I knew parenting would be hard. I mean, I couldn’t really know what months on end of sleep deprivation would be like until it happened. Or what it would be like to walk around the house for six hours a day with a kicking, screaming newborn in my arms. I certainly underestimated how frequently my kids would eat, the endless messes they’d make, and the way they’d test my patience at every available opportunity. But I knew, to some extent, that parenthood would be the hardest job I’d ever do.
What no one prepared me for is that everyone would have an opinion on how I did it and would be happy to share it with me at every available opportunity.
“Are you sure he’s hungry again? Didn’t you just nurse him?”
“Don’t you think he should be wearing a hat? He’ll freeze to death.”
“You should put the baby down. He’ll never be independent.”
“Pick him up. Can’t you see he’s upset?”
“Wow, he’s a feisty one. You let him get away with murder, huh?”
“You know, if you don’t teach him to share/sleep/have manners/eat healthy foods, he will never learn.”
Yep, these were all actual things said to me in the early years of parenting by family and friends, sometimes even complete strangers. I want to say that I always had brilliant responses for them all. But especially with my first child, I was completely taken aback each time it happened. I probably came up with some incoherent, rambling response, and then tried desperately to get out of the situation.
What I really wanted to do was scream, tell them to shut their damn traps and mind their own business. But I’m stupidly civil. Over the years, though, I developed some more backhanded responses to all the judgment, “advice,” and disapproval that’s been thrown in my face.
So, if you’re like me, polite as fuck, but someone who gets incredibly ticked off when people give you unwanted parenting advice, I’ve got some tried and true comebacks for you.
1. Smile, nod, icy stare.
Flash them your pearly whites, nod, and act like you are taking their wisdom into depths of your heart. Then, a few minutes later, Resting Bitch Face for the win.
2. ‘Would you like to take them for a day?’
I present this with a healthy sense of humor. But its truth is not lost on me: No one can really know how to parent your kid unless they’ve been parenting your kid every day, 24/7. Case closed.
3. Change the subject.
Even the current political campaigns would be a more welcome subject than trying to explain to my batty aunt why my 3-year-old isn’t potty trained yet.
4. ‘Wow, I never thought of it that way.’
Or, “Oh my god, you have truly enlightened me. I never knew that all I had to do was put my kid in time-out for five minutes and then he would do exactly what I say every day for the rest of eternity.”
5. Play the ‘Well, All Kids Are Different’ card.
“I’m so glad that little Johnny had no trouble eating his vegetables once you arranged them in the shape of a clown face. It’s too bad my kid chucked the clown face across the room and then never touched broccoli, carrots, or red peppers again.”
6. ‘This is how my doctor recommends we do it.’
I like this one because now you’ve got an authority figure who people usually respect and believe. Of course, it doesn’t have to be actually true that your doctor said it, but it usually shuts people up.
7. Fake an emergency.
“Oh no! My baby just had a giant diaper blow-out. I suggest everyone flee the area immediately.”
8. ‘Yeah, he’s just having a bad day.”
I mean, gosh, sometimes kids are cranky. And if you’re only seeing my kid in a social situation, out of his comfort zone, of course he’s going to be out of sorts. Also, now I’m having a bad day on account of your judgment, so kindly STFU.
9. ‘Really? And tell me about your perfect children.’
OK, I might not put it exactly that way, but turning the tables and asking them to elaborate on their own parenting successes and misses is a way to move things away from their critique of you and into a more honest discussion about parenting. But if all it does is shut them up, that’s fine too.
10. From your mouth: ‘Interesting.’ In your mind: ‘I don’t give a fuck.’
Sometimes I give a one-word answer to this crap, and in my mind, I’m repeating my ultimate parenting mantra: “I don’t give a fuck.” Say it again. Repeat it. It’s yours.
The good thing is that after a while, the parenting interference dies down or at least you get better at handling it. But it never goes away completely. Even now that my kids are older, everyone and their mother (including, um, my own mother sometimes) has something to say about how I’m raising my kids.
Now that I’m pretty sure I’m raising a couple of healthy, decent human beings, the critique rolls more easily off my sleeve. But I honestly still don’t understand why people are compelled to get in the middle of things. I truly believe that every family is different and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Hell, what works for one of my kids probably won’t work for the other!
So, as ridiculously sweet as I can be on the outside, inside I’m standing on my soapbox and pleading with everyone who thinks they have something to say about someone else’s parenting to just stop it. If someone asks for your advice, then give it, by all means. But unsolicited advice? Nope. Shut your mouth. Zip your lips. Find something else to keep yourself occupied.