I’m Sorry I’m Missing The Wedding

Motherhood's tiny disappointments

I don’t actually remember the first wedding I attended, but I’ve heard the story so many times I feel like I do. It was my uncle’s wedding and I was just a baby. My older sister served as the flower girl, but was refusing to walk down the aisle. That is, until the priest offered her a nickel for going through with it. She was triumphant in her payment and happily made it to the altar. However, my mom and I missed her big moment. Right before the ceremony my diaper exploded all over me and my mom’s silk dress. We dashed back to the hotel to clean up, but cleaning baby poop is no easy task, so we ended up missing the entire wedding. My mom and I laugh about this now—she wonders aloud why in the world she didn’t bring a back up outfit, and I offer my apologies for not keeping it in my diaper.

I find myself thinking of this story often nowadays. I think of how embarrassed my mom must have been—my dad was also in the wedding so he couldn’t give her a ride to the hotel, so my mom had to appeal to fellow wedding guests she did not know very well to give her a ride, all while covered in poop. I also think of how sad she must have felt—her first-born daughter and husband were dressed to the nines and walking down the aisle, and she missed it. She missed the pictures, she missed the party, she missed the cake. While everyone else was raising a glass to toast the happy couple, my mom was alone in a hotel room trying to rinse off her (probably ruined) dress all while her new baby cried in the crib.

Yes, I’m thinking of this story a lot recently, because thirty years later I am not the baby anymore. Thirty years later I am now the mother. Today I am the one dealing with exploding diapers and stained clothes. And today I am missing a wedding.

One of the groomsmen from our wedding three years ago is getting married, and it is going to be a wonderful and happy occasion. Just as he stood by my husband on our wedding day, my husband will stand by him. I am sure they will both look incredibly handsome in their tuxes. The bride and groom are huge music buffs, so I am sure the dance floor will be filled. Had I been able to attend, I would have chosen the salmon for my meal, and I am sure it will be delicious. But this wedding is a formal affair so no children are allowed, and my parents couldn’t watch the baby, so here I sit at home (and as my mom’s story proves, bringing a baby to a wedding is not a guaranteed good time either). As I look at my son right now napping in his favorite swing, I feel the love only I, his mother, can feel for him. Yet I also feel that disappointment I am now sure my mom felt all those years ago in that hotel room. Because while I am a mother now, I am also still a thirty-year-old woman who loves a good party. But today I can’t be both, so I have to be a mother.

Not being able to attend this wedding has forced me to really come to terms with my new life and my new role. Sitting here in my sweats on a Saturday night is like the final confirmation from God that, yes, things will be a little different now. I know I will go to a wedding again and go out with my friends again. My life is by no means “over,” but my life is forever changed.

As I feel that sadness creep in, I remind myself to think of all the other stories my mom has told me over the years. Like how I would dance around the house in my diaper making my family laugh, or how I helped my dad build the fence in our backyard by carefully holding the level for him. To this day my mom still gets choked up when she tells others how proud she was of me when I received my “Most Inspirational Drama Student” award my senior year of high school (I act embarrassed when she tells this story, but deep down I appreciate that she actually cares that much about that silly little trophy). These were all moments that she didn’t miss. These were all moments she got to experience not in spite of me, but because of me. And not to brag or anything, but when she recalls all of these stories, she seems very happy. Like that whole motherhood thing was pretty great after all.

It is true that sometimes moms miss out on parties or dinners or vacations, and I am here to admit that it is disappointing. I realize now there may be stories that I won’t get to tell from now on—stories of closing down the bar, last minute flights to Vegas, lazy days of tanning on the beach. But there will be other stories too, I’m sure. Like how when this little boy of mine starts to cry, all I have to do is turn on Billy Joel to make him smile. Or how when he was born the nurse dubbed him “String Bean” upon seeing his long legs. And many, many other stories that I don’t even know yet. Those are the stories I will cherish, because while I will always be a woman who loves to dance at weddings, I will now also always be a mother.

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  • Another Meg

    This is making me feel all the feels, first thing in the morning. The belief that the little disappointments of motherhood are eclipsed by all of the big and wonderful moments is something I’m holding on to as my partner and I inch toward becoming parents.

    I think this might be proof positive that our worst nights can evolve into our best stories. God, your mom is a trooper.

  • Meg

    I feel bad that you were put in this position. I get that some weddings are adult affairs with adult things going on that you don’t want children around for but this just makes me sad. I feel less like this sadness is a result of you being a mother, and more a result of these people kind of being jerks for not including you.

    • I don’t know that it’s fair to assume the OP’s friends are jerks for not having babies at their wedding. She doesn’t seem to think they are. That being said, I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes.

    • guest

      I don’t think those people are jerks for not including her, and it doesn’t sound to me like she thinks that, either. We are doing a kid-free wedding (nursing babes are allowed because I’m not about to make anyone go hungry) and that has caused difficulties for a small few of our many parenting guests, but by and large our friends/family have been supportive and understanding (and, in several cases, really, really excited for a day off). Most of them, when I start to get apologetic about the no-kids rule, remind me that their own weddings were child-free and that there’s nothing wrong with wanting a day just for the grown-ups.

      • guest

        Adding: having our wedding be mostly child-free is especially important to me now, as I will be 20 weeks pregnant at on my wedding day, and days for just me and the hubs will be fewer and farther between come winter. We are beyond excited to be parents, but there is a natural sadness about losing those “just the two of us” times.

