By Dr. Dawn Kingston
If you are a new or expectant parent, expectations and attitudes increase tenfold-everyone wants to know your most intimate business and tell you what to do. Family traditions and superstitions collide with unsolicited medical advice to raise any anxiety you may have to a whole new level. There’s no doubt about it; as much as we love our families, family gatherings during holiday seasons can be an emotional minefield. To help pregnant women, their partners and new parents (biological or adoptive) face the tinsel-infused madness, we’ll look at the conversations that cause so much trouble when we go home for the holidays (even if it’s on Zoom this year).
There’s a quote that is attributed to the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass that goes, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” Even the most self-sufficient, self-actualised adults have a habit of slipping back into their childhood selves when faced with an onslaught of relatives and their expectations-somehow, your family expects you to still be that rebellious 12-year-old who didn’t do her chores-and somehow you feel exactly like that again.
Family conversation: Your birth order determines who you are
This can be a tough one. If you’re the oldest child or the oldest child of your gender, your family’s expectations might be very different from your younger siblings. Oldest children are expected to be responsible and high achievers, middle children are often the peacemakers and youngest children may be looked upon as the irresponsible rebel. But now that you’re adults, those identities might chafe because you’ve worked so hard to grow beyond that.
Solution: Get to know your siblings
Rather than slipping into the same worn-out roles, take the time to really check in with your siblings and then talk up their accomplishments to other family members. Reminding Aunt Doris that your little brother no longer cuts school to go skateboarding, but now is studying for his MBA, starts an entirely new way of looking at all of you.
Family conversation: The women in our family have difficult deliveries
From time immemorial women have shared their childbirth experiences. The more difficult the experience, the more some women seem to relish the retelling. If you’re a first-time mother, the story of what might have been a normal birth can sound like a horror tale, especially if the storyteller has a hidden agenda.