New mom secrets and liesWhy moms fib or exaggerate to their friends, family, pediatrician, and strangers, and why it's sometimes healthy.
Having my first baby was everything that I had hoped it would be. I never felt so at peace or so fulfilled.
And if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
Truth be told, I spouted these and many other exaggerations during my son Harry's first year. To the pediatrician I would solemnly swear that I brushed my son's one tooth -- I just didn't say it was only once a month. To my friends I would explain that I couldn't make a playdate because Harry was sick -- when I really just wanted to nap. And to my husband I would pretend I didn't realize the baby's diaper was dirty (fat chance).
I'm not the only one, though. According to numerous studies, everyone lies every day. And Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a social psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says new moms are particularly Pinocchio-prone. Why? In addition to greasing the social wheels and avoiding hurting someone's feelings, lying lets moms sidestep potential confrontations where they'd be forced to "work through" an issue. And what new mom wants any more work?
Lies we tell strangers
Renae Chaves of Cranston, Rhode Island, lets a trickle of half-truths loose on a daily basis. "When people can't think of anything else to ask but 'Is he sleeping through the night?' I just say, 'He sleeps great!'" she says. "Because these childless people have no idea that no baby sleeps through the night."
Why deceive someone you may never see again? Because you may never see them again, says DePaulo. In fact, research suggests that we direct most of our casual lies to strangers. Sometimes we do it just to deflect embarrassment. "I always feel the need to explain to the dressing room staff that the clothes didn't 'work out' because I just had a baby," says Linda McKenzie of St. Louis. "Meanwhile, I had the baby more than nine months ago." (At Babytalk, we say if you've given birth in the past three years, you're allowed to say that you "just had a baby" when trying on clothes!)
Another mom told us she lied about feeding her kids only organic food since that's what the other moms she knew said they did. She thought they'd think she was a terrible mom if she admitted that -- gulp! -- she didn't spring for the organic produce.
It's counterintuitive to admit to something that might damage the "good mother" facade. "I know that I'm supposed to dread going back to work, so that's what I tell people," one mom recently revealed to us. "The truth is that I'm really looking forward to it."
Most of the fibs we tell strangers are harmless. But do -- and should -- we share our true feelings with close friends?
Lies we tell our friends
Although it would be helpful if we did, says DePaulo, women find it hard to come clean, even with longtime confidantes. But if the mother who is secretly excited to return to work had told a true friend, says DePaulo, she might have received validation that she is still a terrific parent -- and that she's probably not alone in her sentiments.
That said, "Lying does bring some social rewards," says Robert Feldman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. "If you compliment a friend, she's likely to reciprocate. Everybody ends up feeling better."
"I told a girlfriend her baby was adorable, when I really think he's quite odd-looking," says one mom from North Syracuse, New York. Indeed, most moms' lies are told simply to spare the feelings of their pals. And this kind of lying is made much easier, says Rachel O'Connor of Bedford, New Hampshire, with a baby as an excuse. "You know when you get trapped on the phone with someone who talks too much? Conveniently, my baby always has to go down for a nap, be fed, have her diaper changed, or is crying!"
A mom from Laguna Niguel, California, uses the same tactic: "When I'm invited to an event that I don't want to attend, I decline by saying that it's during my daughter's nap- or bedtime. It may not be true, but it saves my sanity."
Using your child as an excuse with friends -- to get out of social functions and to get off the phone -- is a time-honored tradition among new moms. So don't feel bad: Your friends with kids are using the same lines on you!
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