I’m a first-time parent, and if I wasn’t already sure of that before, having received parenting advice from virtually every individual I know with a child, I am definitely sure of it now.
The first few months after having a baby, especially your first baby, are overwhelming. My husband and I were together nearly 10 years before welcoming our son into the world. Though a very wanted, and awaited change to our lives, we found ourselves treading water. My thoughts were a jumbled mess, which were due to a nice combination of fatigue, hormones, and flat out doubt of my parenting-abilities.
I spent many nights reading, Googling endlessly for ways to do things. Was I swaddling correctly? Should my baby be drinking this much? Drinking this little? Why is he crying so much? Should he be making these wheezing noises? When does cradle cap end? If I could have a running list of things I typed into Google, it would certainly span the lengths of encyclopedias. And more likely than not, I’d laugh at some of those questions now as a more experienced, more comfortable new parent.
So let me tell all of you new parents: It gets easier. It’s hard to believe now, and I definitely rolled my eyes at a few forum posts similar to this one when I was in those first few “survival months”… which we will refer to as the “dark ages.”
So, being a new parent I wasn’t prepared for all of the VERY assertive new-parent-advice that I would receive. Let me explain. There is a difference between saying “oh, this is how I did it as a parent. Maybe try this way!” and saying “no, you’re doing this wrong. You need to do________.” Or, even better, when an individual tells you how they did it, and then gossips behind your back about how wrong you’re doing everything.
So recently I conducted a survey with numerous questions, ranging from birth, to feeding, to weaning, to sleeping, etc. Responses by those that participated were so varied. Some parents used a birth plan, some didn’t. Some had medicated births, some didn’t. (You get the point.) There was NO PATTERN. What worked for each parent was extremely different than what worked for the rest.
My last question on the survey was “Do you often get unwanted parenting advice?” I allowed the answers of “Yes” “No” and “No, it’s always welcomed.” I got a few that responded with the latter two, but the overwhelming majority replied with “Yes.”
My point? I have several.
- We’re all in this boat together. Sometimes this boat is a sinking ship. Sometimes we have to emit an SOS. Sometimes, we repair the leaks in our boat and keep on cruising. Don’t be critical of other moms just because your way isn’t their way.
- If you give advice: 1. Be kind. 2. Be understanding. 3. Don’t assume your way is best for all. 4. If someone is dropping hints that they don’t want advice, then stop.
- If you want advice: make sure you’re talking to individuals that won’t condemn you for your choices. Look for mothers that have had children recently. The hardest part of receiving advice from our own mothers and grandmothers is that it’s sometimes very outdated advice. (Some of it is great advice, don’t get me wrong– but some advice isn’t safe or medically advised.)
- If you’re a mom looking for solutions: there are other moms out there looking for the same solutions. Utilize forums and get a range of advice, it will help you to pick out the bad advice from the good. I’ve found Facebook groups to be particularly useful.
- If you’re a stranger, and you see a new parent out: generally, advice is not wanted. Instead offer encouragement. Being out in public with small children is already stressful enough, so try to be kind and understanding.
You’re doing great, parents. Google will be your best friend for a short time, but in a few months you’ll have this parenting thing mastered (it only took me 10 months, and I’m still learning every day.)