    • Anon

      I think you’re making a big leap by labeling the bride and groom as “jerks” for not including the writer’s child at her wedding. You have no idea the circumstances behind their decision not to include children. We shouldn’t judge the couple for that choice, just as we shouldn’t judge the writer for being unable to make alternative arrangements to attend a friend’s wedding. You do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. All of that being said, I really enjoyed this reflection on motherhood and a woman’s evolving sense of self.

    • lady brett

      this position is really just a fundamental fact of parenting. i mean, of course under different circumstances it could be different – the dad could have stayed home, they could have found/afforded a babysitter, the kid could go to the wedding, etc. but this *type* of situation is just a thing that comes up – and the big difference between kids and other obligations is that your kids *always* win a tie, whereas a lot of other things you *should* prioritize have the flexibility to be tossed once in a while.

      which isn’t to say that it’s not sad sometimes, but it really is an unavoidable part of parenting (sometimes – not always!)

      • Meg Keene

        It is. And BOY are there times I wish society gave us more wiggle room. But even if that was true, this would still happen. It just… is what it is.

        • IG

          This really is a fundamental fact of parenting, and it sometimes seem to be missing from the “Should I have kids? Will I have to give up my life?” discussion here. It would be awesome to say that everything can stay the same, that you can still do the things you want to do, and that your kids can always (or almost always) just be incorporated into your life as fun, awesome little people. That’s certainly true, for some people. I’m all for the positive representations of parenting that are evident on APW. But sacrifice, on some level, is an unavoidable fact for parents. And how much sacrifice depends not only on your spouse, but on the kind of kid you get. Some are more flexible and portable than others. Some are healthier than others. Some parents may find, after having kids, that they value things like routine and sleep more than they expected, and that’s ok. However, it’s also ok to admit that for a lot of parents, at least in the early years, things that once were important may have to be given up out of necessity, at least on some level and at least for a while, and that can be very disappointing.

          • Meg Keene

            I think the disappointing element is key. Because yeah, it’s disappointing. Sometimes you don’t mind, sometimes it makes you angry, but more often than not, it’s just disappointing.

            Parenthood is, I think, a blend of sacrifice and joy. I think almost ALL parents are sacrificing something, it just comes out in different ways. I, for example, just had my first solid night’s sleep since my son was born LAST NIGHT. He’s 20 months. (That’s a blend of having a shitty sleeper, and then having a shitty sleeper who gave me insomnia after more than a year of not sleeping.) We have family getting solid nights sleep with a six week old, and I’m trying not to kill anyone.

            So yeah. It’s hard. Good, but hard. But good.

          • lady brett

            holy shit. sweet dreams! ;)

    • Also Anon

      I agree with others — let’s not judge the bride and groom for having a child-free wedding. My fiance and I have made that choice, but we have also tried to be more than accommodating by finding local sitters (with good references). And we are making exceptions for two couples who are traveling from out of town with very young, still-nursing infants. You could turn the tables on your comment and judge the writer for not paying a sitter so she could attend a good friend’s wedding. But as someone else has already pointed out, we don’t know all the facts and should not judge how people (be it the writer or the couple getting married) choose to manage their lives and decisions.

      • Meg

        very true, your points are all very well taken.

    • emfish

      We’re not having a child-free wedding, but we can’t invite the kids of all of our friends because of space. Most of them seem totally cool with this (we’ve received a lot of “Yay! An excuse to drop the kids with the in-laws and party” responses), but I’m sure it’s making it challenging for at least some of them who don’t have good childcare options. That sucks, but it’s just life sometimes.

      • Peekayla

        We’re not having a completely child-free wedding, but we limited it to our 3 nieces only. We’re both the last of our cousins and friends to get married and have kids and we just can’t afford to invite everyone’s children, especially since two of the couples have with 7 kids between them. This has caused some people to decline our invitation and some hard feelings for at least one. We tried to make it as “fair” as we could by limiting the children to a certain blood relationship (nieces/nephews vs 2nd cousins), but it didn’t help. =(

        • emfish

          We are doing the same thing. I have seven nieces and nephews, all under 10 years old, and my fiance’s cousins have two young kids and can’t come without them. I actually love having kids at weddings and would have loved to invite everyone’s kids, if they wanted to bring them, but we are already probably going to bump into our headcount limit for the venue, and if we are under there are some adult friends we think it would be meaningful to include, so that’s that. Amazingly, the only friends who have asked to bring their kid are local and have multiple family members locally who regularly watch their kid, so it was relatively easy for us to say no and not feel guilty about it.

          I never really thought much about this type of thing before planning my own wedding (granted, I don’t have kids and never even asked to bring a date to the wedding unless one was explicitly included with my invite), but the process is making me pretty sensitive to what others go through in planning an event like this. We’ve had a few requests for certain accommodations, and none of them are ridiculous. Like our friends asking to bring their daughter, or another friend asking if we would be providing transport to and from the wedding so he could drink without worrying about it. It’s not that those requests are unreasonable at all, it’s just that planning this event is SO stressful and exhausting and expensive and there are so many little things that must be dealt with and paid for. So suddenly the request that we provide transportation is four weeks of contacting shuttle services and getting quotes and trying to recover from the shock of the quotes and trying to find a less expensive options.

