Etched in my heart is the time my 3-year-old daughter wandered off in the mall, every parent's worst nightmare. It must have been all but 5 minutes (felt like 5 hours) that we were unable to find her, until I heard someone shouting my name......it was an older guy (grandfather age) holding the hand of my daughter. Almost fainting with relief I thanked him a million times. I stood waiting for the barrage of judgement and criticism to flow - 'take more care', 'strap her in her pushchair'......I was pleasantly surprised when he simply said “it happens to the best of us' and walked away.
Parenting, especially for the first time, is a huge learning curve (understatement of the year!). With so many books, blogs, posts, articles, leaflets, etc., the landfill of information is humongous. And to say the least, incredibly confusing. I promise you, at 3:00 am in the morning when all you want to do is sleep, no book, pamphlet or piece of advice is going to help. That is going to be sheer strength and guile on your part to get you through to the morning.
But some advice can make a difference.
The thing is with advice is that it is subjective - what works for one baby, mom and/or situation is different for everyone and every scenario. I have been blessed with four beautiful children and wow, I have learnt a lot along the way. The reverse psychology that worked a treat on my #1, is a joke to my #4.
So, the bottom line is that you need to filter the deluge of information and advice you are going to be faced with and cleverly extract what you need for the situation that you find yourself in and of course what works for you. You will have to master the art of knowing who to listen to and what to take from the advice you are going to hear.
You are also going to have to put your ego to one side. Don't take it so personally when someone tells you something, you never know, they actually might be telling you something that will help. Afterall, there is no instruction manual that comes with your baby! We are all simply just winging it!
Some of the guilty culprits to dish out advice include:
- Our Mothers
Now, their advice is going to either be brilliant and life saving or down right annoying and outdated. Comments like “we didn't do it like that in our day“ or the range of old wives tales are going to test your patience to the limit for sure. But remember, your mom must have done something right after all, you are still standing!
For sure, things have moved on from the yonder years and moms need to know that. But some things are still the same. Diapers still need changing, bottles need sterilizing and strollers need pushing.
The best advice my mom gave me was sleep when the baby sleeps, forget your housework and eat properly (OK, that's three pieces of advice). These are great and I listened. Even now, as my firstborn turns 15, I especially like the second piece of advice regarding forget the housework!
I think though where our moms excel is not actually in what they say it is in what they do. They just get it. They help with love and empathy. The reward of being a grandparent is simply all the payment that they want. Beautiful!
After each delivery, my mom was there as my wingman (or should I say wingwoman) to simply give me the confidence I needed to understand that I could manage. She also cooked me a tasty mix of mushrooms, asparagus and scrambled eggs that still gets my taste buds watering when I remember those meals she made on my return from the hospital.
- The Experts
My brilliant midwife taught me about how cabbage leaves inside your bra are soothing and cooling when your breast milk backs up and causes swelling or worse still, infections. She was right. They work a treat. Albeit, take note, they can smell pretty bad if left in too long so change them regularly.
She taught me how drinking fenugreek tea can enhance your milk supply. How arnica can speed up the healing process. And how I should prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them so I don't have to cook everyday.
I asked her how she knew all these things, was such advice part of the syllabus when she studied. No, she told me, her mom had taught her most of what she knows! After all, what is advice. It is simple knowledge and experience passed on.
Experts obviously know what they are doing but they themselves are simply a byproduct of what they have learnt, been told or done themselves.
Now, these are the girlies that are going to stop you going insane. The ones that stop you falling through the cracks. Women are great communicators for sharing ideas and tips when it comes to being moms. Getting out the house, meeting up with friends in playgroups, parks or kid-friendly coffee shops is often the main event of your day, so take full advantage of these invitations and opportunities for advice swapping and socializing.
Receiving unwelcome input from individuals you don't know is annoying. However, it's somehow even worse to hear it from people who know you well, since their remarks can pack an extra punch. So be aware, especially in the early days when your hormones are on 'totally unrealistic over sensitive' levels. Since they're so often the victims of unwanted advice themselves, you'd expect other moms to think carefully before they speak. But sometimes they can be the worst offenders.
My son suffered with nasty eczema when he was a baby. A friend suggested that raw avocado would soothe and help it heal. So, I would lather up my son with green goop, looking like a mini leprechaun we would often venture out with some strange looks along the way. And did it help? No, it didn't. To date, he cannot even stand the smell of avocado! Advice can often cause trauma - so beware. She meant well though.
When strangers dish out advice, they do so without even knowing who you are, your personal or financial circumstances and of course their advice is based on their own personal experience.
The great thing about stranger advice is that you can simply smile and walk away. After all, you are very likely to never to see them ever again.
From the moment you're visibly pregnant till the time your child becomes a teenager, people you've never laid eyes on before will feel compelled to question your parenting skills. Their input should be the easiest to dismiss -- you don't know these people, right? On the other hand, they don't know you! So, how can they presume to say these things?
That said, thanks to a stranger my third labor was a breeze. Several days overdue, heavily waddling down the street, an Indian woman stopped me and told me about her family recipe for 'saffron and turmeric golden milk' rocket fuel for bringing on labor naturally. With our third baby son - AKA Rocket baby (he really did come out that quick) we only just made it to the hospital - he shot out. Her recipe for rocket fuel certainly did the trick.
Sometimes, it is good to listen.
Now, you may think what the heck have men got to tell you about being a mom. You'd be surprised.
First of all, they can give you a totally different tilt on things, a clean perspective with a touch of naivete. Their advice is what I call practical advice.
One of the best pieces of advice I received for cutting my baby's nails (a highly nerve-wracking task, especially for the first time) was from my dear Irish friend Al. He actually bought me the exact pair of baby clippers that he has used on his two daughters. He is a carpenter, so his practical advice for a 'tool' fit for the purpose was very much appreciated. I still use them today - some 14 years later!
I am sure you've heard this before....you are what you eat. This is so true! If we eat junk, we feel lousy but if we eat healthy things, we are invigorated. So, try to eat a balanced diet, whether you adopt a vegetarian, vegan or meat-based diet. Whatever works for you. The key is to have a medley of nutrients and vitamins. However, we all know that eating the recommended daily allowance can be difficult. Taking supplements, whether they are vitamins or herbal blends to help with certain issues like fatigue or stress is always a plus. I personally take Research Verified Omega-3.
- Bottom Line
Try to remember that most people are full of good intentions and really don't mean any harm. Sharing advice is what helps make the world of parenting go around. Of course, you do get the scaremongers out there, now these are the ones to watch out for. My vegetarian sister was told by her husband's grandma, that if she didn't start eating meat, her baby would be born disabled. I mean, come on, that is downright cruel and quite insensitive. How we laugh about it now when her strapping, healthy boy takes gold in the 100m hurdles on school sports day.
Luckily, somewhere inside most moms, we have an inbuilt instinct to make sure we nurture our babies and help them grow in the healthiest and happiest way possible. So, trust your instincts and your own intuition. You won't go far wrong.
And think of all the things you know now that you didn't know then. Respect - you came along way!
If all else fails, remember your secret weapon. Smile. Say thank you, tell them, what a great idea and then do what the heck you want anyway. After all, you know your baby better than anyone.