If mothers really know best, why do they get so much unwanted advice?

STICK with me for just a few short paragraphs.

After that, I promise you, we will not say another word, this morning, about the economy, the banks, the bailout, the budget or either of the two Brians.

The only reason to start there is that I can’t resist doing the quintessentially Irish thing of trying to make connections.

You know the way, when you say your name is Deigan and you come from Roscrea, an Irish person will always ask you if you’re anything to the Deigans in Nenagh? Same thing with the briefcase-and-BlackBerry man in the dark raincoat: deputy director of the European Department of the International Monetary Fund, Ajai Chopra.

I was egging for one of the lads with the bright lollipop-topped microphones to ask him if he’s anything to Deepak.

If the two Chopras are related, it would mean they’ve developed something of a family franchise on healing. One of them does it to your inner self. The other does it to your economy. Deepak Chopra makes a lot of money out of improving emotionally needy individuals. Ajai makes a lot of money out of improving financially needy economies. Of the two, Deepak has the jammier job. He gets to hang out with celebs like Demi Moore. Ajai only gets to hang out with civil servants and politicians.

The more important difference between them, of course, is that you have a choice about buying what Deepak has to offer, and no choice at all about purchasing Ajai’s product. On the other hand. If the economist (Ajai) makes you feel rotten, you can buy Deepak’s book to make you feel better.

While Ajai works away at establishing just how goosed the Irish economy is, life goes on.

At the weekend, EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn won Irish Tatler’s Woman of the Year Award, dreamed up by publisher and Dragon Norah Casey.

Next year, Casey might add a new award to the set because I want one for TV3 presenter Colette Fitzpatrick, as the most Got-At Mother-to-Be in Ireland.

Colette Fitzpatrick presents several programmes for TV3, including Midday, where four women talk about the issues of the day. Since she’s been pregnant, she’s been doing that job with aplomb and a bump. A growing baby bump.

Serving as a guest on the programme, I’ve witnessed a few samples of what she’s had, five days a week, every week, since she announced her news. The opening salvo has always been a compliment; “Omigod, you’re so skinny and your bump is so tiny, you can’t have put on even a stone, aren’t you fantastic?”

So far, so good. But within seconds, the compliments tended to shift into unsought advice. She was definitely to insist on an epidural and not listen to any naysayer. Or the advice might be contrariwise, with another mother describing epidural as the ultimate disempowerment visited on women by the male establishment.

Ms Fitzpatrick, in my hearing, was told to breastfeed for at least a year, and not to let nurses in the hospital ever give a supplementary feed, because the first such feed signals the end of any woman’s prospects of feeding her baby naturally, not to mind helping your figure to snap back to pre-baby shape more or less overnight.

On another day, she was told not to consider anything but a bottle, lest she be tethered to a breastfed baby.

From what I saw in the make-up room, the presenter had the management of this tsunami of unsought information down pat. She absorbed all of the pro and anti-propaganda with her unique brand of attentive wide-eyed vagueness.

Those harassing her never seemed to notice that she wasn’t committing herself one way or the other.

But then, Colette Fitzpatrick has non-committal down to a fine art. Just before she announced her pregnancy, she suggested she’d be too busy to have a baby right now.

Before she delivered her baby boy a few days back, she mentioned that her own mother, having given up her career to be a full-time mum, had regrets about giving up paid work.

Colette added that as a result, she herself was not planning to do the same. However, lest anybody decide this made her into a career-obsessed hardass, she let it be known that she was taking half a year off to spend with her new arrival.

This is a woman who’s not easily boxed into a stereotype. But she’s certainly a woman who’s been subjected to a lot more than her fair share of advice from other mothers.

That’s the oddity about motherhood. No other single experience gives those who go through it quite the same sense of interventive authority.

Mothers make instant judgments about other mothers and mothers-to-be. Victoria White, a mother of four, whose Mother Ireland – Why Ireland Hates Motherhood has just been published by Londubh, maintains that one of the judgments frequently made takes the form of a hostile reaction to mothers who abandon their paid job and stay at home to do full-time parenting.

“Many Irish people hate to hear about people loving their children” she writes. “They’ll usually start spitting that it’s all right for us because we have X, Y or Z.”

At the other end of the scale, some hate to hear about a mother who goes quickly back to work. The only time I ever successfully silenced an entire studio of mothers was when I answered the question: “How soon after the birth of your baby did you go back to work?” with the truthful but unacceptable: “The following morning.”

Those three words turned me into the hate figure of the year. I didn’t have the strength of mind to point out that working the day after giving birth is the reality for a few hundred million women in the developing world.

Instead, I apologised my way through an explanation in the hope of mollifying the mothers ranked against me. (The child had arrived two weeks early, I was due to interview a visiting VIP and the hospital promised my perfectly healthy baby would manage without me for two hours.)

Mothers also get judgmental about childless women. One such woman, highly successful in business, told me recently with a defeated sadness that she can never refute the mothers who tell her it was easy for her, having opted not to have children.

Short of telling them the full saga of failed IVF and multiple miscarriages, she can’t stop them believing she’s selfish, driven and motivated only by money and power. Now that Colette Fitzpatrick has delivered her son, Milo Peter, she will not, for a while, be the ready recipient of quite so much random advice from other mothers.

Even if she’s short on sleep, the peace will be wonderful.

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