Nothing in this world can ever replace the feeling of excitement, bliss, and pure happiness one gets from being a mother. However, especially for first-time moms, alongside this feeling of exhilaration comes an unsettling feeling once people you know personally - and sometimes even strangers – give you advice you never knew you needed.
Different women react differently to unsolicited advice. Some welcome it openly, some appreciate the thought, yet most are actually bothered by it especially if it starts to make them doubt their own parenting capabilities or if it comes in conflict with their own practice.
"For me, I don't think I should be bothered when people give me "unsolicited advice" when it comes to parenting. These people, especially our parents, are merely sharing their knowledge or experiences." - Blanche Brozas-Donceras, mom to 2-year old Mary Isabelle
"Depending on the advice and the timing, I usually appreciate them the first time they are given, but when said time and time again, and is followed up, I kind of get irritated." – Cathy Alarcon–Valiente, mom to 8-month old Jared
"I’m open to input and guidance on parenting especially from people who have the experience since I’m a first-time mom myself. It only bothers me if it is in conflict with other previous advice." – Sharon Drilon-Abarientos, 36, mom to 3-year old Sophia
According to the article “Unsolicited Advice and Stress: Different Types of Unsolicited Advice” by Elizabeth Scott, there are 3 types of motives for unsolicited advice:
1. To help. People often give advice for the simple reason that they believe they can help and make life easier for you. Some also desire to forge a friendly connection while others probably wanted to share something which actually worked for them. You can actually benefit from this type.
2. To satisfy their need to be needed. Some think that as a new mom you are helpless. There are also those who simply enjoy being the “teacher” which gives them a sense of fulfillment when others learn from them.
3. To position themselves as the “expert”. These people feel they know it all, and sometimes when they see something in you that they don’t like or agree with, they give unsolicited advice as a way to change it.
As most new moms will say, an occasional, helpful tip may be okay, but too much unwanted advice can be frustrating and may add more pressure and stress to a first time mom’s already vulnerable state.
Here are ways to handle unsolicited parenting advice when it’s starting to affect your confidence as a mom:
1. Be up to date and well-informed.
Getting ready for motherhood also entails mental preparation. Read up on your choice of parenting style and views, but use your natural instincts as well, and believe that you are doing your best for your child.
There are a lot of resources to get information from such as parenting magazines and websites, forums and seminars. You may also consult your OB-Gyne or Pediatrician, and other credible sources for helpful information.
This way, when someone gives you unsolicited advice, you would already have an idea on its merits and, therefore, know if it would work for you and if it would suit your style.
Being up-to-date on the latest trends in parenting will also allow you to share your insights to someone who is giving you the unsolicited advice, especially if these are based on old-fashioned techniques which may not be applicable anymore..
2. Listen and filter helpful tips.
Before you react or get affected by the unwanted comment, try to listen to what the other person is saying first. You’ll never know what wisdom you can learn from them. This doesn’t mean though that you have to take their advice or that there is something wrong with what you’re doing.
Sometimes, too, new moms tend to be overly sensitive that they feel like they are being criticized. By listening carefully, you will understand that other people are just sharing their own experience and not necessarily giving an advice.
In case other people do give an unnecessary or bothersome advice, you can just make a non-committal response, like “we’re getting there” if, for instance, someone would comment as to why your child is still not potty trained. Another way is to simply smile to acknowledge, then try to veer the topic towards something more neutral.
3. Avoid getting into a “tight spot”.
Try not to over-react or be too defensive. The moment you do, others will think that you actually don’t know what you are doing. Being emotional and overly sensitive when others comment on how you should be doing things for your child tend to put you in a tight spot.
This situation can result to an argument or intense discussion over a particular advice, which will not only frustrate you even more, but could also put a strain on your relationship with others.
Sometimes, this manner affirms others that you do need help and that their advice is just what you need. No matter how tempting it may be to respond defensively, it is better to keep control of your emotions.
Respond by saying something like, “Thank you for your advice. I’ll probably consult my child’s doctor on this” or “Thank you but I think I’ll stick to my routine. It’s been working well for my baby.”
Another way to handle this is to simply end the conversation and excuse yourself.
4. Interact with others who have the same parenting views as you.
Connect with your mommy friends or even other first-time moms thru events and forums or even online groups. It is healthy to interact with others who have the same parenting values and viewpoints as you. This will give you an opportunity to learn more from one another and share common experiences.
Stick to getting advice as well from people you are most comfortable with or who raised their child in a way that is similar to your own such as your mom or older sister, a cousin or best friend.
Talking to others who share your same motherhood philosophies will also give you confidence to deal with people who give unwanted advice or those who misunderstand your own parenting beliefs.
5. Avoid stressing over every little thing.
It may be normal for a new mom to experience fear and anxieties about her new role, but it won’t help either to worry too much about everything, such as the following:
“How come my baby is always crying in the wee hours of the morning?”
“Am I breastfeeding him well enough?”
“Am I dressing him up properly? Am I doing it right?”
“Am I capable of being a good mom?”
First time moms tend to worry excessively, but too much attention on the little things other than the necessary will only give others a perception that you are probably having problems dealing with your role as a new mom.
Mentally comparing your child’s milestones to other kids is also unnecessary. Each child achieves milestones at his own pace. Stressing over why your friend’s child is already speaking clearly while your own is still figuring out how to express himself will only affect your confidence in your own child as well.
Worrying too much will actually make you more vulnerable to unsolicited advice.
6. It’s okay to be honest.
If there comes a point when you feel that other people are already stepping beyond their boundaries and imposing on your parenting views, then be honest about how you feel.
Find the right time and place to discuss it with them. Whether it’s your mother in law, your own mom, older sister or friend, talk to them about your own parenting views and express how you feel about them giving you unwanted advice.
Assure them that you value their opinion but tell them to trust you in your decisions as a mother.
7. Enjoy your new life as a mom.
You may still be in your pregnant state or already starting to enjoy life with your newborn, but no matter what, be happy and enjoy every moment of it regardless of what others has to say.
It may be tough to have people around you always having something to say about how you should take care of yourself during pregnancy or how you should raise your child, but keep in mind that motherhood is your privilege and you have every right to make the most of it. Be confident that you know what’s best and that you are doing what you believe is right for you and your child. You know more than you realize even if motherhood is something new for you. Simply trust your maternal instincts - remember, no matter what, you are the mom.
Photo from justparentingadvice.com