          In other words, after this wedding, I will never ask my friends who are getting married for anything. I’ll just show up and eat what there is to eat and drink what there is to drink and make my own travel arrangements and deal with any minor inconveniences that arise because it’s easier for me to manage my own self than for them to manage the specific needs of 100 of me.

          • Peekayla

            Damn straight on all accounts!

  • jashshea

    Gotta go. Time to call my Ma.

    • Meg Keene


  • Anonymous

    It seems like the author of this piece is OK with missing some “fun” life events due to her new role as a mother, and that’s wonderful — for her. And full disclosure — I don’t have kids (yet), and I may feel very differently if and when I do. But for now, it strikes me as so unfortunate — and fundamentally unfair — that women are expected to sacrifice their old lives, their old “fun” selves, and take on a new, wholly-encompassing identity: Mom. Why are we not asking the same of fathers? Why is a fatherhood like a fun new hobby and motherhood an identity-destroying, full time job? Obviously, I have no idea what sacrifices the author’s husband has made in his life, and I don’t intend for this to in any way come across as a critique of them as individuals. Clearly, the author is happy with her choices? But I think we need to be careful about the flip side of the sentiment expressed here — the idea that the mother who does leave her kids with a sitter to go to the wedding, the mother who doesn’t get indescribable joy from cleaning baby poop, is somehow a “bad mom,” and the father somehow remains totally separate and apart from this discussion.

    • I feel this too. So many of my discussions with my husband about having kids are colored by this fact: that it’s going to be harder on me than on him. Of course we will both make sacrifices but I’m the one who will have to give up my body, my travel-heavy career, my identity really, and that just blows.
      I know that’s not really the point of this article, but I hate that this is the norm and it’s probably my biggest hesitation about baby making.

      • Lauren from NH

        Yup. And on top of that even the best guys 9 times out of 10 will only agree to hyphenation. It just blows my mind.

        • EveRaphael

          I KNOW. Even with my lovely super-progressive FH, I feel like it’s such a hard conversation to have and one where he makes ‘concessions’ and ‘compromises’ while any small nod towards equality is a ‘win’ for me. The sad thing is that I make the conversations go like that as much as he does. Just so much social norm baggage.

          • Lauren from NH

            Yeah for me it really gets to what Meg is talking about. It’s about recognition, appreciation, honoring the huge role that motherhood is and the likelihood that there will be inequities in childcare responsibilities. My partner will insist if we want our relationship to be equal we should hyphenate. Well, no matter what, where it comes to kids, our relationship is going to be somewhat unequal. Saying mothers and fathers have perfect equality just sweeps mom’s sacrifices under the rug. Not that in the grand scheme of things moms aren’t happy being moms, big picture, moms can laugh about the exploding diapers, in the moment, no one loves having extra exploding diapers thrown their way. So a little (ahem, A LOT) of appreciation would go a long way.

        • Anon

          I’m pregnant with our first, and also have a mostly progressive and thoughtful husband. I suggested that our children have my maiden name as their middle name, and he turned that suggestion down flat. I was surprised and disappointed by his reaction. I thought it would be a nice way to honor my family and heritage, especially given that I took his last name and our children will have his last name. I don’t think I’m going to throw in the towel on this idea.

          • Alison O

            I am curious if you don’t mind sharing…why did he turn the idea down so forcefully?? The three kids in my family all have family last names as our middle names, and of course I’ve not known anything else, but I love it. Mine is my my mom’s maiden name; sister’s is mom’s maiden middle name (an old family name); brother’s is an old family name on mom’s side…and it’s Benedict, so that’s rad. Given that this was my normal, I always thought growing up, it seemed less special to have just a random other first name as a middle name. (As an adult I have no feelings about other people’s middle names , but I do love mine and intend to name children similarly if I have them and especially if they took my partner’s last name only.

          • Anon

            I wouldn’t say he turned it down forcefully, was more like “I don’t like that idea.” Maybe he doesn’t want all the kids to have the same middle name? That will be a conversation we have, but honestly, after a long Monday at work, I didn’t feel like having it then :) He has always liked the idea of using other family names of mine as middle names (including my mother’s maiden name and my father’s first name), so I was surprised at his quick reaction to using my maiden name. I suspect, knowing him, that after he has a chance to think it through, he’ll be A-OK with using my maiden name. He’s usually pretty agreeable.

          • Em

            I have two middle names – an “actual” middle name and my mother’s maiden name. So do my three siblings. It’s a good compromise between us all having different middle names as well as our mother’s maiden name. Maybe that’s an idea to float?

          • Cathi

            “Maybe he doesn’t want all the kids to have the same middle name?”

            For what it’s worth, my husband and his 3 siblings all have the same middle name, “Lee”, which wasn’t even a family name, just an idea his parents liked. I thought it was really sweet the first time I found out.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah, don’t. You go.

            I was really point blank about it. I’m giving birth, kid gets my name. Sorry if you don’t like it. (In reality it was a many years long discussion with a lot of tears on both sides. But that was my bottom line. My bottom line is rarely so firm, but on that, you gotta be fucking kidding me.)

          • swarmofbees

            The middle name is the least objectionable name. Most people will never even know your middle name, buy you know and can carry your family’s history with you. I would definitely fight this one. One other possibility is to hold off on deciding on names until after the kid is born – I found I had a little extra bargaining power after he saw what I went through. It is a stupid game, but there you are. Also, two middle names. You get to honor aunt Edna and your maiden name.

