Unwanted parenting advice

Today’s post is from the lovely Pauline who is fed up with unasked for parenting advice and critisicm. A great post! I’ll let her introduce herself, but have a read and tell us, have you ever felt the same frustration? This is Pauline’s first guest post so show her some bloggy love folks, Nicki x

Hi! I’m a 42 year old wife and mother of a 3 year old boy, full time mum, but definitely not stay-at-home!  I’m based in the South East of England and I’m on Twitter as @PollyBurns2.  This year I’m learning Italian, next year I’m starting a writing course.

Why is it that people think it’s perfectly acceptable to offer unsolicited advice about parenting as soon as you’ve had a child?  Not just people who know you, but random strangers.  Not just people with children of their own, but people who have never had children.  We desperately wanted children but found it difficult to conceive at all and then lost one before my son was born.  I didn’t feel overwhelmed at his existence, I willingly followed his lead.  He was an easy baby and we bonded immediately.

It was reading a piece by Nicki Cawood that got me thinking about the random advice that I and my friends received when we became mums for the first time.  Nicki’s standpoint is not to apologise for the parenting choices you make, but this can be quite difficult in the face of people who clearly think they are doing the right thing.

Here is a good example of this: carrying my weeks old son in a carrier on the front of my body, I was holding a takeaway coffee cup with a lid and about half an inch of almost cold coffee.  I was stopped by a woman who said she’d seen “so many” children scalded by coffee in cups exactly like the one I was holding and would I please not carry it around while I had my son in the carrier.  I was completely taken aback as this was my first experience of being accosted in the street and I wasn’t prepared for it.  I calmly explained that there was about half an inch in the bottom of this cup (with a lid on it) and it was all but cold anyway.  I have often wondered what made that woman think that I was being an irresponsible parent.  Do I look like the type of person who would put her son in obvious danger?  What does such a person look like?  Unfortunately, people who should know me better were also very ready with their advice.

I chose to breastfeed my son, which attracted lots of comments from various family members.  These ranged from feeding him so often is no good for him to how I’m really not physically built for breastfeeding and would find it difficult.  This last was from my sister who had breastfed her own first child and so knew what it was like.  She had clearly found it difficult but my viewpoint was:  I have breasts, what else do I need?  A childless member of the family said that we would need to “top him up” with formula as breast milk wasn’t enough.  Another said I shouldn’t be breastfeeding at all.

It was the underlying assumption that everyone else has the best interests of my child at heart and I didn’t that really bothered me.  In the supermarket a woman told me that the carrier I was using (same front carrier) was bad for my son’s neck.  Bad how, we asked?  She said she’d raised several children and was professionally qualified to comment.  She didn’t elaborate further!  What is wrong with these people?  Don’t they remember all the unwanted advice they got?

I’ve found that people get very upset if you don’t take their advice.  They often check back later to see if you took their wisdom on board and get quite hurt if you haven’t.  I was informed that carrying my son with me all the time would make him clingy.  In fact he’s now a very sociable and outgoing boy and I believe that’s because he feels secure at home in his relationship with his parents.  I got lots of comments along the lines of “still carrying him?”, “haven’t you put that child down yet?”  I wonder what they would have said had they know that in fact, I spent the first year of his life just cuddling him and staring at him!

A word about advice from the health professionals, who you believe know what they are talking about.  Whilst it’s not exactly unwanted, in my experience some of it just made no sense at all.  Whether the subject is bottle feeding, keeping the baby in your room until 6 months or not weaning before 6 months, the pressure is enormous, even if only expressed in subtle ways.  My friend was breastfeeding twins and was told her boys weren’t growing quickly enough. She gave in to this huge emotional pressure at 12 weeks and regretted it ever since.  My son’s cot was at my side of the bed and we kept waking one another every hour or so from 15 weeks to 22 weeks, when we finally went against advice and put him in his own room.  We got a whole four hours sleep that night!  All in one go!  Bliss!

Here’s some advice I did take though!  Lots of people stopped me and told me how quickly this time would pass, and to love and enjoy him.  “Keep an eye on him” said one particularly creepy chap in the supermarket, advice I thought was well worth heeding!  Unfortunately it was never to be that we would have more children so we are very glad that we followed our own instincts, ignored everyone else and just did it all our way.


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  1. great post and so true! I used to get very annoyed with people passing on their “wisdom” but now I just say you raise your kids your way and I will raise mine my way and they we are all happy. My daughter is a well adjusted child and has no harm felt from not breastfeeding, sleeping in her own room from 3 weeks or going in a forward facing pushchair! She also suffers no ill effects from being bed on Hipp jars or watching tv. She is confident and assertive and has no health problems. What more could I ask for? x

  2. I think your post today is so poignant especially in light of my own posting last night where I ranted about ill-informed people offering advice and passing judgement on fellow bloggers, and not always in a kind and courteous manner. I am fed up with reading about parenting advice etc from people who think they know it all just because they have kids. One recent post I read about dealing with child abuse incensed me because the advice being given was not only ill-informed, it was potentially life threatening. I have trained long and hard in my chosen profession of childcare and child development as well as being mum to my own 3 children, the eldest of whom will turn 21 in a few weeks time, and even I do not tell people what they should be doing with their own children – how can I , I don’t know them!

