I’m in my last trimester of my last pregnancy ever. A couple more months, and this uterus will be retired. This little one will be my third. I feel pretty okay about my ability to take care of three kids at once.
Okay. That’s not true. I have no clue how to have three kids.
I guess what I’m really saying is that I trust myself to figure it out. I’m fairly smart, I’ve done this a couple times, and I’m really good at winging it. I feel like the likelihood is that we will all be just fine.
Even though this isn’t my first baby, I still very much feel like I am about to be a new mom. The new mom experience isn’t just for first timers. Every single time a new baby enters the picture, a new mom is created. You’re not the mom you were before. Your heart changes to welcome this new person, your responsibilities increase, and suddenly you have to figure out how to be everything your kids need in a mom–only “your kids” is not the same group as it was yesterday.
It’s a lot.
I feel like I’ve learned a whole heck of a lot in my years as a mom, but there is only thing I am absolutely, 100 percent sure about: There is always something else I still need to learn.
The good news is, I have found there is always someone who can teach me if I’m willing to listen.
I know some people really hate parenting advice, especially when it’s unsolicited advice. We all have our ideas of how we want to do things, and sometimes when people offer advice we didn’t ask for, it can be frustrating or even insulting. Don’t they know we don’t need their opinion on how to raise our own offspring? Some people really have a knack for not choosing the right moment. I honestly do understand why it can be irritating.
But all the advice I get when people find out I’m having a baby doesn’t really bother me.
I don’t want to listen to the pushy people who can’t take a hint when I’m over it, but as long as the person seems to be coming from a gentle, helpful place, I actually appreciate it. When someone takes the time to share what they know with me, it makes me feel like they care, even if the advice doesn’t really work for me.
Plenty of times, I have found that the advice I didn’t ask for is exactly the advice I needed. If I was closed off to other opinions, I could have missed a lot of really valuable information.
I often see new moms dismiss older moms who haven’t had a baby in a long time. I think it’s easy to assume their advice is outdated. That can be true, of course. A lot of recommendations change as we learn new things and develop new technology. Car seats come to mind. We wouldn’t want to go back to a time when moms held their babies and hoped for the best. That isn’t safe. It never was. And we do better now.
But a lot of things haven’t changed that much at all. You can comfort a baby today with the same lullaby your grandmother used in 1958. The cool cabbage leaves your great aunt used to soothe her engorged breasts can bring you a little relief in 2019. And that photo of your husband taking a bath in a laundry basket in the ’80s because your mother in law didn’t have a baby tub?
That little hack is actually genius.
I think before we get annoyed by the advice, it’s important to consider the advice-giver’s motivation. Some people are annoying know-it-alls. We can just ignore those people. All advice is not created equal. But most of the time, good-hearted people really just want to help. Other moms want to welcome you into the sisterhood of motherhood with their tried and true wisdom, whether their baby is six months old or 60 years old.
Most of the time, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I truly believe chances are good that people are trying to be kind. When another mom tells you that it’s okay to leave your baby for a few hours when you need a break, it’s probably safe to assume she isn’t trying to undermine your attachment parenting philosophy. She’s just telling you it’s okay to need time without your baby. She’s letting you know you’re not alone.
There’s also a good chance something you do along the way could be truly unsafe. Sometimes, being open to advice could save you a lot of heartache. I installed my first newborn’s car seat base with both latch and seat belt. I left it that way for months before I realized that was not the recommended way. It felt more secure to me, but it was actually less safe than just choosing one. I found out the truth from a mom in a Facebook group. I could have been upset that she gave me advice I didn’t ask for, but instead, I thanked her and fixed it. Her advice helped me realize I needed to do more learning, and I’ve been able to keep my kids safer as a result.
I’m not suggesting you heed any and all advice from every person who throws it your way. If someone suggests something that doesn’t work for you, it’s your right to ignore that advice. It’s also important to consider the source. Some things are recommended for all babies because they are the safest. Your doctor can help you make good choices about things like vaccines, feeding, and safe sleeping. Trained professionals can help with things like car seat safety. Some guidelines are good for everyone.
But there’s also a lot of this parenting thing that doesn’t come with a hard and fast rule. For those situations, an open mind could be your greatest parenting tool. You might just find a solution you hadn’t considered if you listen to other people who have been there before.
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