          • Rachel

            I think its a wonderful idea, using your maiden name as a middle name. Depending on the name it can work as a first name too. I know a girl with the first name of Kelliher (easy to go by Kelly) which is her mother’s maiden name.

            I am dead set on making sure every kid gets a family name, either first or middle. I love carrying my grandmother’s middle name as my own, it means a lot to me, and I want to give that to my kids.

          • Jessica

            It really bothers me to hear about men saying no to name compromises. It feels archaic.

            Side story: I was talking with a coworker yesterday who said something along the lines of “if I get married I wouldn’t make my wife take my name.” I just looked at him square in the eyes and said, “You can’t make a woman do anything.”

            There is this idea I still see that men “let” women do things, or that women “make” men help out with things that affect both of them. It’s so damaging and it makes my blood boil a bit–relationships are supposed to be made with respect to both partners, and compromises made to make sure things work.

          • Rachel

            Ooh nicely done. Another pet peeve – when men say they put women on pedestals (and therefore women shouldn’t complain). The assumption that men can *put* women wherever is just terrible.

          • Violet

            Yes, exactly. Let’s all never forget that men are subjects and women are objects. Men are actors and women are props. Men are heroes and women are saved by heroes. *eyeroll*

          • BD

            I wish I could like your comment into infinity.

          • Kathleen

            I remember overhearing a coworker say, “My wife didn’t take my name. I wouldn’t let her, I didn’t want to be THAT husband.” I wasn’t part of the conversation, so I didn’t intrude, but I wanted to say, “Really? You didn’t want to be the husband whose wife took his name, but you were okay with being the husband who LETS his wife do something or not?!”

          • Not Sarah

            I suggested to my boyfriend that we name a male kid MyLastName HisLastName since my last name can also be used as a first name. He seemed lukewarm to the idea? Not sure. I’ll try again later.

          • Kathleen

            Please don’t throw in the towel. In 1869, a woman in England gave her son her maiden name as his middle name. His first son was a Jr., and Jr’s first son was the III, and III didn’t have sons, but his daughter is my mother-in-law, who gave my husband her father (and grandfather, and great-grandfather’s) first name as his middle, but dropped the long-standing middle name entirely. When our first son was born, we took it back, and named him after my husband’s grandfather, first and middle, so that he also has his 4x great-grandmother’s maiden name as his middle name. I think about her ALL the time, how she couldn’t possibly have known that by giving her son her maiden name as a middle name she’d be keeping it alive for over 150 years, or that there would be an infant in America in 2014 who was, in part, named after her. It’s made me really determined to use my maiden name for one of our kids, too.

          • Namedrama

            This is such a touchy subject because names are soooo powerful. I’ve had the name of my awful, mean great grandmother all my life because my mom bowed to family pressure and named me after my Dad’s grandmother (A) instead of her grandmother (B) (with whom I was very close but who had a very old fashioned name). So on the opportunity of changing my last name, I’m changing my first name to the beautiful old fashioned name I feel that I was meant to have (B), but I’m also keeping my last name. I’m starting out without a middle name: A MaidenName. After the change it will be B A MaidenName HisLastName no hypenations, just two middle names.

            On the topic of children getting my name, I’m very concerned about my family name dying. My family name is my grandfather’s name and I was especially close with him and despite many sons in my generation, its looking unlikely that the next generation will produce any male children to carry on his name (most of my cousins are done having children and all of the male grandkids were born outside marriage and were given their mom’s names). I brought all of this to my husband but also expressed that I wanted his name to live on, even though it is very common and mine is very unique I was trying to be sensitive to his attachment to his name. He wholeheartedly agreed that both of our names are important. We have agreed to give our first child his name, our second child my name, and then decide what to name any subsequent children based on which name sounds better with the first and middle names we have chosen. I’m so happy that I have married a man who thinks this way. We know that telling his family is going to cause a lot of problems also, so we agreed not to tell anyone who might object our plans (no one gets an opinion except us anyone) until we send out the birth announcement. And then it will be too late!!!

        • I got shot down on hyphenation but we’ve compromised by agreeing to create a new last name. (shot down because of the sound of our names together, not last name entitlement). So far we haven’t come up with anything good yet, luckily, there is no rush at the moment. lol

          • Cathi

            In a similar boat (though I was the one who shot down hyphenation due to not liking how our names go together). Our current joking-kinda-but-maybe-not decision is to give our kid(s) the last name of “Kennedy”, so they’ll have a leg up in life.

      • BD

        Same situation here! No matter how much my husband will try to keep things even between us when a baby comes into the picture, the fact is that I’m going to have to give up the most out of the two of us, and I’m just not okay with that yet. He’s all about making babies lately… I’m fighting it off as long as I can.

      • Meg Keene

        Honestly, it’s good to realize this in advance. You DON’T have to give up your identity, and don’t let anyone tell you that you do. But. If you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant. If you’re nursing, you’re nursing. And REALLY, what needs to happen is that society needs to allow room for that, instead of going EXTRA hard on women who are mothers. But that’s not the way it works. Not right now.

        • Fiona

          THIS thought is my saving grace when it comes to the idea of motherhood. I have no interest in giving up my identity, and I want to participate, children or no!