    I am so glad that this is getting to someone else as well as me!

    Lou 🙂

  3. This is one of my most hated subjects; the way people think they’re experts whenever they hear of someone having a baby. You have put your point across really well in this post because I’m sat here furious!

    I still get advice from strangers and Amy’s 11. It’s mainly from ignorant strangers, I might add, who assume she needs discipline when they fail to realise she’s actually autistic, but hey ho, I am used to it and have just learned to ignore them.

    My sister has done a teacher training course recently and is now an “expert” in child care, education and how to teach your child. She has an almost 6yo daughter with an attitude problem (not autistic) and who is completely spoiled rotten. Meanwhile she lectures me about my methods with Amy.

    I would have been seriously pissed off if someone had spoken to me about that coffee cup and they would have seen a different side to my placid nature!

    CJ xx

  4. What a great viewpoint and so well put. I’ve have two gorgeous children and many similar experiences to Pauline.

    After my first child I often felt overwhelmed with all the emotions and sense of responsibility that comes with having a baby, so a careless comment would have way more impact on me that it should have been allowed.
    Each and every child is different and will require a unique approach. Mum’s should be confident in following their instincts because they will rarely be wrong – we are hard wired to do the best for our babies.

    I am blessed with having a son and a daughter and they have very different personalities, which require a completely different parenting approach.
    At the end of the day no one knows your child like you do.


  5. You are right – an immediate memory that springs to mind is carrying my sleeping son in his car seat on a hot sunny day when he was a week or so old (I was nipping from the car into the town hall to register his birth). Some random woman stopped me and said she hoped I’d put sun cream on him! I was a bit speechless at the time but soon learnt to get used to this rudeness/over-familiarity from strangers, it seems to be part and parcel of parenthood. I also remember how irritated I got when I told people I’d be using reusable nappies and got the whole ‘oh I give you two weeks with those’ response (for the record I am still using them two and a half years on, on two kids now!) I kind of think you just have to roll with it though. It IS bloody annoying – more so when you’re pregnant or it’s your first baby, and people are talking to you like you’re some idiot who isn’t capable of trusting your own instincts and has NO IDEA of what lies ahead – but on the other hand, I think there is a genuine element there in that people have struggled with parenthood and genuinely do want to pass on what they’re learnt. They don’t actually mean to come across as patronising (most of the time, anyway!) The problem with that is that all kids (and parents) are different, and what works for one probably won’t for another.

  6. Also sitting here fuming as you’ve brought back loads of memories similar to those you describe – thank for that 🙂 One friend went on and on about how I should give DD toast when she started eating solid food (her 4 had loved chewing it to bits). I knew DD wasn’t ready for this as she didn’t yet chew and would choke on anything that didn’t dissolve in the mouth. And yet this freind went on and on and on…. There was no thought that maybe I had been blessed with similar instincts to care for my child that she had when bringin up hers.

  7. I love this post and completely understand how you feel. I always wonder why people feel the need to comment, if you ask for advice, fair enough, but unasked for comments and advice are just rude. I tend to nod and smile but sometimes wonder if I should be quite blunt in response, but I am often so taken aback that I think of a clever response after the event. It matters less when you feel secure as a parent and how you are doing things (but even then it can catch you out) but it must be extra difficult for a parent who is struggling or is feeling uncertain for whatever reason. As for ‘professional’ advice I have stopped visiting my health visitor for this very reason.

  8. thank god, i never had this when my lads were young, because i fear my response would have been less than ladylike!
    the only piece of advice i give new mums now is to cherish every single minute. my boys are both in their mid-teens now and you should never underestimate how quickly the time goes.
    nice post. x

  9. Thanks to everyone for your replies. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post but I’m sorry for stirring up so many irritating memories of your own experiences at the hands of “well meaning” people! Seems like its such prevalent problem that no new mother escapes!

  10. Fab post no matter who told my husband and i What we just went with what we felt was right afterall Kyle our son had not read the right babybooks or been here before either so we got through it together. hes 11 now and turned out ok so far!

  11. I don’t know what makes everyone such an expert! I had one lady approach me in the supermarket to tell me that if I didn’t take the plastic cover off my baby carseat my daughter would suffocate! I glared at her and she got really angry with me! It was pelting down outside, middle of winter, she was 4 weeks old, and I had popped in for a bunch of flowers! Having said that, I always feel like I want to offer my advice when I see someone struggling. The difference between her and me is that I am tactful and i keep my mouth shut!

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