Parents go through it with their first child, and sometimes the ones that follow. Everyone and their brother suddenly knows exactly what to do in any situation you are in, and even if you aren’t in a situation of any sort, they still know that they have to share “just a little trick” so that it makes your lives easier.
Well, seriously, people, did I ask you for advice? Nope.
I am not ungrateful, believe me. My sisters both had kids before me, so I was happy to try out the things they suggested, but they never offered up suggestions unless I asked. Maybe they were just as sick of hearing the unsolicited advice as I was (especially after hearing it throughout my pregnancy too so I could be “ready” for when the baby comes).
I was appreciative of suggestions my mom and mother-in-law had, but only when I asked. I didn’t want to know what “worked back then” or hear “sleep when the baby sleeps” because believe me, it was bullshit.
A close friend of mine who was 39 weeks pregnant and I FaceTimed recently and I didn’t offer any suggestions while we talked. I listened and enjoyed her conversation about her birth plan and who would come to visit once the baby was born. I didn’t judge (HONEST!) when she said she was going to wait to ask for an epidural until she absolutely needed it. I waited patiently until she was done.
I only had to share one thing that I had learned. “Just make sure you don’t take anyone’s advice unless you want to. That was one thing that bugged me more than anything. You can’t screw the kid up that much, and you will know them better than anyone. So unless you ask for the advice, don’t feel bad about not taking it.”
I waited and watched her reaction. She laughed and then thanked me. I smiled and offered nothing more. I think she was waiting for suggestions. But I did not have any to give. Well, I did, but I wasn’t offering any without her wanting them. I didn’t say “enjoy every minute” and “they grow up so fast” or even “enjoy this peaceful time while the baby is on the inside” because that’s definitely NOT what she needed (and I’m sure, wanted) to hear.
So, I kept those thoughts to myself. Those are all bullshit, too, anyway.
It’s hard to not share these things with people. It’s hard to keep our mouths closed when we’d rather throw in our two cents worth and feel like we’ve helped them in some way by giving them those pearls of wisdom. To be honest, they probably only half-listened (if at all) because they were exhausted and irritated and at their wit’s end, and the last thing they wanted was to hear what tidbit I had to share with them.
What a new parent really needs? Someone to listen to them while they vent and to nod along as they justify their reason for whatever it is that allowed them to survive that second, minute, hour, of their life to get to the next one with their new little bundle of joy. And as hard as it may be, to NOT judge them. Everyone is different, and everyone’s parenting experience is different.
So onward, parents. Let’s do our best to not give the unsolicited advice that people don’t need or don’t care to hear. Lend that listening ear and understanding smile, because hey, we’ve all been in that same shit at some point in our parenting life.
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