    • Ella

      I don’t think this post is meant to tackle “all the things.” For me, I see this as the author’s reflection on a situation that’s happening to her, and being okay with it. In this situation, her husband was in the wedding party, so it doesn’t sound like they had a choice of him staying home so she could go to the wedding. Since it’s APW, I’m sure we’ll see another article at some point tackling the other side of this. That’s what I like about APW…we can all have a voice here.

    • Meg Keene


      I actually think it’s less that the author is happy with her choices, and more when that when you’re put in this position as a mother YET AGAIN, your only socially acceptable option is to take a deep breath and be like, “Well. There are good things, I guess.” You can be mad on some level too, but on the moment to moment, you often just have to suck it up.

      Because it’s not as easy as there being two sides. Sometimes you want a sitter but can’t get one. Sometimes you’d love a sitter but your kid can’t cope with one. Sometimes the poop explodes and your choice is to ruin your own day by being livid, or try to get on with it.

      It’s bullshit. I mean, trust me when I say it’s bullshit. But it’s also my life right now, and so many other women’s lives. It is sexist, but it’s less about the dad’s not doing any thing, and more about society not leaving wiggle room for women. Because if you’re nursing, and the baby can’t be away from you, and kids are not invited to the wedding, you’re just… OUT. And it sucks. And it’s not because you don’t have an egalitarian partner. It’s just harder on women, and society doesn’t give us extra wiggle room, so we get screwed.

      • OP

        What Meg said. This piece was basically a really long winded, round about, written way of me “sucking it up” and trying to see the good.

      • Kara

        From an outsider’s perspective (i.e. I don’t have kids), it seems like a double whammy.

        Biologically women are “tied” (for a lack of a better word) to their children more than men–for feeding and such, and then society tends to kick them while their down.

        There isn’t really any comparison, biologically speaking, for most of an adult man’s life when their bodies would drastically change, nor do most of them have to limit/change their diet (excluding medical reasons like diabetes, surgery, etc.).

        Also, since men aren’t the majority of primary caregivers (in our country), they don’t take a hit in their career.

        It’s just something I see regularly, and it’s definitely something I put in **my own** list of “reasons not to have kids”. I also have a column for “reasons to have kids”, but **for me** this list is much, much smaller.

        • Meg Keene

          I’d also say that, in my experience, there are two parts of the primary caregiver issue.

          1) Biology. If you give birth to your child, you’re the one tied to them hormonally, possibly by nursing, etc. Plus, often (not always but very often) babies just need their moms more than they need their dads/ non-primary parent (I’ve watched this play out with the non-birth lesbian mother inhabiting the dad role as well). Right now we’re at a point that if a head is bumped or emotional need happens, Dad just won’t do, it has to be mom.

          2) Society. Men are raised and trained to not be the primary caregiver (in ways they have internalized so deeply that it has to be dug out of them). But more than that, ALL of society backs up (in structural ways) the fact that women are primary caregivers and men are breadwinners. I get stuck with daycare pickup and dropoff, because it’s hard for David to get more flexible hours as a dad, in a way that he would as a mom. So as a result, I have to pick up the slack. I would say that’s not totally unusual.

          The part that’s harder to quantify (and was nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around without having a baby) is what this essay grapples with—the huge emotional rewards that go with primary caregiving. Those emotional rewards don’t make it fair, and they don’t make you not angry. But thank god they’re there. Because if there wasn’t an emotional reward for being the one always called when a head was bumped, I’d probably jump out the window.

          • lady brett

            and society seriously backs it up in social ways as well as structural ones. like how you can *see* in the ways families interact in public that mothers are so often so afraid of judgement in a way that father almost never are. not to mention the prevalent idiocy of phrases like “dad’s babysitting tonight”.

          • Meg Keene

            Yup. Because mothers in public ARE constantly being judged, and we know it.

            There is a cafe I work at during the day and moms will come with cute kids about my kids age for lunch. I always say hi to the kids and interact with them, becuase they are cute and I miss mine. And the moms always say “OH MY GOD, I’m SO sorry, is he bothering you, SHHHHHH.” And I have to say, “It’s fine it’s fine!” Over the kid doing something totally appropriate and sweet. Well, I was at the same cafe this weekend with my kid, and he walked up to someone with a laptop and charmingly said, “Oh, hiii!” And I found myself issuing the same, totally bullshit apology, for a kid doing something both totally appropriate and totally sweet. Why? Because I was afraid I’d be judged if I didn’t, as a mom who was so full of herself she thought her kid could do whatever he wanted. David, meanwhile, just sat their quietly. Because no one was going to judge him, so he didn’t have to jump through the same absurd hoops.

          • Violet

            Meanwhile, I was chatting with a toddler in a waiting room, and then her mom started scolding her for “bothering the nice lady.” Does it feel like this game is rigged?

          • Meg Keene

            It’s such a new thing, and one that makes me so sad, every time I go through it on either side. What are we teaching our kids? Hell, what are we teaching society? I used to go around waiting rooms and say, “HI!” to each person one by one. My mom would watch to see who would sloooowwwwwlllllyyyy put their magazine in front of their face (I’d just shrug and move on) and who would be like, “Well hi little girl, how are you?”

