Look, we’ve all done it. We are pleasantly chatting with another Mommy about our children and then before we can reach out and pull them back in, those ‘words of wisdom’ come out.
“Just wait until you have another baby! (you’ll never carry around that much stuff anymore.)”
“We never let Junior have anything that isn’t organic. (because we don’t want him to be fat and sick like your kid.)”
“We don’t believe in spanking (because we don’t want him to be a violent hate monger like your child.)
“Better get sleep while you are pregnant! (because as soon as baby get’s here, you won’t sleep again because BABIES NEVER SLEEP.)”
I am sure everyone could add a few more to this.
While being offended when other mothers give me some of this unsolicited advice, I am ashamed to say that I occasionally dish some of it out myself.
And so I had to ask myself why? Why do I do the very thing that I find so annoying/rage-inducing about other moms? Is it revenge? Indifference? sadism?
But my answer was much less nefarious. I do it because parenting is intrinsically a loner sport. And that gets really lonely.
It is the one solitary thing you do in your life that no one can relate to. No one.Yeah, everybody has kids, but no one has your kids.
You are a beautifully complicated snowflake just like your child is a beautifully complicated snowflake. Furthermore, without a rule book, you are both teaching to and learning from each other, and it all happens in a very ephemeral and visceral way.
So you scored a big parenting win today? Don’t get to excited, because tomorrow it all resets back to 0.
Basically, we are predisposed for failure. No one is going to get a 100 on this test, we can only hope for a passing grade.
I think I second guess myself at least 10 times a day when it comes to my parenting. Should I feed them that? Are they getting too much/too little sleep? Is my disciplining technique effective, or am I just making things worse?
That is why they say being a parent is the hardest job. It is, because it is constantly changing, and no one can tell you how to do it right.
But still we search for a way to connect with other parents. We reach out to ask for advice, find a shoulder to cry on, or share in our triumphs.
Then we are P.O.ed when a parent shares their experience with us. It’s a vicious cycle. But we need to connect with each other, we need to find common ground. It’s important because no one can do this solitary, highly specialized job alone. We all need some support.
I guess if I think about it, the support and the camaraderie are so much more important to me than sheltering myself from the ‘advice’.
My advice on giving advice? Don’t do it. Most people just want you to listen. occasionally someone will ask you how to change a baby’s diaper or is it ok to leave them alone with the dog for a few hours, which you should have quick and direct answers for. But what kind of formula do you use? Keep it simple. Using Brand B instead of Brand A is not going to compromise the health of their child, but ticking them off will jeopardize your friendship.
And when you inevitably get advice back don’t be offended. Save that for political discussions with your family.