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An Open Letter to All the Unsolicited Advice Givers

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Extra-Opinionated/Entitled/Judgy Aunt,

If I could overcome my fear of confrontation, I might have told you many things this afternoon after listening to you dole out your brand of “advice." All of it unasked for.

I would tell you that new motherhood has lent itself to so many new and wonderful experiences: seeing my baby smile for the first time, watching as she takes in the world around her and feeling the urge to roundhouse kick so many unsolicited advice-givers, like you, in the face.

I recently told you that my baby was enjoying trying different solids. At nearly 8 months old, she’s only dabbled in a few culinary delights thus far. We were at a family function when having this conversation, and I handed her over to you so I could go to the restroom. I came back to find you “innocently” offering my daughter mashed potatoes.

I saw red, and I don’t mean the variety of potatoes used in the dish. I went over and swiftly grabbed my daughter from you.

“What’s wrong? It’s just some mashed potatoes,” you snorted indignantly.

I sat down and fumed, knowing I was going to be perceived as the one who made things awkward, rather than you who deigned to mess with my kid’s stomach in the first place. You know how unpleasant new foods can be to a developing tummy, totally aside from the fact I’ve explicitly asked you not to feed her anything.

I remember thinking, it’s not just mashed potatoes: It’s cream, butter, salt, sour cream—all things my sweet baby did not yet need to have. But you now claim you didn’t know?

I’m frustrated because people are constantly trying to my usurp my decisions as a mom, simply because they’ve “been there” or have however many kids themselves. You just became a member of that ever-growing club, and are inadvertently making me second-guess myself and feel internally torn about every choice I’m making.

I don't care if you have more experience or think you know my child better than I do. The fact of the matter is, you don't, and suggesting you do is just insulting.

I never imagined myself being a helicopter mom, but also never realized I would have members of my own flesh and blood making me HAVE to feel that way. The laundry list of things I’ve had to tell people like you is a mile-long regarding my girl’s health and safety—and they're always met with questions or snarky remarks about your own kids having it/drinking that/doing this and being “just fine.”

The thing is, "fine" is OK for your kids but you need to let me decide what goes on with mine. Let me have authority over what goes in my daughter’s body while she cannot speak for herself. It's infuriating to see so many well-meaning people trying to give her a lick of frosting or a taste of their chocolate milk, and god forbid, not listening to me about how her car seat straps need to be.

I don't care if you have more experience or think you know my child better than I do. The fact of the matter is, you don't, and suggesting you do is just insulting.

Do not undermine my authority as a parent. Do not make me feel like I'm a crazy person for caring about basic tenets of safety and especially don’t tell me I’m going to “give her anxiety” for caring about those things. And for the love of god, don't you ever go behind my back and give my child something that I've explicitly asked you not to.

This is an open message to all the "just you wait," "I've had four kids and I know!" and "you'll ruin her" members of the peanut gallery: Enough is enough. I saw you openly mocking me and heard the mutterings about how I think I know better than you.

When it comes to my kid? You’re damn right, I know better.

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