I’ve been noticing something funny lately. There have been more and more situations this month (thanks to having an amazingly hands-on husband) where I have been running errands or grabbing coffee by myself instead of with two kids in tow. And you know . . . it is truly incredible how nice people are to me when they see that I am pregnant. Chivalry is NOT dead. It is just reserved for the really, really big-bellied. I have people constantly opening doors for me, smiling and saying congratulations, helping me with my bags, and generally falling over themselves to serve me, inquire about my well-being, or wish me luck. It is like a big, fat love-fest, this being pregnant.

I was thinking about how warm and fuzzy the world had been to me one day last week, and wondering why it only happens on certain days. And then it dawned on me: People love to help pregnant women. They don’t love to help frazzled mothers to small children.
This was a serious epiphany for me, and sadly, I think I’m right on this one. If I drop something in the store, alone in my pregnant state, people are rushing to help me pick it up. But if I’m pushing a cart with two small children in it, and groceries spill over the top and onto the floor, nobody helps me. In fact, most likely I will get disapproving looks instead. When I am alone and pregnant, people open doors for me. But I can’t even tell you how many times I have struggled with opening a door while trying to squeeze a double stroller through, and people just breeze on by. When I’m pregnant, people let me go ahead of them in line at the store. When I have two loud kids in line, people sigh and seem annoyed that I’m even in their line of sight. When I flew to New York while pregnant, I was assisted by several strangers to get my stuff on the conveyor belt in security. When I flew to Florida with two small children, I am sweating and folding strollers and chasing kids, and everyone around me is rolling their eyes and moving my stuff to get ahead of me.
No one who sees me with two small children is saying congratulations, or asking how I’m doing, or really paying me any mind at all unless to passive-aggressively let me know that my kids are bothering them, and maybe I should have left them at home.
The whole thing makes me wonder what this is about. Is it because it’s harder to judge a pregnant woman? I mean, most pregnant women have that “glow” that makes them look even more maternal. And barring smoking, open drug use, or bad hygiene, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to make you seem like a bad mom while pregnant. But then when that little baby turns into a toddler and decides to pitch a fit for having to ride in the cart, or screams in a restaurant because they dropped a fork, then it’s open season on your parenting skills and deficits as a mom.
But then I wonder . . . do people just like the idea of kids, but not the reality of them? I mean, pregnancy is really just a promise of a new life, but ultimately it’s a nice, quiet promise. It’s not yet spitting up or blowing out diapers or screaming as you run to the grocery store for milk. Maybe we live in a world that loves kids – as long as they are quiet, complacent, and preferably still in the womb.
It does give me pause to think about how true this mindset is in so many other variations:
I value my family, but I don’t want to spend too much time with them
I support global missions, but I don’t want to move anywhere extreme
I love social justice, as long as it doesn’t make me too uncomfortable
I’m trying to purchase fair trade, but I don’t want to spend extra money
I’m ready to go green, but I don’t want to change my lifestyle.
I’d love to get in shape, as long as it doesn’t require too much work.
While I’ll love to pretend these inconsistencies are global observations, the truth is, they are a bit more personal for me than that. I think that life is full of things we aspire to, or want to value, that are just harder to play out when the rubber meets the road. It’s interesting to be on the other end of it, when the world esteems my pregnancy, but is short with my kids because my kids are short of perfect. But then I think of the ways that I don’t hold to my own values, and how I voice a passion for something that I don’t live up to, or have the patience to see through to completion.
Is it just me? Or do you see this play out in your own life? What things do you love the idea of, more than the reality?