We were just along for the ride.
“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past. From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts; and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” – Baz Luhrman, Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen).
It’s been said that opinions are like arseholes – everybody’s got one. Unsolicited opinions, then, are by far the worst kind.
Many a family relationship is strained by one person giving constant unwanted and unsolicited advice to another; sure, the person might mean well, but there’s nothing like feeling undermined and disrespected in your own home. In addition, it’s all too common for complete strangers to dispense unnecessary and unwelcome parenting advice in public, as though you needed it.
Common scenario one: You’re a busy working mum grappling with two toddlers – one of whom, gasp, has a dummy in her mouth – at a shopping centre. Call the child protection agency! Said two-year-old rarely has her dummy, but on this particular day, she’s woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and you don’t have the heart for a long battle to separate her from her beloved pacifier.
Unsolicited advice crime against humanity: A middle-aged woman, whom you catch sight of staring at you and your children disapprovingly, while you’re both in the supermarket fruit and veg section, freely and loudly scolds you about your parenting failures. “She’s a bit old to have a dummy, isn’t she? Careful – she might still want it when she’s 21!” says she, with a superior air. “Have you tried giving her lollies to suck on or apple juice…”
Common scenario two: You and your husband are discussing an important issue in the kitchen, when your mother-in-law enters the room.
Unsolicited advice crime against humanity: Your MIL has heard approximately three seconds of the conversation, but feels qualified to offer her very unwanted advice on the issue, without knowing any of the background on it. She’s staying with you in your house and feels it necessary to offer constant, annoying and unwanted advice on everything from how you cook, clean, parent your children and even make the damned bed.
How about shut the f*** up?! Look, I get that people want to help – indeed they like to think they’re doing so. But unless you specifically ask for their advice, I think it’s far kinder for people to just keep their mouths shut. And unless you’ve got something nice to say, zip it. Please – for the sake of humanity! No one wants your unsolicited opinions.
I try my best to live by the same credo – a far nicer thing to do, I find, is ask loved ones how they are. And if you’re the dreaded unwanted advice giver in your family, try giving yourself a gentle uppercut every time you find yourself about to start a sentence with “You should…”
What’s more, if you’re a stranger at the supermarket about to dispense some highly unwanted and unsolicited advice to me, look out; for so tired and worn-out am I by my toddlers, I may attempt to run you over with my double pram. I don’t want or need your advice, so please get out of my way. You’ve been warned unsolicited advice givers!
What do you think? How do you combat unsolicited opinions?
Images via someecards.com, kikiandtea.com, popsugar.com
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