Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dealing With Unsolicited Advice

Ah, motherhood.  You can hardly wait to tell everyone the good news about your pregnancy or to show off your baby, but people sure have a way of taking the wind out of your sails. 

Dads, please let me know if you experience this too, but I've never heard a man complain that his friends and relatives just won't stop telling him all of the ways he's parenting incorrectly. 

I wasn't even into my second trimester when it all started.  I was thrilled because we had tried to have a baby for two years and begged God every day for it, so I just wanted to shout it from the housetops when it finally happened.

One night at choir practice, friends were congratulating me and as I went to take a bite of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an older lady said, "Are you sure you should be eating that?"

Seriously?  You would think I had just pulled out a super sized Big Mac meal.

"Um, yeah."  I tried not to glare at her.  What was I supposed to eat?  My nausea and aversions were so constant, I figured I had the right to eat whatever would ensure my survival.

Just the other day, a friend excitedly told everyone on Facebook that her baby was starting solid foods and I offered her sympathy after more than a few people said, "I think you're supposed to wait until she's 6 months before you give her any solid food."  Needless to say, she was not happy and rightfully told everyone that she is a good mother and follows doctor's orders.  She would never do anything to jeopardize her baby's health.

When you give unsolicited advice to a new mother, there's a subtle message there.  "You're a moron and you wouldn't bother to read any books about how to care for the human that grew inside you for nine months."

It was agony when my third son was in the 3rd percentile and rejected every suggestion the doctor had given us like offering him rice cereal or formula.  The moment a rubber nipple even grazed his lips, he gagged.  I had to visit a lactation consultant and take him in once a week for weigh-ins, which meant a $20 co-pay every week.  I started to hate going out in public because of all the comments I got about how skinny he was.

The worst was when a mom asked, "Have you tried taking him to the doctor?"

Oh, the doctor?  Wow.  What a good idea to take a three-month-old to the doctor.  Being the awful parent I am, I never thought of that.  I'm all about missing immunizations and not making sure my baby is thriving.

My second son had thrush.  After other medications failed, the doctor told me to try gentian violet, which is often quite effective.  Another mom saw his purple mouth and flipped out.  She ran out of the mothers' lounge and moments later another mom ran in to tell me I could cure it by taking a garlic supplement and swishing some aloe vera juice around his mouth.  (Yeah.  Didn't work.  I was desperate enough to try it.)  When our insurance company was finally convinced we had done everything we could, they let us try Diflucan and it ended our almost 3-month-long nightmare that involved boiling everything that went into his mouth, washing myself after every feeding (which was almost every hour), and applying medication to his mouth after every feeding too. 

When I receive unsolicited advice, I tell myself that the person's intentions are probably good and that people really like to dispense their knowledge.  So I alternate between smiling and nodding or flat out telling them, "I take my child to the doctor all the time!"  Stunned silence also works.

So you advice givers, there will be plenty of times moms actually ask you for advice, so just wait.  Please.  Stop torturing new moms with your unhelpful comments about how you didn't have to stop breastfeeding because you just tried x,y, or z, how you got your baby to sleep at four weeks due to your superior mothering skills, etc.

As for my skinny little baby?  He's now nine years old and growing out of all of his pants, much to my dismay.

What kind of advice have you received against your will?

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