How to Handle Mom Advice
There is an undeniable sense of unity among women, especially mothers. We share an unsaid understanding of sleepless nights, perpetual worry, and unconditional love. If you’re a new mom, first time mom, or just recently discovered you’re pregnant, be prepared for a flock of mothers to offer you countless bits of advice. I’ll be honest. You’re going to feel overwhelmed. With so much information being thrown in your direction, how could you not be? And to complicate matters, many of the things you’re told will contradict one another. Every mom has their own methods and experiences that they swear by. But does that mean they’re right for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Every baby and every mother-child connection is beautifully unique. You will learn this in time as you navigate the early weeks, months, and even years of parenthood. So how do you handle the flood of information you receive as a new or expecting mom? Here are five tips for keeping calm and cordial in the face of non-stop opinions.
Keep Some Things Private
If people don’t know too much about your situation, it will be more difficult for them to offer unsolicited advice. If you’ve noticed, in recent years many new and expecting mothers keep certain aspects of their pregnancy under wraps. Specifically, their choice in baby names. Though gender reveal parties are all the rage these days, a lot of parents choose not to share their baby names until after the little one arrives. Why? To prevent unwanted, negative comments about their choice. People don’t meant to be offensive, but their initial reaction to the name might not be the one you’re looking for. If they scrunch their nose or roll their eyes, you’ll instantly know they disapprove. And though naming your baby is your own, personal choice, you can’t help but feel badly when someone disapproves of your decision. Especially when you’re an emotional and hormonal expectant mother. The perfect way to avoid this interaction is to keep the name a secret.
This goes for other aspects of your pregnancy also. There’s not need to openly share your birthing plan, information about breast feeding, or any other personal decisions. This information is for you and your partner and the select family members and friends you choose to tell. The less people know, the less they can comment on.
Create an Inner Circle
Of course, no one wants to navigate the world of motherhood alone. New moms need plenty of love, support, and help. Especially in those early days of sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, and unprompted crying episodes. Sometimes, we just need a hand. And there will be times that you’ll welcome advice from others. Those calls to your mother or best friend in the middle of night are real. Is the baby sleeping too much? Should I wake them for a feeding? Is it okay that they’re spitting up? Why won’t they stop crying? These are all normal, natural questions that need answers. And even if you don’t find the answer, just having someone to contact and talk you through it, makes a world of difference. Having a small circle of support is a great way to find the help you need without being bombarded. Whether it’s your mom, grandmother, aunt, best friend or sister, keep your inner circle near and available during those first few weeks home from the hospital. It will help keep you calm and sane when those sleepless nights and emotions catch up to you.
The best way to handle unsolicited parenting advice is to be prepared with polite and definitive responses to those frequent heart-to-heart talks that everyone wants to have with expecting mothers. Don’t be surprised that even those people you might not be very close with, will feel the need to share their own mothering experiences and advice that you just “have to follow”. Again, remaining a calm and remembering that they do have good intentions, will help. But having some polite rebuttals in your arsenal is another great way to avoid these awkward and sometimes overwhelming conversations.
Here are just a few phrases you can use:
“I’ll consider if that’s right for me.”
This is a nice and simple way of saying that you’ve heard what they have to say and you will see if it applies to you, when the time comes.
“That’s an interesting approach, but I prefer to do it this way.”
There’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and showing that you don’t agree with the person’s advice. But by using a phrase like this, you’re doing so in a polite way. You’ve acknowledged their approach but you’ve also expressed that it may not be the right choice for you.
“I’m not really looking for advice right now.”
This statement is a bit more direct and firm, but it lets the person know that you’re not in the market for parenting advice without being rude.
“That’s not in line with my values.”
This is a pretty straight forward response. If something someone is suggesting goes against your core beliefs, tell them so. They’ll likely stop pushing their advice pretty quickly.
“I’m not going to do that.”
There’s nothing wrong with being firm. You can simply say, “I’m not doing that”. This is the perfect way to be assertive and stand your ground.
The last thing a new mother needs is additional stress. It’s sometimes difficult not to become emotional or upset when others are throwing endless advice and opinions in your direction. But it’s important to keep your cool and sometimes, just let them talk. Take deep, soothing breaths when someone is overloading you with information. You can even try distracting yourself with thoughts of other things. If the person becomes too much of a nuisance, you can tell them so in a polite manner. You can simply say, “That’s a lot of information and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Can we maybe discuss this another time?” Most people will respect this and likely apologize for being overbearing.
Another important thing to keep in mind is the fact that no matter how persistent a person is with their baby advice, they really do have your best interest at heart. Most mothers just want to share their personal experiences with you in the hopes of saving you some heartache or stress. Some women feel that once they’ve become a mother, they’re experts in the field. The truth is, no one is truly an expert on motherhood. And the only expert on you and your baby is you! Motherhood is a learning process and journey that you and your baby need to go on together. Which brings me to the last point.
Be True to Yourself (and baby)
Maybe rocking little Johnny to sleep while singing the ABC’s worked for your friend or feeding little Suzy standing up helped prevent your cousin’s baby from getting gassy. That’s great. For them! No one will know what’s best for you and your baby except for you. Sure, there are endless tips and tricks that you can research to help prepare you for motherhood. And some, are common occurrences for infants and new moms. These tips will act as the foundation for your experience. You can reference resources throughout your baby’s earliest days and weeks to help guide you in making decisions and understanding what is happening with both you and your baby.
But at the end of the day, you need to stay true to what your natural instincts are and what your baby is telling you they need. That’s one of the greatest gifts of motherhood - the motherly instinct. When the time comes, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to drown out the noise of others and follow your instincts when it comes to caring for both your newborn and yourself.
I am a 32-year-old mother and wife of a police officer living in NJ. I have my MFA in creative nonfiction and 10 years writing experience. When I'm not writing I enjoy hot yoga, cardio kickboxing, running, and camping.
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