Chrissie Swan: Banning the baby talk
"Incessant chatter about your child is interesting to a very narrow demographic of, well, you. And maybe your mum” … Chrissie Swan.
It's hard not to talk about your kids incessantly. In fact, when you have just one, it's damned near impossible.
I remember when I had just one, my first, Leo, in 2008; I talked of nothing else. I was working in breakfast radio, so I had the kind of outlet every first-time mother craves: a microphone, listeners who can't tell you to shut up, and a quote I'd read somewhere that said "babies are good for ratings". A heady combo.
When Leo was about six months old, I stumbled across a forum on the radio website. (Okay. I didn't really stumble across it. I logged on and searched for entries with "Chrissie Swan" in the title. I believe they call it a "vanity search" these days. I also believe it was the last time I ever Googled myself.)
If I'd received a dollar for every time the sentiment of "would she just STOP banging on about her bloody baby" was expressed I'd be writing this column from a yacht moored off the Bahamas, drinking diamonds out of a platinum straw. It was then that I realised that incessant chatter about your child is interesting to a very narrow demographic of, well, you. And maybe your mum. That's it.
Something eventually happens to most people to stem the flow of first-baby banter – usually the far less life-changing birth of a second child – but until then, first-time parents have no idea how boring they can be. Bless 'em.
I was at a bon voyage shindig last week for a friend who's moving interstate. There was a producer here, a gay man there, a young bearded stand-up comedian mixing mojitos and the inner-city neighbour with, you guessed it, one toddler sleeping next door under the watchful gaze of Grandma. Admittedly, with such a diverse group of strangers it's hard to find a topic common to all. But let me go out on a limb here and suggest that the winning subject is probably not mothers' group.
I've been so embarrassed by my own self-absorbed baby talk that as soon as I get a sniff of it I panic and try to steer the conversation somewhere else – anywhere else. I end up treating the whole conversation as if I'm one of those dodgem car supervisors: the baby talker is on the track, going the wrong way, ruining the fun for everyone and I'm perched on the back of the car, leaning over the errant driver and taking control of the wheel. More often than not, the driver lasts a few minutes on their own in the right direction and then, boom, wrong way and I'm on the dodgem again.
At the aforementioned party, this poor woman kept on about the trials and tribulations of mothers' group to a woman who hadn't been in one for 35 years, a woman who'd once been in one for a week (me), a man who'd never had kids and another who was a gorgeous 21-year-old and was no doubt living in a prophylactic seven days a week.
She may as well have been floating the concept of bonobos and their penchant for flash cards. No one could play along. And no one really cared. I'm pleased to say I was able to steer the conversation, dodgem-style, to the ground-breaking TV show Embarrassing Bodies and everyone could squirm together and attempt to answer such questions as, "If you've been so embarrassed by the skin tag on your bottom for 25 years, why do you suddenly break your silence, complete with telescopic camera footage, on a show seen by, I don't know, the entire world?"
Having a child was completely life-changing for me. It has been the best thing I've ever done. I know it sounds corny, but I felt it gave me a purpose that I didn't even know I'd been lacking. I love it. That's why I'm doing it again. And might even contemplate doing it a fourth time. I'm crazy like that.
But that's my story and there's a limit to the discussions you can have about all that stuff, and especially the audience you can have them with. An anecdote is fine. Go for it. I feel no guilt when sharing in mixed company that my four-year-old asks hilarious and dumbfounding questions such as "Why do we need a forehead?" and "Why does Spider-Man do whatever a spider can?" But a guessing game at a barbecue centred around "What percentile do you think little Jimmy's head circumference is in?" is just bad manners. Same goes for statements like, "I really thought Jemima would be 12 kilos at her maternal health check-up, but she's 13.3!"
I know it sounds harsh, but who cares?
It is a tough day when you realise that the vast majority of people you meet don't really care about your stories of breast pumps, which mattress is best, rapid out-growing of Wondersuits and how much stain remover you have to use on the shoulders of your clothing to remove those foamy spit stains. You might even be angry at me for suggesting it, as I absolutely was at User6789 on that forum page who wrote, and I quote, "If I hear the words 'my baby Leo' one more time from Chrissie Swan I swear I will voluntarily fill my ear canals with molten lava."
I'm not saying don't talk about it. I'm just saying it's probably best to write it down instead, for the exclusive pleasure of the one person who will really dig it, starting with the words, "Dear Diary". You'll thank me. Eventually. I think. (*retreats sheepishly*)
This article first appeared in Sunday Life.