Oh, people just love to give advice to parents, don’t they? What kind of stroller to buy, which extracurriculars your elementary schooler should be doing, what college your teen should attend. After you’ve been a parent for a few years, you learn to brush off these well-meaning bits of guidance. Below, the 13 most useless pieces of advice any parent can get.
1. You absolutely need a swing/bouncy seat/Mamaroo/Jumperoo/bassinet/Moses basket. Actually, you do need one of those things, but you won’t know which one until it’s 4 a.m. and you’re wringing out your last pee-soaked swaddle as the newborn yodels a tune from The Sound of Music.
2. You should cry it out. We did cry it out, and it was a brief and non-traumatic experience. That was a number of years ago. But now, it isn’t the crying that wakes me up, it’s my son’s tendency to have loud, excited conversations in his sleep. Last night, he screamed “WHOA, WHOA, WHOA” like he was the one of the joint chiefs telling the president to slow his roll in a Tom Clancy movie. And then, you, know, I’m awake, dammit. Is there any such thing as “whoa it out”?
3. You should limit screen time for your kids. I should also take a shower by myself. If the television’s off, my toddler brings his blocks into the bathroom and hurls them at my feet while I’m showering. You know in action movies when the cops shoot at the perp’s feet as he hops up and down? That’s what my showers are these days. Given the choice between screen time and being pelted with sharp objects while rinsing soap from my eyes…yeah, I’m going to go with the screen time.
4. Your kids should learn to play by themselves. If I’m trying to cook, and I say something irritably, like “play by yourself,” they will say, “okay, but first I need some Scotch tape,” and then they will tape themselves to the kitchen gate and moan.
5. You and your husband should take turns getting up with the kids on the weekend. Okay, this is good advice, but, first, set aside the fact that they wake up at 7:30 a.m. on his day and 4:41 a.m. on mine. Worse is that, evidently, I have supersonic hearing—when bats talk about me, they’re like, “wow, Leigh can really hear”—and a mere sniff from the kids’ room jolts me out of even the soundest sleep. I can shake my husband awake, sure, which sometimes means heaving my full weight on him and screaming “WAKE UP, IT’S YOUR TURN.” And he’ll get up pretty cheerfully. But by then I’m, you know, awake.
6. You need to set a bedtime routine. We tried it for a while, but it extended the bedtime ritual by an hour and a half. Now it’s “set child in bed, kiss, head pat.” You know who needs a bedtime routine? Mommy. Here’s a fine bedtime routine: cocktail, ice cream, sitcom, a little more ice cream, fall asleep in yoga pants and a dirty bra.
7. You should be more flexible with their schedules. I will! And then you can come over and give dinner to an over-tired child who is sobbing because the hamburger is protruding slightly from the bun. Pro tip: The solution is not as easy as shoving the hamburger back in!
8. Your son needs to toughen up. No, he doesn’t. If you wouldn’t say it to a girl, don’t say it to a boy.
9. Your kid really needs this (very expensive) preschool. What he needs is to dig in the dirt for a few hours every day with a yogurt container. Other kids and a good caregiver would be nice too, and I’m willing to pay something for it, but, no, it shouldn’t cost as much as a college education.
10. Your baby needs a hat. Walk behind me, and hold the baby on its head.
11. You should stay home with your kids. I love the idea of staying at home with my kids, and I did it for a good long time! But alas, there’s that pesky money situation, and if I didn’t work, you’d be all, “tsk tsk, you should feed those kids!”
12. You should go back to work. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find affordable, reliable, high-quality child care? Interview a few dead-eyed babysitters or tour a couple crowded daycares that cost more than your mortgage and you might think twice too. Finding a safe, nurturing care situation for your kid will test your resolve to work; it’ll also test your steady hand for writing huge checks.
13. You should…do anything. In my parenting life thus far, I’ve learned that pretty much everyone is doing the best they can in their given circumstances. And while, sure, we all should be cooking from scratch and reading to our kids for 20 minutes a day, sometimes it’s just not possible. We’re all weighing money, time and energy, every day. So the one piece of advice I do try to take is: Cut yourself some slack. And when it’s your turn to sleep in? Earplugs.