            The fact that now my job is to “tsk-tsk” when he does that is… terrible. Obviously, if a full grown adult doesn’t want to interact with a toddler, they can manage that on their own (and if they really can’t, it’s easy for a parent to step in). Saying hi to someone is not like throwing something at their head (because that obviously warrants a time out!). It’s a totally appropriate behavior for socializing humans, and for whatever reason we’ve decided to teach them it’s wrong, so people don’t feel uncomfortable. (Also, robbing people of getting to say hi to cute kids, which is basically the best part of waiting rooms if you ask me. Bring me all the toddlers!).

            It’s just… sad. And while I refuse to say I’m a bad mom in public, I can’t bring myself to not apologize, living in a micro culture that’s particularly child unfriendly.

          • Violet

            It really breaks my heart. Like parenting is now being responsible for every interaction your kid has… which is not… possible. Or even necessarily a good thing to aspire to.

          • Kayjayoh

            Sorry, not sorry.

          • Class of 1980

            I’m thinking … don’t apologize when your child is doing something sweet! He is a person learning about other people, and as long as he’s being pleasant, most people will be enchanted.

            Also, if he gets stopped from doing good things AND bad things, it will be confusing to him. I say, just put a stop to truly bad behavior that would bother people, and let him be his charming self otherwise.

          • Kara

            Thanks Meg!

            You’re much more eloquent and better at communicating this aspect than I am.

            Part of my hesitation for having kids stems from the things that are “harder to quantify”…the intangibles, the things that are unknown, and not for certain.

            I’m highly risk adverse, so well, that make this sort of decision making difficult.

          • Meg Keene

            Yeah, I was too. I ended up being glad times 1000X I went through the hell of really not being sure it was the right thing, because it’s easily the best thing I’ve ever done. BUTTTT. It’s not the right decision for everyone.

      • Lydia

        After reading this and the OP’s post above, I get the complexity. Also, Meg, your post on taking your baby to London is something I come back to over and over again as I go back and forth on the whole kids no kids debate that is probably consuming waaaaay too much of my mental energy these days. Thank you so much for that.

    • OP

      As the author of this piece I feel the need to chime in. One thing that is not made clear in the article is that I am breastfeeding our son, which at least in the early years is the main source of the unfairness of the sacrifices my husband and I are making. I totally agree with you that it is unfair and it sucks, which is what drove me to write this in the first place — but at this point it isn’t really society causing it, but biology. Unless you choose to use formula (which is TOTALLY FINE, we are starting to supplement with formula now. I really REALLY do not want to start a breast milk vs. formula debate) then the mother will automatically be sacrificing more than the father until the child is weaned. Even if you pump for bottle feeding, that is still time you have to spend attached to a pump feeling like a feeding machine. That was ultimately why I decided not to attend the wedding, not because I love cleaning baby poop (no one does) but because it was just easier for me to keep my boobs close to the baby. There really was no easy solution: going to the wedding meant hours of pumping and bottle prep and finding someone I trust with my then 2 month old, staying home meant missing out on a fun time. Had I decided to go to the wedding I could have written something about how hard it is to leave your baby. That is the hardest thing about parenting (and life, really): there is no right answer.

      • jashshea

        This piece was so touching, I loved every word! I actually assumed you were talking about a young infant/breastfeeding because of a situation leading up to my wedding:

        I had a dear friend call me close to tears the week before my kid-free wedding, because she didn’t think her baby would be ready for the bottle by that time and she was afraid I wouldn’t be happy if the baby was there. This friend (and this baby, in an out of the womb) was with me at the store for dress purchase and fittings, helped stuff and address envelopes, and planned/stage managed a bachelorette weekend. In short, the friend was essential to me and she was essential to the baby. In the end, the mom put both of us into our fancy dresses. And the baby was one of the best-behaved and most popular guests at the whole party.

        This friend readily admits that she wouldn’t have gone to the wedding if I hadn’t been a close friend. She was in the middle of a really rough period in her life (new baby + toddler + traveling husband) and wouldn’t have made it a priority otherwise.

        Congrats on the wee one!

        • Jessica

          My niece was a month old when she attended her first wedding and was definitely the 3rd star of the show (after the newly married couple).

          Come to think of it that was an interesting switch for who got to go to the wedding–the baby and mom, while the dad didn’t make it onto the approved standby list. So the whole family held the baby whenever we could so my SIL could go be a wedding guest and a new mom.

      • Lydia

        Hi OP! I’m the Anonymous above. Thank you so much for sharing your beautifully written story. I didn’t intend for my post to come across as challenging or questioning your family’s decision (or your friend’s decision to have a child-free wedding — totally understandable) in any way, and I’m sorry if it did. Like Meg below, I guess I just feel this pressure in U.S. society for women to (a) start sacrificing themselves and (b) be totally and completely happy with that the minute they become mothers. This terrifies me, and is part of the reason I am currently struggling (like, daily) to decide whether or not I want to have children.

        But after reading your post again, and reading your note above, I realize that that’s not exactly what your post is about.

        I’m not sure why, but it’s strangely comforting to hear that breast-feeding — a biological fact — was ultimately the reason you missed this wedding. Because there are, of course, aspects of motherhood that have no fatherhood equivalent (pregnancy and breast feeding being right up there of course). Reading your post again, I don’t see “I’m so happy to be a mom I don’t care that I’m missing my friends’ wedding” but rather “I physically have to be near my child, and my child can’t go, so I can’t go, so I’m making the best of it.”

        Thanks for sharing your story.

