You’ve just had a new baby and suddenly everyone around you has become a parenting expert. Family members, friends, neighbours and complete strangers all have their opinion about how you should raise your child. Add to that the raging hormones and sleepless nights, and it’s not a surprise that you want to scream every time someone starts a sentence with “you should…”
You’re not alone. You may be feeling like a complete newbie but it’s not your unprecedented incompetence that is causing the avalanche of parenting advice. It happens to most of us. Many ante-natal courses even have a section about handling unsolicited advice – and for a good reason! So how do you deal with it?
Have confidence that you know your baby best
The person you’re talking to may have five kids and 12 grandchildren but they haven’t had your child. You’re the expert at nurturing your baby. You get to make the calls and you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. Take whatever advice feels good to you and release everything else.
Assume that people want to help
In the early days, any advice may feel like a personal attack on your ability as a mother but usually it’s not meant that way. People genuinely want to help, they just don’t know how. Tell them what you need and it will steer their energy in a more productive direction.
Say “thank you”
A simple expression of gratitude makes people feel heard and appreciated. It also makes a good close to a conversation you’d rather not continue. When there is no argument, often there is nothing more to be said.
There is no reason why a complete stranger (or even a family member) would need to know every single detail of your life, especially when it comes to explosive topics like co-sleeping, feeding and cloth nappies. It’s ok to replace “She falls asleep on the breast” with “She falls asleep easily” – both could be equally true, but the latter is far less likely to attract further commentary.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Talk to your partner or a trusted friend. Join a mothers’ group, where everyone else is going through the same struggles and you can share safely. When you feel that your point of view is valid and accepted by others, you’ll be less likely to take it to heart when criticised by people who don’t agree with your parenting philosophies.
Finally, please feel free to ignore any of the above points that don’t serve you. After all, you may not want advice on handling unwanted parenting advice and that is perfectly fine.
By Tatiana Apostolova