The term ‘parenting advice’ is a triggering little pearl.
It’s not fundamentally negative, but man it has some connotations attached to it. The real problem is that there is just so much of it around. And the energy it takes to fend off all of the unwanted advice can sometimes make you miss the good stuff.
Because I don’t want you to start yelling at your phone, “WHAT ABOUT ALL THE RIDICULOUS PEOPLE BRINGING THE CRAZY”, let me just take a second to acknowledge how much incredibly dumb stuff gets said daily. A lot. A lot of idiotic advice is thrown around.
First, the stuff you can ignore
I have been told that the reason my baby is crying is because I’m stressed, so just relax! Sorry, it’s actually the other way around, champ.
I have been told that “the worst thing you can do” is have a heater on in the same room as your baby. Wrong again, I think you’re talking about infanticide.
From toilet training to food introduction to co-sleeping, there is SO much advice and a lot of it falls somewhere between pretty-annoying-really and bat-shit-crazy.
BUT, over the years, I have also gotten some incredible pearls –and I am eternally grateful to the people who have given them to me.
It’s not, not about you
When preparing for my first labour, I walked in with my 24 point birth plan, carefully curated playlist and naively blow-dried hair. I let the midwife know my wishes but then added, “But whatever has to happen will happen. It’s not about me.”
To which she replied, “It’s not, not about you.”
It was the first of many times that someone reminded me that I needed to advocate for myself as a mother. It’s a huge and difficult journey, one of the biggest anyone will ever take. And it is absolutely about the mother as well. Frequently, over the past eight years, I have struggled with a decision before realising that I was taking the needs of everyone else into account, but not my own. And when I did, clarity almost always arrived.
They aren’t giving you a hard time; they are having a hard time
When my son was about six months old, we went away for a weekend with a bunch of families. And the little bugger did. not. stop. crying. FOR THE ENTIRE THREE DAYS. By the second afternoon, I was at breaking point, hosting a private pity-party as I circumnavigated the caravan park, wine in hand, him screaming at me from the sling.
I had tried everything, and he just would not settle. One of the other mums bravely said to me, “Remember – he’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time.”
I did already know this, but the reminder didn’t hurt. It’s a perspective shifter for sure, and now it is one of my go-to parenting mantras.
Just make decisions based on your values
A straight-talking friend once told me that no matter what I do as a parent, my kids are going to think it was wrong. “Just make decisions based on your values, babe”, she said.
And she was so right. If you keep your house organised and spotless, then your kids will probably think you were too uptight. If it is always messy, then they will just cringe at the memory of constantly losing everything. You can feed them an organic, vegan, raw, nut-free diet or Happy Meals three times a day, either way, they will grow up and live their lives however the hell they want to, and they’ll probably think you did everything wrong.
Depressing, right? All we can do is trust our values. So, should you take the kids out of school for a week and take them to the snow? It depends really, what matters more to you; Fostering respect for commitments? Or spontaneous mountaintop adventures? The answer lies in your values; there is no ‘right’ – her advice has been so freeing for me.