A neighbor wanted to meet my new baby. She knocked loudly, and when I rushed to the
door in hushed tones to explain that the baby was sleeping, she offered this
lovely piece of advice: “You know, dear, you really shouldn’t
change your entire schedule to conform to the baby, they should conform to you.
You should just live your life, and they can come along.” I was far too tired to know what to
say. So I smiled meekly and apologized
that the baby was sleeping.
As I closed
the door, I felt ridiculous. I knew she was wrong, but still I wondered, “Should
I be doing this whole motherhood thing differently?” Two days later, I was in the shower
(finally) when I realized what I wished I had said to that “friendly” neighbor
of mine: “Well, it turns out I wanted my life to change, and I’m
happy to be home while he naps; in fact, if it were quiet enough, I’d
be napping too!”
As a new mom, it sometimes feels as though you’re
wearing a T-shirt that reads, “How’s my parenting?
Feel free to tell me what I should be doing.” Don’t get me wrong,
when you are new at anything, advice and pointers from those with more
experience can be extremely helpful. The
trouble is, there’s a lot of bad advice out there. And the very worst advice is offered up
unrequested. I would go so far as to say
that any unsolicited parenting advice is bad advice. And while you can’t always stop
someone from sharing, you can arm yourself with a few witty comebacks that shut
it down and leave you feeling empowered instead of beleaguered.
Below are the main categories of bad new parenting advice and
what to say if you hear it—because the only thing worse than suffering through
bad parenting advice is thinking of a good comeback two days later.
1. Medical advice from anyone other than a trusted doctor or
nurse. In this category, you will find
totally unqualified people suggesting that you give your newborn Benadryl so
that they sleep, or that 6-week-old
babies need to be exposed to germs to make them strong. When someone tries to give you medical
advice, try this reply, “Interesting, I’ll have to run that
by my doctor.” Or, “Really? Where did you go to medical
school?” That ought to end the
conversation real quick.
The trouble is, there’s a lot of bad advice out there. And the very worst advice is offered up unrequested.
2. How to feed your baby. I’m not sure why everyone and their mother feels compelled to
weigh in on this subject, but if your baby is healthy and growing, you don’t
need any help feeding them. Breast isn’t
always best. And bottles don’t
need to be given at a special angle. You
generally can’t make a baby too fat, and there’s nothing wrong
with a petite baby either. Rice cereal
doesn’t have to be the first food, and you can start solids
whenever your doctor gives the OK and you feel comfortable. When someone tells you how to feed your baby,
confidently declare, “I feed my baby with one goal in mind,
for her to be happy and healthy, so far so good!” Or if you’ve really had
enough, just smirk and say, “Is that how you were fed? Because I’m not sure I want
my baby to end up like [make a vague gesture in their direction] this.”
3. How to love and care for your baby. If there was ever a subject people shouldn’t
weigh in on, it’s this; yet, I think most new moms
receive some form of advice on how to actually love their child. It might be that ever popular passive-aggressive cliché, “Enjoy every minute.” Or something even more ridiculous
like, “If you pick that baby up every time he cries, he will be
totally spoiled.” Just
remember that you know what’s best for you and your baby. No one can love your baby better than you, and
that love is there even when you’re not enjoying every
minute. The best response to these
preposterous mandates is no response at all. Just smile and walk away, you’ve got better things to do than
entertain their ridiculousness.
As a new mom, it’s impossible to avoid all unwanted
advice but it doesn’t have to ruin your day or make you
question your parenting. Try to laugh it
off and realize that however misguided, these people are just trying to
help. Someday you might even find
yourself having the urge to give a new mom advice, much like I’m
doing now. Remember that ultimately, parenting is about doing what works best
for your family and no one is more of an expert on your family than you.