Smug Mums

Babys head held in mothers hands

Everybody who has ever had a baby has encountered this phenomenon - the gloating new mother who lords it over lesser mortals, boasting about her baby.

At a time when many new mothers are feeling emotionally fraught, smug mums can make them feel truly murderous. Take these simple precautions to ensure that you never fall into the smug mum trap:

•If you've been lucky enough to recapture that elusive pre-birth figure, don't refer to it around mothers who are still struggling with their weight. The spectacle of your lithe form will be depressing enough; remarks about being fortunate, eating anything etc. will just make women who still look six months pregnant feel even worse…

Even if your weight loss is due to rigorous diet and exercise, it's best not to boast - many new mothers are just too exhausted and frazzled to do anything about their weight and your energy and commitment will make them feel really bad.

•If you are finding breastfeeding easy, just be aware that many mothers find it difficult or impossible, and may be feeling very bad about it. Boasting about your gargantuan milk production is just cruel.

•If you are happily breastfeeding, it is extremely tactless to make disparaging remarks about bottle-feeding. For some new mothers, this is not a matter of choice but necessity. And even if they have opted for the bottle, it's really none of your business.

•On a related matter, don't boast about your baby's huge appetite, impressive weight gain and developmental prowess. Parents with babies who are not feeding well and are under-weight may already be feeling anxious (regular weigh-ins revealing that their baby is below average weight will be taking an emotional toll), and you will just make them feel inadequate.

•If you are one of those lucky new parents whose baby is a model of serene tranquillity, don't go on about it. For parents who have spent nights on end pacing the floorboards with a fractious baby, tales of uninterrupted nights are the final straw.

If you are unfortunate enough to encounter a smug mum, rise above it. Humour and self-deprecation about your babycare travails may throw their vain boasts into sharp relief.

Or you could try and swamp them with dewy-eyed admiration. Simply lay on the compliments on their parenting skills with a trowel - even the smuggest mother may feel a twinge of embarrassment.

If all else fails, take the long view. Parenthood is an arduous journey, with many traps and pitfalls along the way. The perfect baby may well turn into the terrible toddler, the naughty kid, the moody adolescent, and the boastfulness of early parenthood may well be supplanted by doubt and uncertainty.

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