When you have children, everyone is suddenly your best friend and guidance counsellor. They know everything there is to know about babies and you ought to know, too. I understand that most have the best intentions and are genuinely nice people.
But could everyone just stop, please?!
Here’s my list of some generic parenting advice that is sure to cause an eye roll injury.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Okay, first of all: this advice is whack because babies don’t sleep. Secondly, you certainly can’t sleep when they are awake, so duh. And besides, everyone knows this is the only time you have to attempt to do everything at once, hence achieving nothing at all.
I went to the doctor the other week to talk mental health, and this was her advice to me. I almost laughed! I have three other kids, I’m never sleeping again!
“Enjoy them while they’re small.”
A good and wonderful friend informed me that people mean well when they say this, and they probably do. But I have an issue with this piece of advice.
Yes, babies do grow up fast. Yes it’s nice to slow down and savour baby-hood. But I fear that in telling people to make sure they enjoy every precious moment, we’re piling on unnecessary guilt and pressure.
Sometimes being a parent sucks. In fact, some days just suck, and no amount of ‘enjoying’ is going to fix that. I often feel guilt that I don’t love the heck out of being a parent every single day, and that does nothing to help me enjoy it more.
“Breast is best!”
As a mildly enthusiastic breast feeder, can I please tell you to get out now. We are all very aware that breast milk is recommended, and is the first preference for many. However, not everyone can – or wants to – breastfeed. And not every baby can or wants to breastfeed. And that, my friend, is none of your business.
A fed baby is a happy baby; and that’s all you ought to be concerned about.
“You should have your baby in a routine!”
I love a good routine, I do. But newborns and infants have their own agenda; they’re not going to conform to the ways of the world, thank you very much. Dinner at 3AM, let’s go wild baby! Parents and bubs will find their own routine in their own time. Fred is three months old this week and I still don’t get what the heck she’s up to.
“Does your baby sleep through the night? Blah-Blah’s baby sleeps through the night!”
Yeah my four year old still doesn’t sleep through the night. You’re cool.
. . .
I understand that when people get older and wiser they want to pass on their lessons, but I want you to put yourself in the position of the new parents. Would you have liked to be stopped and given unsolicited advice? And the thing is, the stuff I’ve listed here is pretty mild. I’ve heard some horrific stories from parents being approached, questioned or lectured on how to handle their baby. Perhaps we just shouldn’t; or at least wait until we are asked.
You know what I do find helpful? The dear older women who stop to tell me I’m doing a great job and to look after myself. That is something I genuinely enjoy. It’s supportive, encouraging and acknowledges the struggle of parenthood.
That’s the sort of old lady I want to be one day.
And while we’re here, I’m going to share my own (unsolicited) advice for new parents:
- Go easy on yourself. You can’t do everything, and that’s okay. Let stuff go and delegate!
- Accept help when you can. I’m hopeless at it, but I’m starting to understand the need for a village.
- Reading stories, singing songs, napping, playing, heck even watching TV together is not wasting time. It’s okay to slow down.
- Parent your own way, in your own time. No one knows your kids better than you. And if you feel like you need help – do ask. There are so many resources and professionals out there ready to help.
And lastly – you’re not alone! Parenting is hard as heck, but we’re all in it together.
Have you been given some ghastly parenting advice? Please share with us in the comments!