My coworker is in her mid-30s, has some health issues, isn't married, doesn't make much (we have the same kind of position, so I know), and is pregnant. She doesn't even care for her pets properly. But she wanted this baby
- her emphasis - and wants everybody's good opinion on this. Not bad or different, just good.
The thing is, though I do like her and consider her a friend, I can't sign off on her pregnancy. I don't want to come off as sanctimonious or judgmental, but I've been avoiding her because I don't want to have to congratulate her on something I do not approve of (and neither does my religion).
What will I do when I see her around the office? She's been exclaiming over her pregnancy to anyone who will stand still and listen. I just don't want to hurt her feelings, so I'll give her a nice, polite "Congrats," but I can't go beyond that. I'm really tempted to fake an ailment when colleagues throw her a baby shower. I don't want to show any approval by giving a gift.
Answer: Who wants a "bad or different" opinion on a wanted pregnancy?
You consider her a friend. She deserves better than a faked ailment, even when the truth - "I find your pregnancy irresponsible and self-indulgent, but here's a Babies R Us gift card" - isn't appealing either.
So suck it up, and find other truths. For example: This baby is coming, whether you approve or not. And: When an insecure coworker craves attention or approval, that's not the same as asking for your help, advice or guardianship; you no more get to "sign off" on this aspect of her life than you do her outfits or bedtime. And: A baby of a possibly irresponsible and self-indulgent mother is not only innocent of the mother's alleged crimes of judgment, but also can use all the "village" s/he can get.
And, about that "possibly": While the mother's circumstances may seem predictive of a badly raised child, it's important to bring a high dose of humility to all such predictions. You fear, calculate, anticipate, but you don't know. Just as ideally equipped parents can fail spectacularly at child-rearing, parents who barely seem to manage their own lives can produce some wonderful kids.
You can come out from behind the filing cabinets. Just use her truth, not yours: "You must be so excited - I know how much you want this baby." She is, and you do.
For the shower, consider rallying officemates to open a tuition savings account in the child's name (check out the "Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center" at irs.gov); it's a great way for the village now to help ensure a village later, in the form of good education.