Two of my closest girlfriends have, in the last 3 months, had their first babies. Both of them are surrounded by friends whose children are all a few years older or if they have infants, it is not their first.
I listen to all of us talk to them about pregnancy, delivery, newborns and kids and watch as their eyes glaze over and their brains shut down and I think good lord, we’re so annoying.
Now, they are kind and patient and love us and will say they know what we say is all meant to be helpful. But after cornering my then-pregnant friend after one of our girls’ dinners, I asked her if we had scared her. She said, ‘To be honest you all make it sound really awful, and I’m really excited about this, so I don’t want to hear it’.
That little bit of honesty went a really long way with me and made me think about how I will talk to pregnant friends in the future.
I know my girls well and I know that our connectedness as friends first, but also as moms is very supportive. We have all been open with each other about the struggles we’ve had along the way and we don’t want anyone to think that if they find parenting tough then they are somehow doing something wrong. This unfortunately, to a first time pregnant person, doesn’t come across that way.
Now that our friends have become first time moms we all have a fine line to navigate, as we have anytime one of our friends has their first child. That is the art of NOT offering unsolicited advice while also trying to be helpful.
When I had my first child I looked up a lot of things online, I asked my moms’ groups about their experiences, I would ask the pediatrician, I asked friends and family, friends families, etc etc about everything. I was so worried I was going to do something wrong, and I’m generally a relaxed person. Initially, I felt so overwhelmed by information that I thought my head was going to explode and of course it was mostly my fault. But add unsolicited advice to all of the questions I was seeking answers to and it became way too much information to manage.
While we are so lucky that there is a wealth of information out there about how to parent, because we all need somewhere to turn when we’re out of ideas; I think there is one underlying message that needs to be delivered LOUDLY to every parent out there.
You need to choose whatever works best for you, your partner and your baby.
That is all that matters. That is it. You can ask 101 of us for advice and you will get 101 different answers.
The only wrong way to parent is if you go against what feels natural to you.
If you need to get out of the house and breastfeeding in public keeps you sane. Get out and breastfeed in public. If you need to stay home and hibernate to keep yourself sane. Stay home. If you need to wear your baby, wear your baby. If you need to leave your baby in their crib for a mental break for yourself. Take the mental break. We are all smart people, we all have our children’s best interests at heart we just need to trust our own instincts more and give ourselves credit for how much we actually know.
So next time you have a parenting decision to make (like 5 minutes from now), follow your own instincts before you follow someone else’s, because you really do know best.