When new mothers complain about unsolicited advice, they are so often advised to “smile and nod.”
In some cases, this advice is relevant. Advice from a stranger or someone you only see once in awhile is certainly not worth any extra effort.
But sometimes it can be necessary to “push back.”
The thing is, I have absolutely nothing against advice. Advice is a great thing and sometimes just plain necessary. No one knows it all!
However, while I truly believe that pretty much all advice is well-intentioned, it can be extremely draining for new mothers who are a prime target for these “well-intentioned” tidbits.
When new moms are looking for advice, they typically gravitate towards people that they trust. People whose values, lifestyle, and personal preferences typically align with their own.
When new mothers actually want advice, they will most certainly ask for it.
It can be very hard to simply smile and nod when the advice you are being given does not align with your parenting style or belief system.
And what about when the advice you’re being given is actually dangerous?
We once stayed with a family member for a few days who actually wanted to test my daughter’s peanut allergy. Yup, she wanted to give her “a little bit just to see.”
When I responded with an obvious, “absolutely not, she could die” the response was “but she has epi-pens doesn’t she?”
I’m sure any food allergy mom can imagine the horror on my face.
This family member also consistently tried to feed our daughter obvious choking hazards, kept distracting her during her nap time, tried to get her up in the morning before she was ready, among other things.
After having to tell her “no” over and over again, she ended up becoming extremely annoyed with me by the time we left. She even started twisting my words around making it seem like I had been horribly rude to her, when in fact it was quite the opposite. Everything I had said to her was completely polite and respectful, even when I would have been well within my rights not to be (eg: the peanut test request)!
The fact is, it didn’t matter how I said it. She simply didn’t like what I was saying.
Because I wasn’t taking her advice. I wasn’t letting her do whatever she wanted.
And I get it. Older generations grew up in a time when new mothers were much more likely to listen to their elder relatives. They took their advice and did what they were told.
Moms of this generation? Not so much.
The vast majority of moms today don’t appreciate unsolicited advice. We like to figure things out on our own. We don’t like to be told what to do. We do things differently. We don’t all parent with one “mold.” We don’t always want help from the so-called “village.”
We are opinionated.
We are outspoken.
We stand up for ourselves.
And this can be confusing to people who assume that everyone wants their parenting opinion. People who think that their method is the best and only method.
But does it mean we should just smile and nod to make them happy? Does it mean we should just give in to keep the peace?
Absolutely not. Especially when it’s someone you see frequently and doing so may encourage them further.
It’s completely okay to respectfully explain to someone why you do not intend to take their advice. You can help them understand why their “advice” is dangerous. You can tell them you do things differently. You can tell them you don’t agree.
Of course, they may choose to “hear” something different than what you are actually saying. They may get angry.
But that does NOT mean you did something wrong.
It means you stood up for yourself as a mother. It means you are doing what you believe is best for your children, even at your own expense.
Never put someone else’s feelings before your family or your child’s well-being.
I once saw this quote:
“Pay attention when people react with anger and hostility toward your boundaries. You have found the edge where their respect for you ends.”
And it’s true mama.
Set your boundaries. Raise your babies. Don’t worry about what other people think.
You don’t have to smile and nod.