        • OP

          Hi Lydia! I didn’t feel like you were challenging anything, but thanks for the follow up anyway :-) Your comment just made me realize that the breastfeeding issue should have been explained/addressed because that was something that I sooooo did not think about when I was pregnant, and it has been the biggest challenge for me so far. Also, I am so glad you brought up the “totally and completely happy” with motherhood issue, because that was my other struggle. I was very unhappy with motherhood in my first weeks and I felt terrible about it because it seemed like everyone else is loving every minute. But the dirty little secret (and why the hell is this a SECRET?!) is that all mothers kind of sort of hate being a mom sometimes. So if you decide to have children and you do find yourself hating it, you are not a “bad” mom and you are not alone.
          Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you liked the piece!

      • Meg Keene

        I also find it so hard because not only is there no right answer, it the eyes of the world there always seems to be a WRONG one. And for most of us, all we’re trying to do is what’s best for everyone.

        If a wedding is adults only and long distance, do I explain the issues and ask for help finding childcare, or just nicely say we can’t come? Which is going to make me feel like more of a jerk (because I feel rude doing both). If my kid is going through severe separation anxiety, I feel awful leaving him screaming with a sitter. But if I miss your birthday at a bar, I’m going to have to listen to cracks about how “No one thought I’d be THAT kind of mother.” And at the end of the day, you’re like: I WANT TO BE AT THE WEDDING, I WANT TO BE AT THE BAR, I WANT MY KID TO NOT BE SCREAMING AND HORRIBLY SAD, I WANT TO NOT BE UNDER ALL THIS GODDAMN PRESSURE FROM EVERYONE.

        I just wish society cut mothers more of a break, is all. When I travel, or when we’re in other culture bubbles (the local very Cuban restaurant!) I am able to take a deep breath, because there are different assumptions. Of course you want to both be a full person and take care of your kid! Of course people appreciate the sacrifices you’re making! Of course your kid is cute and makes people happy! I just wish there were more of that.

        • Class of 1980

          Although etiquette doesn’t require giving any reason for declining an invitation … I absolutely think if you really want to go, you should explain the obstacles.

          It gives the bride and groom a chance to think about an issue they may never have thought about, and maybe they will find a solution. Besides, the very real limits parent’s face shouldn’t be a secret in society.

          It also lets the couple know that you really really want to be there for them, instead of them just getting a declined invitation and not understanding your reality.

          • Class of 1980

            typo: “parents”

      • Lily

        “That is the hardest thing about parenting (and life, really): there is no right answer.”

        I think this sums up one of the things I love most about APW. The rest of the internet is all like, “there is ONE RIGHT WAY and what you’re doing (whatever it is) IS WRONG.” Which of course is BS, because the whole thing about adulthood is, duh, there is no right answer. So thanks, APW, for calling the internet (and particularly the WIC) on its shaming, fearmongering, prescriptive BS.

    • Fiona

      I was going to say something similar.
      I felt some outrage that the mother couldn’t participate because children weren’t invited to the wedding. Is that terrible?

      • Rora

        But what did you want the marrying couple to do? Maybe inviting this child would have opened the floodgates to inviting 20 more children. All events cannot be changed to fit our needs and we can’t be all things to all people. And not just with motherhood. Sometimes you can be a good friend OR a good coworker, but not both. These situations are hard, but a choice must be made.

        • Fiona

          Oh I think the word “outrage” may have eclipsed my meaning. I just meant that it was sad she couldn’t participate. Anger at the situation?

        • Meg Keene

          I actually think that in this case it’s sort of easy. I am very pro (and etiquette is very pro) the nursing mother of a newborn exception on adult only weddings. That doesn’t open a floodgate, and it prevents women from being specifically excluded.

    • Phoebe

      I don’t think it’s fair to lump all fathers into the “fatherhood as a fun new hobby” category. Lots of dads make these same sacrifices, daily and for special occasions like weddings. We just recent attended a destination wedding with our baby. It was my friend getting married and I was in the wedding. My SO spent most of the trip being the main caregiver to our daughter. He was often stuck in our darkened hotel room while the baby napped, and I was attending all of the wedding related activities. The other bridesmaid also has a baby and her husband did the exact same thing (so my SO isn’t some sort of magical unicorn of a father). I am thankful to have a partner that is happy to do this and does not think of it as an extra burden or that he was some how going above and beyond. I would not have married him or decided to have children with him if this was not the case. We both make these sorts of sacrifices and we don’t keep score.

      • moonlitfractal

        I think that many of those who (explicitly or not) label fatherhood as a “fun new hobby” are not parents themselves and probably have no idea what fatherhood is actually like or the types of sacrifices that fathers make. It’s just this messed up cultural perception that can lead to things like men not being able to take time off work to care for their children because their roles as caregivers aren’t taken as seriously. I don’t think the commenter was labeling all fathers here as much as pointing out a cultural double-standard.

    • Elemjay

      Got no problem with child free weddings, but if you’re breast feeding I think you should get to bring the baby. I get that the couple may not want little bugs running around all over the place, but particularly in the early weeks of feeding, I think it’s nice to be a bit flexible (those brides that say NO BABIES might feel a bit different when they’re trying to breast feed…..)

      • JDrives

        I thought this was etiquette? If you’re going no-kids, cool, but breastfeeding kiddos get a pass. That’s our approach at least.

