Becoming a parent can be a terrifying experience at first. I was in the hospital for three days after having Lily. On the third day, they handed me my discharge papers and let us leave with a 6lb 2oz preemie. No amount of online research or books read actually prepared me for the task at hand. They had actually let us leave the hospital with this tiny little human without any kind of training! What?! It took us months to get into our groove, and then it was time to go back to work, causing us to find a whole new groove. And then we started solid foods. Then teething. Crawling. Walking. Every time we thought we had this parenting thing down, there was a new twist in the road causing us to re-examine what worked and what didn’t.
One constant that remained throughout all of our changes, re-arranges, and evaluations was this: I was always barraged by other mothers with “advice” (most unsolicited). While I welcomed tips and tricks, I quickly learned to despise anything that started with the following: “Oh (disdainfully)…you’re doing (insert parenting choice here)…oh…that’s not going to work because (insert reason here)” and “You definitely do NOT want to do (insert parenting choice here).” If it was told to me with a smirk, a side-eyed glance, a sigh, or while looking at me like I was a moron, there was a very good chance I wasn’t going to listen.
“Oh, you’re giving up on breastfeeding? I mean, I know you’ve had problems and are battling post-partum depression, but breast milk is best, and you should just try harder.”
“You really should put that baby down/pick her up/let her cry more/let her cry less. She’s not going to be able to ever calm herself down/will grow up too dependent on you/will grow up to hate you if you do/don’t.”
I heard all of these—and then some.
I’m here to say this to other mothers: STOP IT.
When I was a surly teenager (yes, I admit, I had an attitude), my Mom often told me that it wasn’t WHAT I was saying that made her mad. It was HOW I was saying it. The same thing rings true with Mommy advice.
Instead of this, “Maybe you should just try harder,” something I would’ve wholeheartedly welcomed from another Mommy was, “I know you’re trying as hard as you can to make this work. If it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. Lily isn’t going to die because she had to have some formula. But in case you still want to keep trying, here are a couple of things I tried when I was struggling—just in case you haven’t tried them yet.”
How about this: “Hey, parenting is rough! I’m glad you’re doing what works for you!”
I had a LOT of ideas about how things were going to go for me (“I’ll never let my baby have formula!” and “Psh, my baby will be asleep in her crib for 6 hour stretches because I read a book that told me how to do it!”), and I was certainly shocked when things didn’t go the way I had planned. So the last thing I needed to hear wasvthat our new approach was ALSO wrong. My baby was (and still is) happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, so how could my approach be so bad? Now that I’ve been a parent for the last four years or so, I’ve learned that, when it comes to parenting, the most judgmental people in the world are often other mothers. I think this is so SAD because we are the only ones who truly understand each other. We should be one another’s biggest support system instead of looking at one another shaking our heads in disdain. When I talk to my friends who are pregnant or new Moms, I really try hard to offer constructive advice and never to judge. We have enough on our plates without people who are supposed to love us and support us being so discouraging.
I start a lot of my sentences with “Well, what worked for me was…” and I encourage you all to do the same. Why spend time judging, badgering, and breaking each other down when we can do so much more by building each other up?
Lily and me (before I realized babies really don’t come with instruction manuals) on day two in the hospital.