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Miss Manners: Rattling mom takes a village

Judith Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 25 years old and currently pregnant with our first child. At a morning prayer group for the women of my church, my mother and mother-in-law were both present (fortunately, I am on excellent terms with both) and the majority of women were their friends or women of the generation above theirs.

Almost all of them knew my husband and me as we grew up and so feel deeply connected with us, even though (in most cases) our actual interactions have been very limited.

At one point, one of them commented to me that “you might be carrying it, but it’s really our baby.” The other women all smiled and agreed.

They weren’t serious, of course, but it wasn’t just a joke, either. Since I had no desire to make a scene, I let it pass, but I found the comment very upsetting.

Am I right to be upset? My mother agrees that it was in poor taste but doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. I expect my internal reaction is probably stronger than it should be, as is common during pregnancy. I have no intention of bringing the matter up again.

What do I do next time, if there should be one? I’ll see these women again, after all. I don’t wish to offend them (for one thing, I’m certain it was meant lovingly; for another, offending a potential source of free babysitting seems like bad policy), but I would prefer to retain some ownership of my own baby.

GENTLE READER: Sorry, but you will not own your baby. Owning human beings is immoral and illegal.

And in the milder sense in which Miss Manners understands that you intended, it is unwise. These people were not plotting to kidnap your baby. They are not denying that you are the mother.

They are, as you acknowledge, lovingly expressing their feeling of connection with your family. Your child is fortunate to be born into a caring community. You, too, are lucky. You may or may not get free babysitting, but you will be assured an eager response when you want to go around showing off baby pictures and reporting baby development.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For Christmas, I received many, many gift certificates from well-meaning relatives. Personally, I spend a great deal of time picking presents that I think people will like and have meaning and significance to our relationship. I always feel somewhat put off when all I receive in return is a $20 gift certificate to a bookstore. Am I being outdated our overly sensitive?

GENTLE READER: Your relatives probably think it is over-sensitive and outdated to expect anyone to put thought into choosing a present. Or perhaps they considered that pairing you with the stores they chose is quite enough thought about you. Miss Manners only hopes they also thought to check the expiration date and other policies of the store that so often interfere with the recipients getting a present at all.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.
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