  • macrain

    I don’t think the author’s intent was to make a statement about having kids or no kids at your wedding. I think the heart of this is the experience of becoming a parent, and the shocking change that I’ve heard my new mom friends describe. (I don’t have kids myself, but my sister, who has a four month old, used that word, it seems appropriate!)
    I’m choosing no kids at my wedding, and I will admit my defenses went up a little when I saw this, and then relaxed when I actually read it. I think it’s so important that we respect one another and the decisions that we make when it comes to our weddings. And it’s also important that we support the new parents that we know, maybe even the ones that we don’t.

  • swarmofbees

    Thank you for this piece. It is such an honest and well presented piece about your experience as a mother. I can definitely relate, and you put it much clearer than I ever could. I have been the mother looking at goats in the church graveyard while one of my best friends was getting married in the church. I managed to make it back for the vows, but man would I have liked to be truly present for the whole ceremony. Looking at goats is a great story, but witnessing the marriage of two people in love is also a lovely experience. Similarly, my brother in law spent most of my wedding sitting in the back pew with his two kids sleeping on him. It was a lovely sight, but he may have preferred to be sitting up front to properly witness the wedding. So, anonymous, I feel you.

    • I skimmed this comment and thought you had to miss a wedding because you had to take care of some goats. Which would be a more unusual reason to miss a wedding, although I suppose not less valid, depending on your circumstances.

  • Jane

    The original post was lovely, but some of these comments seem very negative. I’m eight months pregnant. If I were to spend a lot of time contemplating all the things I’ve missed due to pregnancy, and all the things I’m about to miss due to new motherhood, I’d miss all the great things that are why I chose to become a mother in the first place. It is true that from the second you become pregnant, life’s priorities change, and you start having to sit on the sidelines when you used to be an enthusiastic participant. But…

    I’m the one who gets to feel him squirming around my belly right now (morning coffee makes him jump!). I’m the one who is aware of this beautiful new life growing inside me who I’m going to have a bond with that nobody else will ever have. I get to set up his nursery with my husband as we laugh and smile and can’t stop hugging each other with the giddiness of making a new family together. I’ve been to plenty of weddings, had a great, fulfilling career, danced and hiked and run marathons and backpacked and surfed to my heart’s content…it’s time now for me to try something new.

    Every choice means saying yes to one thing, but no to something else. Focusing on the nos is a great way to make yourself terribly unhappy. Life is not a cakewalk, even for those who remain childless. This is not to say that mothers should be inauthentic and pretend that there is never a tradeoff involved in having children. Just that there is a tradeoff in any major life decision anybody makes–why do people get so caught up in dwelling on the negatives with motherhood?

    • Hope

      “Life is not a cakewalk, even for those who remain childless.” Yes.

    • msditz

      As a new mom myself, I don’t see the comments as negative. I see them more as reality. And at least for me personally I think it is really important to talk about and call attention to some of these issues. For me, my time as a childless newlywed and then my pregnancy was spent hearing everyone tell me how we needed to have children, how we would be great parents, what a blessing a child is, etc. All of these things are, OF COURSE, true. So going into being a parent I knew it would be hard, but I also thought I would hold my baby for the first time and the heavens would part and angels would sing and the rest of my life would be filled with sublime happiness. Not true. And the fact that this wasn’t true made me feel like a terrible person. I cried because I didn’t instantly love motherhood, and then I cried more because I was crying because I didn’t instantly love motherhood so this must make me a mean and heartless person. Once I began talking to other moms and realized that almost everyone goes through this I began to feel much better. And I also slowly began enjoying being a mother more and more. I’m not saying that all moms need to go around being huge downers and scaring every pregnant lady with tales from postpartum hell, but I think only talking publicly about the good times can be seriously misleading.

  • Violet

    “And not to brag or anything, but when she recalls all of these stories,
    she seems very happy. Like that whole motherhood thing was pretty great
    after all.” And let’s not forget, you may start with kids, but then (hopefully) they grow up into adults. And then you get to have adult children, which can be pretty rad. I’ll bet your mom is out there now, telling stories of things you’re doing currently that make her proud. Like writing this beautiful piece.

  • laurasmash

    At every family wedding my mom likes to tell the story of the first wedding I attended. She asked my grandmother to watch me for the weekend while they went to the out of town wedding, and grandma was like, “Nope! You have a baby now, figure it out.” So my mom took me to the wedding, where I was a quiet little angel…. right up until the ceremony started at which point I proceeded to wail through the whole thing. Sad trombone. But my mom, and the couple whose wedding it was, love retelling that story.

  • Lala

    You could get a babysitter.

  • Cecily

    Sorry I’m a little late to this thread, but I’ve had this question for a while. I’m a young woman, and I don’t have kids yet, but I love children, and have lots of experience babysitting. I am always tempted to play with babies/kids in public, or offer moms an extra hand, but I’m not always sure how to do it without being awkward. Sometimes when I do approach a child, parents seem nervous or guarded, so I’ll back off. As far as I can tell, anything beyond smiling and waving is unlikely to get a positive response. I’m 25 years old, and barely five feet tall, so I’m pretty sure that I don’t look threatening, though perhaps I’m wrong.

    Basically, I want to be one of those awesome strangers that Meg talks about, but I’m also confined by the culture that says only the parents can interact with the child. What can I do to communicate to parents that I’m just being friendly?

  • Libby

    Great post, and such interesting comments. I always love a good APW discussion.
    Meg Keene, I’d love to read a book on parenting & motherhood written by you….just a thought!