Reducing Parenting Advice You Never Wanted
As someone who is an over-sharer, I often find myself in the situation of regretting that I have shared some tidbit of my life that I am struggling with because I get advice. Lots of it. The listener does not always understand that sometimes the experience of just talking about the problem out loud is enough to make a person feel better. And new moms are particularly susceptible to unsolicited advice from ALL SIDES because the experience of becoming a mother is so common, despite its feeling of uniqueness to each woman. Everyone from her parents, in-laws, siblings, friends with kids, friends without kids feel like their advice could help the new mom. The advice is often conflicting, and often goes against the mother's own intuition, and often comes at a time when a woman is just trying to be listened to. So, what's a new mother to do when she needs to share her struggles in order to receive support, but also wants to avoid unsolicited advice from even the best of intentioned people? The advice will flow in regardless, but I have learned from countless trial and error that there are ways to decrease the amount of unsolicited advice you receive.
1. Create your sharing categories: As much as a new mom may want to, there's no reason to share ALL the struggles with ALL the people who ask. Are you barely sleeping, but KNOW deep down that your nighttime philosophy is best in the long-run? Then only share how hard your sleepless nights are with those who will be supportive of that. If you don't want advice about how to get your baby to sleep more, then don't bring up the sleep problem with people who will give that advice. When your sister-in-law asks "How's the baby sleeping?" You can simply respond "Like a baby!" and change the subject. She, might, however, be the perfect person to ask questions to about her pumping schedule, or the laundry detergent she uses for baby clothes, or time-saving crockpot recipes she loves. Think about who you know who has made the same choices that you have-- and spew your struggles to them. A good person to talk about your sleeping struggles with is that friend who you know who has demonstrated a similar sleep philosophy. Talk to THEM about hard it's been. She will more than likely relate to how hard it's been, AND will know you think it's what best, despite the difficulty.
2. Be vocal about your boundaries: When I was struggling so much with breastfeeding my first baby, we had to tell several people that it was an off-topic subject. I was in pain for two years while nursing, and some people in my life didn't quite understand why I continued. The only reason I did, was because I WANTED TO. Many women would not have made the same choice as me, and that's fine. But that's the choice I made, and I have no regrets. At that time though, well-meaning people in my life were showing their concern through asking questions that insinuated that perhaps I was causing myself needless pain and worry, and that it might be easier to abandon my breastfeeding goals. We told these people: "Lo's done her research, she knows what she's doing, and we aren't looking for input." Of course, I knew the people I could discuss this particular struggle with, including a couple of close friends, the local Breastfeeding USA support group, and my extremely sympathetic lactation consultant. If someone continues to give advice or bring up a topic related to your parenting and you have learned their advice does not align with your goals or hopes, then be upfront with them. Tell them politely that it is not a topic open to discussion, and ask them to refrain from bringing it up. If they are really well-intentioned, they will honor your wishes.
3. Proactively create your tribe of mothers: It's so important to have that group of moms who are supportive of your choices no matter what. I know this is easier said than done. In order to do this, I follow some advice that was given to me 15 years ago by a good friend. "If you meet a woman you feel you could become good friends with, get her digits...you have to pursue her and let her know you're interested." One of my closest friends right now is someone who I met at a park, and whose number I got before leaving. Another way to find a tribe of mothers is to join a mom's club of some sort. I joined Mom's Club International in my area, and the women in my weekly playgroup are all so kind and supportive. I particularly try to seek out the advice of the mothers who have several kids and have been through multiple stages. They have so much more perspective than I do, and are several stages ahead of me, so have seen the results of their methods play out. I was really struggling with that time right before dinner when my preschooler was tired, I was tired, and he was being particularly needy while I was trying to get dinner on the table. I brought this up to these moms (at a kids free dinner and drinks night!), and the more experienced moms said "Have you tried turning on the TV?" My initial response was to say "but I don't just want to use TV as a babysitter...." But after talking to them, they reminded me that many people love to just veg out at the end of a long day, and that streaming his favorite show during this time could give him the chance to do that while I peacefully made dinner, and isn't that better than conflict and frustration during that time? I adjusted our TV watching time to before dinner instead of earlier in the day, and it does wonders on those days when he's extra tired and I need to focus! I needed their permission to change my approach, and because I trusted them, I was able to take their advice.
As human beings on this earth, we can never fully eliminate unsolicited advice. But...NEW MOM...know that you can decrease it. Figure out to whom you will share your deepest struggles, and then use these tips to reduce the amount of advice. Are there any other ways you have come up to reduced unwanted advice? Leave your tips in the comments below or on the Facebook page!