On Unsolicited "Advice"

There is something magical that happens when a woman becomes pregnant. No, not the obvious "I'm growing a human inside me" part, rather the part where complete strangers feel it is appropriate to tell you pretty much whatever they think about you, your pregnancy, and how you should raise your children. I use the term "advice" pretty loosely here, because most of what people tell you is anything but. It starts early on, usually with the speculation of whether you are having a boy or a girl. I had someone once tell me that I was "Definitely having a girl because your butt has gotten so much bigger". That made me feel pretty awesome. But it doesn't stop there. People, nay, STRANGERS, will willingly tell you the full details of their birth stories designed to help, saying things like "Make sure you get an epidural whatever you do" or "I went through (insert crazy amount of hours here) of labor with no drugs and only munched on ice chips and meditated".

Once the baby arrives the advice comes from pretty much every direction in a deluge. Some of it is actually pretty helpful. Some of it, not so much. I won't get into my infamous breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding advice I received in the mall, but advice on what, and when, you should be feeding your baby seems like a universal thing that people feel comfortable to comment on. I've had people comment on me feeding a baby with a bottle, me nursing a baby while wearing a sling (why yes, girl in Target, I WAS breastfeeding my baby under that sling, but he also could have been sleeping, same exact position). People want to let you know if it is too soon, too late, too much, too little, not the right food, not hot enough or cold enough.

Don't get me wrong, before you label me ungrateful, I understand that a lot of people want to offer advice to be helpful and considerate. And quite possibly, even those people who don't say it in the nicest way may still be coming from a place of helpfulness. But at the same time, it can sting when you are on the receiving end of a little piece of "advice" that is just downright irritating.

I had someone once tell me that I needed to get my baby on a schedule, that by doing that it would solve the problems of not getting enough sleep and the baby would sleep through the night. Great! A schedule! I had never thought of that before, what a novel idea! Now, was there any follow up advice on just HOW to accomplish this task? No. This is a classic example of "Drive By Advice". Usually coming from a stranger but not always, the Drive By Advice giver usually breezes by, notices one thing, makes a comment and then leaves without giving you the chance to respond. They usually have zero idea of what the situation was even in the moments before they decided to stick their face right in your business. For example, a stranger walked by me one day in early spring, Jack was in his sling, she took one look at him and goes "That baby should have socks on". Socks? What are these socks you speak of? Oh wait, these two little things I have balled up in my hand that he continues to get off his feet somehow? Oh that's right, but thanks for the "advice" helpful stranger. Another stranger walked by me in the park and said "He's in that sling wrong". Did she perhaps follow this up with some handy instructions? No she did not. And I am probably STILL doing it wrong.

Then there is the Braggy Advice Giver. The Bragger wants to let you know two things, the first being You Are Doing It Wrong and the second being I Know This Because I Did It Better Than You. It's a pretty fun combination and can come from anyone- strangers, family members, friends. I had a friend tell me I shouldn't use a breast pump because it would negatively affect my milk supply. She then went on to explain that she never used one and successfully nursed her baby for over a year. Kudos to her, but I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her that unfortunately the business meeting I was going to wasn't progressive enough to let me nurse my baby at and therefore I needed to leave my milk for him at home. I didn't explain this because her need was filled, she wanted to brag a little about her accomplishment, so I let her. Annoying though? Certainly. I once found myself without baby wipes and Jack clearly in need of a diaper change in a major way. Definitely a rookie mistake but there was another mom right next to me, changing her baby. I laughed and said "Can you believe I forgot wipes? Do you have one I can use?" She looked at me without smiling and said "Baby wipes are full of chemicals, I wouldn't put them on my child's skin". So, is that a no then? I'll admit I stared at her blankly for a second with my hand still out expecting a baby wipe because I was pretty sure she was joking, but after I realized she wasn't I improvised with a paper towel, which was really fun.

Then you've got the Time Traveler. The Time Traveler gives you advice you could have used like a year ago. The one who says "Ooh, you didn't use the BPA free bottles? Well I'm sure he'll be fine" or "Well I had a birth plan and was really firm about it and everything went really smoothly". Yeah I had a birth plan too helpful friend, and it didn't include having major abdominal surgery, but I got a healthy baby out of it so it's all good. But hey, thanks! The fellow preschool mom who says "You really shouldn't put those swim diapers on until right before they go swimming because they leak". Gee thanks, now any advice on how to camouflage this giant pee stain all over the front of my shirt?

All of that aside, there are people who truly do give you some great advice about raising kids. Sometimes those people happen to be strangers, sometimes they are a dear friend. They are the ones who will give their advice when asked, who will come over and help you put that crazy sling on the right way and teach you how to use the new baby monitor. They will be the ones who can commiserate and give advice at the same time over a glass of wine while having a few laughs. My piece of advice? Unless you truly believe you are going to actually help the person, just keep it to yourself. And thanks!