Remember that scene in Mean Girls where Cady has total “word vomit” and just can’t stop talking about Regina George? “I was a woman possessed. I spent about 80 percent of my time talking about Regina. And the other 20 percent of the time, I was praying for someone else to bring her up so I could talk about her more,” Cady confesses.
I found myself in a similar situation the other day, except I was talking about actual vomit. In fact, I was asking my friend—for the third time that week—how much spit-up was normal and if she thought my 4-month-old child might have a puke problem.
As I was discussing the amount and consistency of the liquid coming out of my baby’s mouth (It’s about a teaspoon...or maybe it’s more like a tablespoon?), I could see my friend’s eyes glaze over. I could practically hear what she was thinking. Didn’t we talk about this like two days ago? Dear God, how much longer can she talk about her baby’s bodily fluids?
I was doing it. That thing pre-baby me had sworn I would never do. I was boring people to death by talking about my kid. And the worst part of it all is that my son is still young enough for me to remember exactly how tedious it is to be on the receiving end of the “my kid this, my kid that” conversation.
But here’s the thing: When you become a parent, your interests totally change. Things that you previously considered banal (gross even) now merit an hour-long deep-dive over your chicken marsala.
Case in point: I remember when a friend first introduced solids to her baby. She had filmed the event (of course) and screened the three-minute-long iPhone footage on our living-room TV. Have you ever seen a baby try to eat real food for the first time? It doesn’t exactly make for riveting drama. My husband and I made nervous eye contact with each other as we faked ooh-ing and ahh-ing noises. Then after our friends left, we rolled our eyes and went back to our moral superiority.
Fast-forward to the present and I have consulted said friend multiple times about the best first foods for my baby. Is sweet potato too sweet to start with? Maybe we should give him something green instead? I read somewhere that avocado is the closest food to breast milk—should I give him that first? Moreover, I’ve actually re-watched that same home video not once, not twice, but three times.
It’s not just that my baby talk is dull. For those dealing with infertility or grief, it can be downright painful. Does my obsession with the banal minimize their struggle? Sure, I can complain about how expensive diapers are, but that pales in comparison to shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for IVF. And if I share the 700th video of my child sweetly cooing, does that just remind someone else of all the things they don’t have?
Etiquette expert Myka Meier agrees that when talking about children, tact is important. “When you don’t know someone well, the one question never to ask is ‘So do you have kids too?’” she explains. “This could end in them sharing that they are struggling with infertility or have always wanted them but don’t have any. Instead, you can say ‘Tell me about your family,’ and they can answer however they want and talk about their niece, nephew, parents, heritage or whatever they wish.”
But what if you know that the person you’re talking to does have kids? Or has expressed interest in your children before? How much is too much?
Megan, a mother of one, says the sky’s the limit: “Bring on the baby talk, I love it! Parenting is hard and we have to stick together. In fact, it can be really helpful to hear other moms talk about their kids—I’ve picked up some great tips that way. And even if it’s not helpful, it’s almost always adorable.”
For dad Dan, it depends. “I have friends with similar aged kids and it can be fun to swap horror stories and anecdotes—to a point. Like, telling me that your baby barely slept last night is one thing, but I definitely don’t need a play-by-play.”
Others, however, aren’t quite so eager. “By all means, feel free to show me a cute snap of your family trip upstate when I ask what you did this weekend, but know that I will mute you on Insta if you post about your baby too much,” says Sarah (with no kids).
I turned to sociologist and founder of ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere) Marika Lindholm, Ph.D., to get her take. “As humans, we adore our babies and children,” she says. “This irrational adoration is a good thing because why else would we endure sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and all the other challenges that come with raising a little human being? But our love for our child and the intensity of becoming a parent can lead to a warped perspective and give rise to obnoxious behaviors, such as constantly talking about our child or believing that our child is superior to others.”
Lindholm confesses that she watched her own children on the playground and reveled in their “obvious” superiority to other kids. She even considered getting her daughter into the modeling business. (And OK, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered sending a few photos of my baby to the head honchos at Pampers.)
“By my third and fourth child, my perspective shifted and my obsession waned,” she tells us. “As an older (and more tired) mom, I looked at other kids in music class and actually found them sweet and amusing. At the playground, I could appreciate the humor and energy of my friends’ children and forgave first-time parents when they rambled on about the ‘gifts’ their child was blessed with.”
So the trick to not talking about your kid too much is to…have another one? That’s one idea (that my husband would be less than thrilled about). Or perhaps it’s more about how you talk about them. (Because we all have that toxic mom friend who likes to complain that her newborn only slept nine hours straight last night.)
Here’s another idea, per Meier: “I think the key to realizing if or when you may be talking too much about your kids boils down to one question: Who are you talking with? If it’s another mother with similar aged kids, you’re likely in the safety zone, as you’re experiencing the same things and sharing the same interests.”
If you’re speaking with someone you don’t know very well (say a colleague or an acquaintance), follow their lead. “If they are continuously asking you questions about your little ones, then they are clearly engaged in the conversation,” says Meier. “If you’re unsure if you’re talking too much about your kids, give one fun update and then turn the conversation to the other person and ask them a question about something happening in their life.”
In other words, read the room. Chatting with my mom friends about my son’s teething troubles? Definitely. Asking my boss if the contents of my son’s NoseFrida merit a trip to the pediatrician? That’s a hard no. (But remember, when talking to Grandma and Grandpa, anything goes.)