Unsolicited Advice about Motherhood

I was recently at a neighborhood market where a lady was giving a wine tasting. When I (in all of my pregnant glory) asked her for a pour of the red, she said, and I quote, “I don’t think so! Not a good idea.  I’m not starting you down that road!”
I was floored.
I walked away before my pregnancy related hormones caused me to lash out at her (which I know I have the potential to do- just ask the man on the bus who had the nerve to roll his eyes and cover his ears when my son was crying, which is a story I must tell, but that is another post entirely.)

A few days later, I was having a conversation with a couple I had just met, and they asked me if my 2.5 year old was out of his crib yet.  I said, “no, he’s never been in one.  He sleeps with us.”  I then added- “We’ll see what happens when the new baby comes!  It should be interesting!” She then offered me a piece of completely unsolicited advice about sleep training and how wonderful it is and how they swear by it and even told me the exact method they used.  Once again, I bit my tongue before I said another word.   I’m just glad I didn’t tell them I was still breastfeeding!

It reminded me of the time someone gave me a cry-it-out book when my son was 4 months old- I didn’t ask for it, and we had never even discussed sleep, and in fact this was the first time I had ever met this woman.  She told me she bought tons of them to keep on hand for any new mom she encountered.

Later that night my mind wandered to the many many times moms, some dads, and even people who have no children of their own, have told me how they think I should parent my son.  I am not talking about my own mother or mother-in-law- they get a free pass to offer me any parenting tips and advice whatsoever.

This also doesn’t include websites or books I voluntarily read, or people I actually ASK about things.  What amazes me is how often these people are complete strangers!  I’ve discovered that anything counter-culture or alternative to mainstream that I do as a parent causes lots of people to feel that they have the right to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and what I should be doing.

We’re all doing the best we can as mothers, and obviously we believe they way we do things is the right way (or we would probably be doing it differently!)  The last thing any of us need is to feel any more guilt or regret about our parenting.

The documentary “Babies” (which is now out on DVD) is such a great picture of how four babies from opposite ends of the globe are all raised so differently and yet all hit major baby milestones at the same time and are all generally happy and healthy.  I love seeing them all smile, laugh,  start to say “Mama,” crawl, play, become territorial, and pretty much everything else all at around the same time.  This happens regardless of where they were born (hospital? birthing center? Home birth? mud hut?), the place they sleep (crib? parents bed? out amongst the wild?) , how many music classes they have been exposed to, how long they breastfeed, or how ideal their surroundings are.  To me it was a testament to how truly amazing mothers are from all walks of life.

Final thought to ponder: since motherhood is the hardest job anyone could ever have, yet with no rules or measures of success, no validation, no sense of productivity, and most likely no one telling you how great a job you have done, how wonderful would it be if  strangers and friends encouraged and commended us for taking such great care of our children?

I’d love to hear your experience with this!  When was the last time you were offered unsolicited parenting advice?

4 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice about Motherhood”

  1. Oh I love this post. It’s Mother’s Day here in the UK and I really felt warm from the idea of people validating us and our decisions on a regular basis (not just the annual bunch of flowers).

    Unsolicited advice is like the collateral damage you get from choosing to bring a human into the world. It drives me insane, I do my best to be as open and real as I can with new mums and remind them that as the mother, you are the expert.

    I’ve had people question my breastfeeding, what I ate and drank during pregnancy, the fact that I was having a second son (and not a ‘balanced’ girl and boy mix), the size of my pregnant tummy…I could go on and on. Did I mention it drives me insane?!

    Thanks for writing and happy Mum’s day from this side of the pond.

  2. Happy Mum’s Day to you! I almost saved this post for closer to Mother’s Day here in the US, but I’m glad I didn’t, since it’s Mum’s day there! Thanks for writing.

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