pause, or say goodbye to those catch up’s anyway. Remember that you get to choose.
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