Some Thoughts on Unsolicited Parenting Advice

“You need to wear that baby!” said the smiling stranger moments before I turned into a Ronda Rousey Hulk hybrid, lifted her above my head, and rocketed her out of Gymboree into the Dead Sea cream kiosk where she’d spend the rest of her life trying to escape a “free” sample.

Or that’s what I imagined when I smiled back and pointed to my Ergo carrier stowed beneath the stroller. I had the Ergo that day instead of the Moby wrap, Snuggle Wrap, Baby Bjorn and Nicole Miller varieties I own.

Rather than wiping the desperate sweat from my brow and slapping this woman about the face with the drenched towel, I said, “Oh, I definitely wear her.” Cue the smile that looks like the ones in an elementary school picture, forced and a little scary.

“Oh. What kind do you have?”

My internal dialogue went something like this: This is not a test. This is not a test. This is not a test. This is just a stranger wanting to make idle chit chat while my baby gets more and more irritated. She is not viagra pamplemousse the spawn of Satan sent to ruin the few precious moments I have outside the walls of my home.

So we spent a second chatting about carriers while I rolled the stroller back and forth, back and forth.

Was it that I haven’t slept soundly in approximately 3,102.5 days (my eldest’s age minus a few weekends with the folks)? Or that I’ve sang to, rocked, and bounced my newest babe for three months straight to calm her? Was it that I’ve left the vacuum running when I’m not using it because my little one likes the white noise? Or that I know how every fiber of my being is devoted to my children’s well being? Were these the things that led me to fantasize catapulting this woman far far away? Yes. All of the above.

The Gymboree sales associate/baby expert is likely a terrific person with good intentions. But what were her intentions? To save me, my baby, herself from the fussing? Why do strangers ever think it’s appropriate to advise mothers on mothering? I know what I’ve tried and how much of my energy goes into caring for my little ones–the books I’ve read, the advice

I’ve ASKED for, the experts I’ve consulted. This stranger does not but is comfortable assuming she knows better.

This isn’t an isolated incident that I’m blowing out of proportion. A stranger actually extended her arms toward my friend’s crying baby and said, “let me try.” Another “tsked” my mother for having me out when I was an infant (obviously this isn’t a new trend). I even got a private message imploring me to write about this phenomenon after a soccer mom scolded another mom for the way she parented her child from the sideline. The fact that these situations did not result in what looks like a scene from “When Animals Attack” is a testament to a woman’s ability to withstand an obscene amount of pressure (so yes, we could be President).

If you want to live dangerously, type “breast or bottle” into Google to read what bazillions of “experts” have to say. Or if you really want to see the Internet light up, write: “I’m going to sleep train my child” or “I refuse to let my child cry it out”. Then let the parenting games begin! Spoiler alert: it will end like the fight scene for Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. And then you’ll feel dirty, hate everyone and drown yourself in a bowl of cancer-causing microwave popcorn. Parenting is a battleground, and everyone knows better.

There are no special standardized tests for parenthood. It’s not mandatory to read What to Expect When You’re

Expecting to take a baby home. There is no mom certification or degree, so everyone thinks they’re an expert or at the very least that you, the mom, are not one.

The single piece of advice that so many all-knowing sages choose to ignore is this:

Unless the mother asked for your insight, unless your “I love and support you” tone is unmistakable, unless you’re a certified baby whisperer or the child’s guardian angel with a special note from God, stand down. Share little more than a sympathetic smile. And then you are free to go home and parent the hell out of your own babies because you will have narrowly escaped having your still-beating heart pulled from your chest by a sleep-deprived, fiercely protective mom.

7 comments for “Some Thoughts on Unsolicited Parenting Advice

  1. April 17, 2015 at 8:27 am

    This just made my day!

    My daughter is now 7, but it feels like just yesterday she was a little baby being held in my arms. I can also remember all of the times that people wanted to tell me how to parent. I especially loved how my friends, who were yet to have kids, would tell me how to be a better mother, or how I should do this or change the way I do that. Those were my favourites. 🙂

    We all just grin and bear it. Thanks for posting!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      April 17, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Grin and bear it is one of my mantras 🙂 You are so right! Thankfully my friends without children have remained pretty tight-lipped about parenting. If not, I think I would lose my mind!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Have a fabulous weekend!

  2. April 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

    This is so incredibly true! I was a single mom of a baby that did NOT want to sleep. I devoted every moment I had to her and it would drive me absolutely insane when complete strangers would try to tell me how I should take care of her!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      April 17, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Oh! Sleep is one of the “experts” favorite topics: formula, no formula, rice cereal in a bottle, feed her more, stop feeding her so much, swaddle, don’t swaddle, co-sleep, never co-sleep. It’s maddening! Ahhhh! I feel for you even still.

      Mama knows best (but only if you’re the mom of the baby, right?!). Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  3. Kate @ Did That Just Happen?
    April 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I was just thinking the other day how many years I survived with other people telling me all of the things I was doing wrong in raising my son. So. Many. Years. And how it’s just now that I can look back and see that I didn’t suck and I wasn’t doing it wrong! Great article Emily!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      April 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      You absolutely didn’t suck! That is clear in Mr. T for sure! Is it just that people want to share what they know? Do they just want validation for what they did right or what worked for them? Is it just a type of person, an advice-giving type, who needs to share? I just don’t know.

      But you made it to the other side…mostly. He’ll be your boy forever 🙂

  4. May 17, 2015 at 3:34 am

    I love it. I have not brought up a child and I find myself turning into “THAT” woman who wants to run up and give some advice and then realising that I may I have no idea what I am talking about so wisely turn around and walk to the nearest exit. I am not sure if my family have been lucky enough to escape but thankfully they have just smiled and nodded while saying under their breath “She has no idea!”

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