When I got my son, I took dozens of photographs, which I showed to everyone who cared to look.
Every mother, at least those I know, thinks that their child is the most adorable, good-looking baby on earth.
Of course, the truth (which we dare not say aloud) is that not all babies are attractive, but try telling a besotted mother that her child isn’t exactly billboard material.
Anyway, on any given day, I’d be carrying with me not less than 10 photographs of my newborn son. I had a passport photograph, you know, the one that fits in your wallet, a larger one in my handbag, and dozens more saved in my phone, which I’d lovingly scroll through several times a day, a big smile plastered on my face.
When I went back to work after my maternity leave, whenever any of my colleagues asked about my child, I’d readily thrust my phone in their (unwilling, I’d later learn) hands, and invite them to go through the mountain of photographs I’d taken. Of course, in my excitement and motherhood-induced blindness, I assumed that they’d be as taken with him as I was, but of course I was wrong.
The fact is that most people just aren’t interested in looking at one baby photograph after another — one is more than enough. Neither are they interested in the baby-related anecdotes you think are hilarious. In fact, those who ask you about your child are only being polite — I mean, you’ve been on maternity leave, so the only logical question your colleagues are bound to ask is how your baby is faring.
However, the last thing they want is to be obligated to stand there as you go on and on about how “cute”, “sweet” and “adorable” he or she is. Trust me, it is especially irritating if the person you’re subjecting this unsolicited monologue to has no child, meaning that he or she has no baby notes to compare with yours. Unless you’re asked specific questions, a simple “fine” will do just fine.
You’re probably wondering how I came about this “wisdom”. Well, it all hit me when a month or so after I reported to work after that long leave, a colleague passed by my desk and asked the obligated “How is your son?”
“More than fine!” I beamed, and proceeded, as usual, to whip out my mobile album, which held “disarming” photographs of my son. You should have seen the look that passed over his face. Had it been possible, he’d have kicked himself for stopping by.
Before I could hand over my phone, he received an imaginary phone call. Imaginary because I could have sworn I didn’t hear it ring. Of course, he quickly excused himself to answer his phantom call, walking away in the process.
You’re right, he didn’t return.
After this incident, the guy avoided coming anywhere near my desk for about two months, and would visibly cringe whenever we met in the corridor, no doubt fervently praying that I wouldn’t unleash my dreaded phone. If this isn’t telling, I don’t know what is.
Since then, I only show people my son’s photographs if requested, which isn’t often mind you, and refrain from initiating any baby-related stories unless that’s the subject being discussed.
Yes, such discipline is difficult for a mother, but the last thing I want is people to start avoiding me as if I’ve got the plague.