'I was the first of my friends to become a mum': How to deal with unsolicited parenting advice
I was the first of my friends to become a mum. Many of my peers are still at the blissful stage of life where they dole out sweeping statements about things they would NEVER do as a parent. These include; screens at the dinner table, letting their child sing out loud in public or stuffing a lolly in their chubby hands to shut 'em up.
Hiring a nanny, letting their toddler sleep with them and allowing them to pick out their own clothes in the morning are amongst the claims.
Again, these are hypothetical children with hypothetical vocal cords and hypothetical temper tantrums. These are imaginary morning rushes with imaginary time schedules and imaginary last minute toilet trips and nappy changes.
Being on the younger side of motherhood, I also get a lot of advice from other parents, family members and just about anyone who feels like it. This goes along the lines of 'mine would have never spoken to me like that' or 'mine were made eat every spoon of their spinach'. That kind of thing.
The reaction varies. I've laughed. I've cried. I've written advice down to tell my mummy pals later on- in jest or to selflessly share the wisdom bestowed upon me. I have reacted to unsolicited parenting advice in every way possible. Some advice is fantastic.
My mother, grandmother, and mother in law seem to have the best and most realistic snippets of wisdom.
They know me and my child so the tailored advice seems to work- which makes sense. So here's the thing. What happens when all of this advice- including the golden stuff- is contradicting? When one person convinces you to wait until your child is five-years-old to send her to school, while the other insists that she would be 'well able' at four-and-a-half? When your mum says 'X' and his mum says 'Y'? When some say 'treats in moderation' and the others say 'raisins only'?
There are no right answers here but I have come up with a method (sort of) to avoid 'over thinking' when it comes to parenting advice:
1. When those who don't have kids decide to lecture you with 'I would never' or 'I would definitely'; smile, nod and remember the conversation so you can have a laugh when these hypothetical angels become a devilish reality. That is unless these people are experts in the subject of the advice- doctors, childcare workers, teachers etc.
2. When those closest to you suggest something, take it on board- especially if its another mama. Consider it but ultimately try to do what's best for you and your family, what feels right. No one wants the responsibility if their advice doesn't work.
3. When those furthest from you i.e. strangers or distant acquaintances share their expertise, use the smile and nod tactic. Even if it insults your very being it will only make for a fantastic story to share later on. I was once told to give my daughter a 'fingertip' of brandy on her tongue before a flight. The smile and nod quickly turned to hysterical laughter.
People love to share advice on every aspect of parenting, from feeding a newborn to whether or not you allow your 13-year-old to go to the local disco. It will come from everywhere and is an occupational hazard. So take my advice (THE IRONY): Nod, smile and trust your mama instinct- it's hella powerful.