Advice on dealing with unsolicited parenting advice and criticism
When you become a new parent, some things are imminent. Each baby comes with his or her own package of added benefits like sleep deprivation, guilt, and my personal favourite – unsolicited parenting advice. Suddenly everyone seems to feel duty-bound to get involved, offering wisdom, judgement and criticism to “help” you do it the “right” way. And everyone seems to think their way is the best way. I beg your pardon, but whose child is this anyway? And honestly, could that be more condescending?
The truth is, there is no set way to raise a child. How can there be, when each child is as unique as a snowflake? Your baby is an original, custom made, one of a kind original design, and none of them come with an instruction manual – where’s the fun in that? What works for one person is not best for everyone and it’s ridiculous to assume a one size all approach. It’s a baby, not a ginger bread man. This is your baby, and ultimately you will make the choices that you feel are best for you and your baby, regardless of what your critics say.
My feeling on this is, how you do things is far less important than the outcome. Your happy healthy bundle of joy is proof of this. Love doesn’t come from a bottle, dummy or your breasts – it comes from you. And you know damn well, you love that child more than life itself and you are doing what you feel is best for your bambino.
The first time around, after baby number 1 was born, it was a lot harder. By the time baby number 2 entered this world, I found the whole shebang a hell of a lot easier to cope with. I’ve done this once before, 1 turned out pretty awesome so far, and I realised dealing with the many stresses – unwanted advice and judgment included, was really not as bad. I’m not saying there was less critique – hell no, that, as I mentioned before is inescapable, I just handled it better.
So looking back, here’s what I discovered along the way on how I managed to deal with the situations that irk me. This realisation happened purely incidentally, when I was chatting to a friend and fellow new mummy who was having a tough time dealing with the undermining advice from family and prying interference from strangers.
Here’s my two cents for what it’s worth.
Firstly, are you confident in the choice you have made? If you have doubts about your decision, wondering whether you should have made different choices, your lack of confidence may make you feel more defensive and criticism from others will have a greater effect on you. Make sure you have dealt with your inner critic first, and once you have made peace with that – then it would be silly to let others get to you. If they do, it’s probably your inner critic more than them that makes you feel undermined or judged – she’s a nasty little beast, and ever so sneaky. We often don’t realise how much we are our own worst critics, especially when it comes to our children. Speak to your paediatrician, midwife or medical practitioner – get expert advice to set your mind at ease. Reach out to supportive moms who have made the same choices – I found, it was much better speaking to moms who bottle fed, who will give you genuine support, without judging. Be kind to yourself. What matters most is that your baby is healthy and thriving – how you achieve this will vary from how others do, and my approach is to do what works in the end. This is not a mathematical equation, and you will need to figure out your own rhythm. You honestly don’t need a backseat driver, when you are the one who has to manage and deal with the results.
If you feel you have made the right choices for your baby and your own wellbeing, then honey, whatever issue an outsider might have is probably their issue and not yours. Their inner critic is most likely running the show back there. If it’s a close friend or family member, be the better person and be supportive of their parenting choices, especially the ones you don’t agree with. Stand by your decision. Don’t feel the need to defend yourself, and set limits of how much time you spend with people whom you don’t want to endure.
Having said that, at times, especially when the critic is a family member, you do have to respond with a fair amount of tact for the good of all involved. In such instances, try one of these replies – and never underestimate the power of changing the subject.
Diplomatic responses for family members:
• Interesting point of view. More tea?
• Yes, I’ve considered that but it didn’t work for me. Did you hear about the Dali Lama?
• I make my choices based on works for us. This cake is delicious, did you bake it yourself? I must get the recipe.
• That’s good in theory, and may have worked for you, but unfortunately in practice it’s not as easy.
• Oh did that work for you? Interesting – tell me about how it was back in your day. Wow how things have changed since then.
• I’m glad that worked for you
• I’ve tried that, but my baby responds better when I do this.
• I know it might not work for everyone, but we’ve decided to try this, and so far it’s working pretty well. You should try the salmon, it’s delicious.
• It’s not my first time, I’ve had some practice and I’ve got it thanks.
Responses for strangers (said with tongue lodged firmly in cheek)
• Well if this one doesn’t work out, we’ll trade him in for a new one and start again
• Thanks for the advice, can I get your number so I can call you whenever he cries?
• Nope he’s not hungry, he’s just crying because I forgot to give him his whisky this morning
• Why yes, he probably is hungry, I haven’t fed him in days
• Nope I don’t think he needs a nappy change – perhaps you stepped in something?
• I’m not sure why he’s crying, it’s not my baby, I just stole him from a department store an hour ago – we’re still figuring this out
• Thanks for the tip. Since we’re so close now, I simply have to return the favour and ….offer some unsolicited advice of your own
What unsolicited advice have you endured, any great comebacks to add to my list?