by Lauren at Trollipop
You’re out and about with your new baby, a rare outing in public between feeds. Your baby feeds like clockwork every three hours so you haven’t sleep more than two hours at one time in over four weeks. You’re in the middle of the supermarket grabbing a few essentials and she starts to cry and a lovely old lady looks into your pram and says “oh I think she is hungry”. What you see is a fire breathing dragon that says “you are a terrible mother and your baby is starving”.
Ok this might be a little exaggerated, but for some new Mums this uninvited advice from strangers can leave them feeling inadequate as a parent and doubt their own parenting abilities.
This was certainly the case for me. Unbeknown to me at the time, my first son suffered from reflux for the first few months of his life, so he pretty much cried all the time. Determined to get out of the house I would often walk to the shops to get a few things. Without fail, a stranger would poke their head into the pram and say “oh that little boy is hungry you should feed him”. This was enough to make me scream! Suffering from sheer exhaustion I would go home feeling like the worst parent in the world and for a while it was enough that I stopped going out in public by myself with my baby.
You soon realise however, that advice, not just from strangers, but from friends, family and acquaintances, does not stop as your children get older and is something that you have to learn to deal with.
Also, on the other hand, you don’t want to shut yourself off from all advice because someone may just inadvertently have the solution to a problem you are having that could make all the difference.
All situations will be different, and obviously if someone is being aggressive, abusive or persistent you need to remove yourself and your child immediately from that situation. A wise friend once told me, “you cannot change the actions of others, you can only change your reaction to them”. So here is some advice for managing those well-intentioned but perhaps unwanted attempts to help –
- Naturally we either have a fight of flight response, however remember this could leave you feeling either regretful about a confrontation or about having not defended yourself. Recognise when you are feeling vulnerable, and try just smiling back and saying, “thank you but we are ok”, and move along.
- Where the advice has come from a stranger, a word of warning about the fight response. You do not know this person, and you don’t know how they might react if you try to go head to head with them.
- Ensure you have a group of like-minded parents that you can talk to and seek advice from regularly (i.e. a parents group, or playgroup). Getting welcomed advice from parents on the same wavelength as you and knowing other parents are going through the same thing will give you confidence in your parenting and help you respond more confidently and be less affected by these situations.
- Remind yourself that they have the best intentions.
- Learn to just ignore it! You’re in for a long road if you take to heart the opinions of everyone about your parenting. Unsolicited parenting advice is unfortunately just another part of parenting and it doesn’t stop as they grow up.
The truth is that kids don’t come with a manual. No child is the same and no-one knows (or loves) your child like you do. Don’t close yourself close yourself off completely to advice and be confident in your own parenting choices. Don’t be too hard on yourself and if there is one thing I think all parents can agree on – parenting isn’t easy! So next time you receive some unwanted advice, say thanks, hold your head high and move on, because you are doing just fine.
What is the weirdest unwanted advice you have been given? How did you deal with it?