From the very moment you announce your pregnancy to the world, the unwanted parenting advice starts pouring in. People you don’t even know start giving you advice about how to feed, soothe and dress your baby. Perhaps they’re just offering neighbourly advice because you haven’t had a baby before? Nope. The unsolicited advice will continue long after you get your parenting credentials.
No matter what you choose to do, it will be wrong in somebody’s eyes. You’re either picking your baby up too much or not picking her up enough. You’re a terrible mother for not breastfeeding or breastfeeding too often and spoiling your baby. You’re gross for using washable nappies or you’re single handedly killing the planet for not. You’re ruining your toddler by not telling her off enough or you’re being too harsh on her. You can’t win. No matter what you do, somebody will be unimpressed.
And there’s no way of stopping the advice either, it will keep coming long after you give up using polite replies. People just love to offer their opinion, and whether that’s meant with good intentions or not, it can be pretty shitty to hear people think you’re doing a bad job of parenting.
If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to stop me on the street and offer me some unsolicited parenting wisdom, here are just five of the reasons why I didn’t listen:
1. I don’t think you’re a perfect parent
I don’t think there is such a thing as the perfect parent. I know I’m far from perfect and have my fair share of bad days. Parenting isn’t always easy, but I do the absolute best I can. I have some friends who I think are amazing parents. It could be their patience, their gentleness or the loving relationship that they have with their kids that I admire, but I still don’t think they’re perfect. And then there are plenty of people in the world who I don’t think are perfect parents, like, at all. There are parents who I think make bad choices, who say and do things I would never dream of doing or saying, and who just don’t parent the way I want to. I know I’m not perfect, but the parents I aspire to be like are the ones who I think are doing a much better job than me. If you’re not one of those parents, I’m probably not going to listen to your wisdom.
2. I didn’t ask for it
I do sometimes ask for advice, of course, parenting is a journey and I am always learning. I read a lot of books and blogs that fit with my parenting style, and always refer back to them for advice when needed. I also have friends I can turn to in times of need. Friends who understand my parenting style and what I’m trying to achieve. Those people have been an invaluable source of useful, nonjudgmental information to me over the past four years. And then there’s the other people, the ones I wouldn’t go to for advice but who give it anyway. As a general rule, if I didn’t ask for your advice, I’m probably not going to follow it. By all means, tell me what you do with your kids, but don’t tell me what I should do with mine.
3. You’re a different kind of parent
There is a very broad spectrum of parenting types, and every parent has a different style unique to them. I identify as a gentle parent, I may have bad days where I snap and don’t quite keep my cool, but most days, I am gentle and respectful. I know that parenting isn’t just about today, it’s about the whole of my daughter’s life. I am trying to give her the skills and attitude to get her through life. You might be like me, or maybe you’re not. Maybe you discipline in a different way to me, or have a different sort of relationship with your kids. We’re all different, and while you think you’re way is right, I think mine is. I don’t want to take parenting advice from somebody on the wrong end of the spectrum because it won’t fit with my parenting style.
4. I have plenty of parenting advice to be getting on with
You’re not the first person to have offered me parenting advice. I’ve been receiving advice since I opened that first pregnancy book all those years ago. I have plenty of advice swimming around in my mind, trust me. I’ve got everything in there, from how to help a toddler deal with strong emotions to how to teach your child about consent. It’s all there, all the time, rushing around in my head. I want to keep learning, of course, because information is important for personal growth and I want to keep being the best parent I can be. I want to always know the science and research to back up the choices I make, and I will continue to seek out that information. But that’s not what you’re offering.
5. I think I’m doing ok
Sometimes I have moments where I’m not sure whether I know what I’m doing as a parent. Those wobbles only last a minute, but are always quashed by either talking to a trusted friend or looking at my daughter. Even when I feel lost, she is still a happy, compassionate and strong minded girl, and that’s what I want for her. I want her to be happy, to be kind to others and to know her own mind. So I must be doing something right. And, on the whole, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I’m not perfect, but I try my best and I think the relationship I have with my daughter is testament to that. If I ignore your unwanted advice it’s because I don’t think I need it. We’re doing just fine, thank you.