All of the Parenting Advice
Warning: Mama bear rant ahead. Since becoming a mom, I've had numerous conversations with people who provided me with advice on topics ranging from sleep training, to education, to vaccinations. And these conversations would have been great, had I asked for advice on these topics.
I didn't understand how mind blowing this phenomenon was until I became a mom. Somehow, others feel they have the right to interject their opinions into your life and the life of your child without a second thought. What!? For example, if I say something like "I'm exhausted, Jonas didn't sleep well last night" and your response is "You have to let him cry it out." Not only are you providing me with advice I didn't ask for, you are also removing the ability for me to be vulnerable from our relationship. I will never feel like I can tell you that I'm tired or that Jonas isn't sleeping well again because I've learned that I will receive no sympathy or support because you believe I'm doing it wrong. This is akin to me telling you, "Dang, my stomach really hurts today" and your response being "You really have to eat bacon for every meal." Let me unpack all the problems with this...
First, who gives unsolicited advice to others in which you're telling them what to do with their life without it being requested? If I open up and tell you I've been feeling sad, I don't want you to tell me what to do to fix it UNLESS I ask, "What do you do to feel happy when you're feeling sad?" When we can't connect with others when they're less than perfect without trying to fix them, we're communicating that we're uncomfortable with their humanity.
Secondly, by offering a solution instead of being supportive, we are communicating that we know what's best for someone regardless of the fact that their life is completely different than ours. By immediately jumping to offer a solution instead of seeking to understand and support, we're loudly advertising our lack of perspective and empathy. When I tell you that my stomach hurts and you tell me to eat all the bacon, you're assuming that we are the same. You are not considering that I may not like bacon, that I may have already tried the bacon diet, that bacon is against my belief system or that the research I've done suggests eating all the bacon is actually really unhealthy. You're assuming that it worked for you, so it must be the only right way. In our culture of toxic social media interactions (think: all the malicious arguments behind the protection of our screens during election season), it has never been more apparent that we don't have a grid for understanding that we're all different and that's ok.
Third, being a parent is hard. It's amazing and beautiful and fun and adorable and life changing and really, really hard. I guarantee you that my mom guilt mind has played out every scenario of every argument; co-sleeping versus sleep training, vaccinations versus non-vaccination, day care versus in-home nanny, and the list goes on forever. So, I do not need anyone else telling me that they think I'm doing the whole parenting thing wrong. I've already weighed all the options and chosen the one I have most peace with. What you're communicating when you give unsolicited advice is that you think I've made the wrong decision and I shouldn't trust my intuition.
Fourth, I'm so angry that individuals, but specifically moms, frequently feel like they're alone and can't ask for help. Parenthood can be a scary, lonely place without a strong support system. So, instead of jumping to conclusions and offering unsolicited advice, I implore you to choose support, connection and love instead. The next time a mom tells you they're exhausted because their baby only sleeps a couple of hours at a time, offer to come over so the mom can take a much needed nap. Believe me, I haven't slept more than 3 hours consecutively in 9 months. I've tried everything so I don't need you telling me something that I've probably already tried that worked great for you. I find it completely unacceptable that moms are reluctant to discuss their parenting decisions due to fear of others' reactions. We all get better together, not in isolation. We have to be free to speak openly and freely without judgement.
So, I kindly ask you to treat moms as the humans they still are and treat them with the same respect you would any one else. You wouldn't tell someone how to treat their husband, so why would you tell them how to raise their kids? Moms, I want to encourage you to guard your heart from criticism, you're doing an amazing job. As a kind friend once told me, "Listen to your heart. Follow your mother's instincts. You and your child were created for each other. You are their expert."
So much love for you all. You've got this.
PS. Amazing artwork in intro picture by the amazing Sarah Parsons